Israel's Rafael has completed the first integration of its Derby beyond visual range air-to-air missile on a Northrop F-5, staging in April a demonstration for the Brazilian air force.

The self-funded Rafael project may lift the Derby's prospects in a potential four-way competition to arm the air force's upgraded F-5BR fleet. F-5BR prime contractor Embraer has said the Derby is in contention with the Denel R-Darter, MBDA Mica and Mectron Nar-1 (Flight International, 21 December 2004–3 January).

Rafael initiated the Derby integration with the help of Israel's Elbit Systems, a key subcontractor to Embraer on the F-5 modernisation programme, according to a Rafael source. Elbit is installing and managing the integration of new mission computers, three multifunction displays, a head-up display and helmet-mounted display for the F-5BR, part of an effort to extend the life of the 46-aircraft fleet by 15 years.

Rafael worked with Elbit to fully integrate the Derby on the 30-year-old aircraft, including modifying the weapons pylon. If the Derby is selected, the air force order would increase Rafael's growing momentum in the region.

Israeli missiles have been popular in Latin America, with the US Department of State denying sales of Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles until an equivalent threat appears in the region.

The Brazilian air force has already selected the Rafael Python 4 short-range air-to-air missile for the F-5BR modernisation programme, as well as the Mectron MAA-1 Piranha short-range missile.

The Python 4 also has been selected by Chile for the country's Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 50 fleet, says the Rafael source, with delivery of the missiles scheduled to begin next year.

Source: Flight International