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A-Darter missile
Type Air-to-air missile
Place of origin South Africa & Brazil
Production history
Manufacturer Denel Dynamics
Produced since 2015[1][2]
Weight 89 kilograms (196 lb)
Length 2.98 metres (117 in)
Diameter 0.166 metres (6.5 in)
laser proximity fuse

Engine Solid fuel rocket
Wingspan 0.488 metres (19.2 in)
22 kilometres (14 mi)[3]
dual-colour Infra-red homing
Combat aircraft

The V3E A-Darter (Agile Darter) is a modern short-range infrared homing ("heat seeking") air-to-air missile, featuring countermeasures resistance with a 180-degree[4] look angle and 120-degrees per second track rate,[5] developed by South Africa's Denel Dynamics (formerly Kentron) and Brazil's Mectron, Avibras and Opto Eletrônica.[4] It will equip South African Air Force's Saab JAS 39 Gripen C/D and BAe Hawk 120; Brazilian Air Force's A-1M AMX, Northrop F-5BR and Gripen E/F.[6] It was expected to be in production before the end of 2015.[7]


Development of the A-Darter started in 1995,[8] however it suffered from inadequate funding and changes to the SAAF's requirements.[9] Mectron, Avibras and Atech joined the program in 2006 after a three-year negotiation process[8] with US$52 million invested by the Brazilian Government in the project, estimated to be worth US$130 million.[10] In that same year, Denel announced that it would use the latest solid-state inertial measurement unit, the SiIMU02 from BAE Systems, for mid course range guidance.[11] The Brazilian company Opto Eletrônica has partnered with Denel Dynamics in the development of the missile imaging infrared seeker for thermal guidance.[4]

Ground seeker tests were concluded in January 2010,[12] while trajectory guidance and agility flight tests were performed in February 2010.[13] Prototypes were sent to Saab AB to begin the integration of the missile to the Saab JAS 39 Gripen. Captive flight trials were concluded in March 2010.[12][13] The first successful in-flight launch from a Gripen fighter took place on 17 June 2010.[14]

In March 2012, Denel Dynamics disclosed that the missile, which was to be ready for production by end of 2013, entered the qualification phase. Several testing firings at Denel's Overberg Test Range were carried out from a Gripen in January 2012. Final testing included the use of high-speed target drones to simulate an aircraft by towing infrared targets at high speed.[14]

In December 2012, the Brazilian air force commissioned Denel to build a factory in São José dos Campos, close to Mectron, Avibras and Opto Eletrônica.[15]

In February 2015, Denel Dynamics signed an agreement with Marotta Controls for supply of the latter's MPACT pure air compression technology to cool the A-Darter's infrared seeker.[16]


In March 2015 SAAF ordered an undisclosed number of missiles from Denel Dynamics.[2]


The missile seeker can be slaved to the Helmet Mounted Display (HMD),[17] allowing the pilot to track a target beyond the aircraft's radar scan envelope using the missile's high off-boresight capability, achieved by the pilot turning his head towards the target to lock-on,[18] better known as "look and shoot". The missile can then be launched and can immediately pull extreme g-force to reverse its course to engage a target behind the aircraft, sometimes called an "over-the-shoulder".[19] Engage modes include Lock-On After Launch (LOAL) capability to engage targets outside its seeker's acquisition range, and Lock-On Before Launch (LOBL) capability where the target is identified and designated before launch.[4] The two colour[20] thermal imaging technology and a laser proximity fuse fitted on the missile provide multiple Electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) techniques with targeting algorithms including advanced spatial filtering techniques and velocity profiling.[21]

The A-Darter has four major sections: guidance section, warhead, control, and rocket motor.[20] It uses a streamlined design with low aerodynamic drag in a wingless airframe, ensuring ranges beyond those of traditional short-range missiles.[22] It is fitted with a thrust vectoring control (TVC) system[23] that allows for turning at up to 100g-force.[15]

The absence of aluminium powder in the motor propellent inhibits production of a smoke trail, which means no visual warning for enemy aircraft.[5] According to SAAF fighter pilots involved within the project, the A-Darter it is better than the IRIS-T in some respects.[5]

See also[edit]

Similar missiles


  1. ^ "Denel launches A-Darter SRAAM production". IHS Jane's 360. 16 November 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "A-Darter contract moves missile programme forward". Defence Web. Reuters. 13 April 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  3. ^ Jackson, Paul, ed. (2004). All the World's Aircraft 2004–2005. Surrey, UK: Jane's. p. 810. ISBN 0-7106-2614-2. 
  4. ^ a b c d Cecomsaer. "TECNOLOGIA – Diretor-Geral do DCTA acompanha o Projeto A-Darter (míssil) na África do Sul". FAB. Retrieved 22 August 2012. [permanent dead link]
  5. ^ a b c Heitman, Helmoed-Römer (7 June 2011). "Denel Dynamics completes A-Darter integration on Gripen". SA air force. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "CAF interview". ZA: Air Force. 30 October 2007. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "A-Darter heading up strong Denel exhibit at IDEX 2015". Defence Web. 6 February 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Campbell, Keith (19 May 2006). "Target date for missile service entry revealed". Engineering News. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  9. ^ Hewson, Rob (10 August 2005). "Briefing: South Africa and partners". Jane's Defence Weekly. Surrey, UK: Jane's Information Group. 42 (32): 26–27. ISSN 0265-3818. 
  10. ^ Dorschner, Jim; Resende, Pedro (15 March 2006). "Briefing: South American Air Forces". Jane's Defence Weekly. Surrey, UK: Jane's Information Group. 43 (11): 25. ISSN 0265-3818. 
  11. ^ "BAE Systems Inertial Measurement Unit Selected for New Air-to-Air Missile" (PDF). BAE Systems. 25 September 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2006. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 
  12. ^ a b "South Africa, Brazil ready for A-Darter missile test". Flight Global. 2010. Archived from the original on 10 July 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "A-Darter successfully launched off SAAF Gripen". DefenceWeb. 21 July 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  14. ^ a b "A-Darter January flight tests successful". DefenceWeb. 7 March 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  15. ^ a b Trimble, Stephen (14 December 2012). "Brazilian air force commissions factory for A-Darter missile, confirms specs". Flight International. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  16. ^ "US company supplying cooling component on A-Darter". DefenceWeb.co.za. 9 February 2015. 
  17. ^ "Cobra helmets for SAAF Gripen". DefenceWeb. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  18. ^ Melzer, James (2011). "Chapter 5: Head-Mounted Displays" (PDF). In Spitzer, Cary. The Avionics Handbook. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-8348-X. 
  19. ^ "A-Darter". Segurancaedefesa.com. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  20. ^ a b "A-DARTER: Fifth-generation Air-to-air Missile System" (PDF). Denel Dynamics. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  21. ^ "V3E A-Darter". saairforce.co.za. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  22. ^ "South Africa, Brazil to Develop A-Darter SRAAM". Defense Industry Daily. 21 September 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  23. ^ "Armamentos Inteligentes". Mectron. Archived from the original on 31 December 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 

External links[edit]