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IRIS-T expo front.JPG
Mockup of the IRIS-T
TypeShort-range air-to-air missile
Place of originItaly, Germany, Sweden, Greece, Norway, Spain
Service history
In serviceDecember 2005
Used bySee operators
WarsRusso-Ukrainian War
Production history
ManufacturerDiehl Defence, Avio spa, Litton Italia, Leonardo S.p.A.[1]
Unit cost€380,000[2] (~US$430,000)
€140 million (complete battery)[3]
Mass87.4 kg (193 lb)
Length2.94 m (9.6 ft)[4]
Diameter127 mm (5.0 in)
Impact and active radar proximity fuse

EngineSolid-fuel rocket
Wingspan447 mm (17.6 in)
25 km (16 mi)[4][clarification needed]
Flight altitudeSea level to 20,000 m (66,000 ft)
Maximum speed Mach 3
Infrared homing
Typhoon, Tornado, F-4, F-16, NASAMS, Gripen, F/A-18.

The IRIS-T ("InfraRed Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled") is a medium range infrared homing missile available in both air-to-air and ground defence surface-to-air variants.

The missile was developed in the late 1990s–early 2000s by a German-led program to develop a short to medium range infrared homing air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder in use by some NATO member countries at the time. A goal of the program was for any aircraft capable of firing the Sidewinder to also be capable of launching the IRIS-T.[5] The air-to-air variant was fielded in 2005.

Surface-to-air defence systems variants came later, with the short-range IRIS-T SLS fielded in 2015, and the medium-range IRIS-T SLM fielded in 2022. One IRIS-T SLM battery, as supplied by Germany to Ukraine, consists of three truck-mounted launchers, carrying eight missiles each (with a range of 40 kilometres or 25 miles), and a separate command vehicle that can be positioned up to 20 kilometres (12 mi) away. The command vehicle integrates multiple radar sources, and is able to launch and track all 24 missiles simultaneously. The IRIS-T SLM can counter surface-to-air missiles and cruise missiles, including low-flying, stealthy missiles such as the Kalibr.[6]


Movement of the seeker head
Subassemblies of the IRIS-T
German Air Force airmen mount an IRIS-T to a Eurofighter


In the 1980s, NATO countries signed a Memorandum of Agreement that the United States would develop a medium-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-7 Sparrow, while the UK and Germany would develop a short-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder. The US design developed as the AIM-120 AMRAAM, while the UK-German design developed as the AIM-132 ASRAAM.[citation needed]

The roots of the ASRAAM dated back to 1968 when development began on the Hawker Siddeley SRAAM ('Taildog'), but this project ended in 1974 with no production orders. This work was dusted off for the UK-German effort, with the Germans providing a new seeker, and the UK providing most of the remaining components. In the intervening time, the need for high maneuverability was downgraded in favor of greater range.[citation needed]

After German reunification in 1990, Germany found itself with large stockpiles of the Soviet Vympel R-73 missiles (NATO reporting name: AA-11 Archer) carried by the MiG-29 Fulcrum and concluded that the AA-11's capabilities had been noticeably underestimated.[7] In particular, it was found to be both far more maneuverable, and far more capable in terms of seeker acquisition and tracking than the latest AIM-9 Sidewinder.[8][better source needed] In 1990, Germany withdrew from the ASRAAM project, while the UK resolved to find another seeker and develop ASRAAM according to the original requirements.[9]

In late 1990, the US partnership expressed similar concerns and embarked on an upgrade to the existing Sidewinder design to provide increased maneuverability and IRCCM (infrared counter counter measures) performance, i.e. measures to counter infrared countermeasures (IRCM). This program was designated AIM-9X.[10]


In 1995, Germany announced the start of IRIS-T development, in collaboration with Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Canada. Canada later dropped out, while in 2003 Spain joined as a partner for procurement.[11] The German Air Force took first delivery of the missile on 5 December 2005.[12]

The respective share[clarification needed] of the development of the IRIS-T are:[1]

  • Germany 46%
  • Italy 19%
  • Sweden 18%
  • Greece 13%
  • 4% split between Canada and Norway.

Missile characteristics[edit]

In comparison to the AIM-9M Sidewinder, the IRIS-T has higher ECM-resistance and flare suppression.[13] Improvements in target discrimination allow for 5 to 8 times longer head-on firing range than the AIM-9M. It can also engage targets behind the launching aircraft, the latter made possible by the extreme close-in agility allowing turns of 60 g at a rate of 60°/s via thrust vectoring and LOAL capability.[14][4]

The IRIS-T is able to intercept fast-moving and miniature targets, such as air-to-air/surface-to-air missiles and air-to-surface/surface-to-surface missiles and rockets, UAV/drones, and cruise missiles; to improve the probability of a direct hit, the missile is equipped with an active radar proximity fuze.[15]

In addition, the IRIS-T has the unique ability, in comparison to other similar missiles such as the AIM-9X, to target and shoot down other air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles thus offering a 360° defence capability.[16][4] Surface launched variants of the IRIS-T, the IRIS-T SLS and IRIS-T SLM, have enhanced capabilities to destroy aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles, air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missiles, anti-radar rockets and large-calibre rockets. They also have a high probability of a killing shot against UAVs and other small manoeuvring threats at very-short and medium-range distances.[17]

The Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) has tested a new air-to-surface capability developed by Diehl BGT Defence for the IRIS-T. A proof of concept test firing to acquire, track, and engage a target representing a small fast attack boat was conducted in Norway in September 2016, where the IRIS-T missile was launched from an RNoAF F-16AM multirole aircraft. For the air-to-surface role, the missile retains the same standard IRIS-T AAM hardware configuration, including the HE warhead and IIR guidance package, with only an updated software insertion required to deliver the additional ground attack capability.[18] This basic air-to-ground capability provides the ability to acquire, track and engage individual ground targets like boats, ships, small buildings and vehicles.[19]



The IDAS variant is a navalized version of the missile, and is also being developed for the new Type 212A submarine of the German Navy. IDAS is supposed to engage air threats, small or medium surface vessels or near land targets.


As a part of the NATO MEADS program, the German Air Force and others are now using a surface-launched (SL) radar-guided version of the missile, called IRIS-T SL. It has a pointed nose, unlike the regular IRIS-T, with a jettisonable drag-reducing nose cone. The missile uses GPS-aided inertial navigation system with radar data link for command guidance during the initial approach, while the interference-resistant IR seeker head is activated at the terminal stage.[20][21] Compared to the IRIS-T, diameter of the rocket motor was increased by 25 mm to 152 mm. Test launches from a battery cosisting of CEA CEAFAR radar, Diehl IRIS-T SL launcher and Oerlikon Skymaster battle management system were peformed in 2014.[22] The IRIS-T SL qualification tests were completed during January 2015 at the Denel Overberg Test Range in South Africa.[23]

By 2022, two variants were available: IRIS-T SLS (short-range) with 12 km range and altitude and IRIS-T SLM (medium range) with 40 km range at 20 km maximum altitude. A third variant, IRIS-T SLX (long range) variant with a dual-mode (IR and RF) seeker, range of 80 km and maximum altitude of 30 km, is in development as of April 2022.[24][full citation needed][25] Operational testing of IRIS-T SLM was completed in January 2022.[26][full citation needed]

The Swedish Army fielded a ground launched version of the IRIS-T SLS, designated Luftvärnsrobotsystem 98 (lvrbs 98), to replace the RBS 70 missile system. Four missiles are carried on Eldenhet 98 (elde 98) launcher, a special version of a Bv 410 tracked, armored vehicle, with SAAB Giraffe 1X electronically scanned radar integrated in the front car.[27][28]

The Norwegian Army has decided to acquire a "Mobile Ground Based Air Defence System" in a direct acquisition with Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. The deliveries are planned for 2023 and based on Iris-T launchers from Diehl Defence GmbH and radars from Weibel Scientific A/S.[29] The system will reuse NASAMS command and control and its network solutions, to create a "highly mobile, short-range air defence system".[30] Initial delivery will include six modified M113 vehicles carrying IRIS-T SLS missiles; additional launchers will be based on the ACSV.[29]

IRIS-T SLM can be integrated with a variety of electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) guidance systems and AESA radars, such as Hensoldt TRML-4D, Thales Ground Master 200 MM/C, CEA CEAFAR, and SAAB Giraffe 4A.[15] A version with a Lockheed-Martin Skykeeper command and control station,[31] Giraffe 4A radar and Diehl IRIS-T SLM launcher was shown at IDEX 2019 under the name Falcon Ground Based Air Defence.[32][33][34]

Egypt ordered Diehl IRIS-T SLM launchers, Hensoldt TRML-4D radars, and fire and control stations equipped with Airbus Defence Fortion IBMS[35] integrated battle management software, all mounted on MAN 8×8 military trucks; the deal was approved by the German government in December 2021.[36] Further orders includes Hensoldt TwInvis [de] passive radars,[37][38] IRIS-T SLS launchers and IRIS-T SLX long-range missiles.[39][40][24] Passive radars can detect enemy aircraft by analysing reflections from external radio and television signals, making them effective in urban areas where active radars struggle .[41]


For the air-to-surface role, the only difference from air-to-air version is an updated software insertion required to deliver the additional ground attack capability. Tested by Royal Norwegian Air Force.[42]

Operational usage[edit]

It is unclear whether the IRIS-T can shoot down a Kh-101 cruise missile. On 19 October 2022, Ukrainian sources stated that a Russian missile was shot down with the help of an IRIS-T air defense system, in Chernihiv Oblast, thirty kilometers from Kyiv. Photos of the wreckage of a IRIS-T missile were shared on social media, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Iris-T "is a really effective system" and "has shown itself very well", there was no evidence that the German IRIS-T SLM shot down that particular missile, and some Ukrainian sources stated that it had been shot down with a different system.[43]

Following a Russian missile attack against Ukraine on 31 October 2022, Ukrainian Air Force stated that IRIS-T missiles had a 100% success rate when countering the attack.[44]

On 15 November footage appeared, which appears to show the downing of two cruise missiles within seconds by an IRIS-T system. One appears to be a Kalibr cruise missile.[45][46]


  Current operators
  Future operators

The following operators are listed and defined as of October 2022.

IRIS-T missiles for the new Saab JAS 39 Gripen E/F variants.[48][49]
7 IRIS-T SLM ground-based air defense systems ordered in 2018.[50] Further order of 400 SLM missiles, 6 IRIS-T SLS systems and 10 IRIS-T SLX systems was approved in December 2021.[36][51]
350 IRIS-T missiles[47]
444 IRIS-T missiles[citation needed] budget €217m, between 2003 and 2015.[52]
150 IRIS-T missiles[53]
 Saudi Arabia
1,400 IRIS-T missiles[54]
 South Africa
25 IRIS-T missiles delivered as interim armament for Saab JAS 39 Gripen aircraft until the completion of the A-Darter SRAAM project.[55][56]
770 IRIS-T missiles. Original budget €247m, final cost €291m.[2]
450 IRIS-T missiles, designated Jaktrobotsystem 98 (jrbs 98).[47] IRIS-T SLS variant used in ground-based air defense systems.
220 IRIS-T missiles ordered.[53] to be integrated with Northrop F-5 F-5T Saab Jas 39 Gripen Gripen C/D and F-16 eMLU .[57]
Germany has pledged to supply Ukraine with IRIS-T SL ground-based air-defense systems.[58][59][60][61] In light of the 10 October 2022 missile strikes on Ukraine, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht released a statement in which Germany would send the first of four vehicle-mounted IRIS-T SLM to Ukraine "in the coming days"; the original delivery date was the end of the year.[62] The first system, of four promised, was delivered on October 11 according to a source with the German defence ministry.[63][64] Systems originally designated for Egypt were diverted to Ukraine to speed the delivery.[65][66]

Future operators[edit]

IRIS-T integration for Hungarian Saab JAS 39 Gripen MS20 Block II modernization program was ordered in December 2021.[67]
 South Korea
IRIS-T integration for the KF-X fighter program was ordered in 2018.[68]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "BGT/SAAB/Alenia IRIS-T". Archived from the original on 22 January 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Evaluación de los Programas Especiales de Armamento (PEAs)" [Special armament programs evaluation] (PDF). Atenea (in Spanish). Madrid: Ministerio de Defensa. September 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2013. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Explainer: Germany's IRIS-T air defense system". DW. 12 October 2022. Retrieved 21 October 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d "Diehl Defence: IRIS-T, the short-distance missile of the latest generation". Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  5. ^ "IRIS-T European Short Range Air-to-Air Missile" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2012.
  6. ^ "How the West is helping Ukraine beat Russia's missiles". The Economist. 11 October 2022. Archived from the original on 11 October 2022. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  7. ^ Menon, KB. "Evolution of the Air-To-Air Missiles: Options for the IAF". Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  8. ^ "Locking range". Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  9. ^ Arms and the State: Patterns of Military Production and Trade. Cambridge University Press. 25 August 1995. 253. ISBN 0521558662.
  10. ^ Tirpak, John. "The Evolution of the Force". Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  11. ^ "IRIS-T – the world's highest-performance, short-range, air-to-air guided missile". Archived from the original on 6 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Germany tees-off with Iris". Archived from the original on 10 September 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  13. ^ "IRIS-T Guided Missile Family, Germany". Diehl. Archived from the original on 3 June 2018. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  14. ^ "IRIS-T Air-to-Air Guided Missile, Germany". Air force technology. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  15. ^ a b "Living in a safe environment: Technology for peace and freedom" (PDF). Diehl Defence. Retrieved 6 July 2022.
  16. ^ "IRIS-T European Short Range Air-to-air Missile" (PDF). Diehl. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  17. ^ "IRIS-T SL Surface-to-Air Guided Missile". Air force technology. Archived from the original on 31 October 2014.
  18. ^ "Diehl develops air-to-surface capability for IRIS-T AAM". Jane’s. Archived from the original on 16 December 2016.
  19. ^ "Royal Norwegian Air Force tested IRIS-T in air-to-ground mission" (Press release). Diehl. Archived from the original on 16 December 2016.
  20. ^ "Guided missiles - IRIS-T SL". Diehl Defence. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  21. ^ "IRIS-T Guided Missile Family IRIS-T SL". Archived from the original on 13 January 2013.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "IRIS-T SL achieves qualification after successful firings at Overberg". defenceWeb. 10 February 2015. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  24. ^ a b "DIEHL DEFENCE and HENSOLDT are enhancing the performance of their existing ground-based air defence systems".
  25. ^ "IRIS-T SLM GBAD system | Egypt's choice to boost air defence - PHOTOS & VIDEO". 20 December 2021.
  26. ^ KG, Diehl Stiftung & Co. "Ground-Based Air Defence System IRIS-T SLM demonstrates its operational efficiency under realistic operating conditions | Diehl Defence".
  27. ^ "Nytt robotsystem till Försvarsmakten". Mynewsdesk.
  28. ^ "IRIS-T SLM". Deagel. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  29. ^ a b "På samme plattform som kampluftvern: Nye artillerijegere skal bygges i Norge". 23 September 2021. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  30. ^ "Norway acquires Army Mobile Ground Based Air Defence". Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. 6 February 2017. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  31. ^ "SkyKeeper". February 2022.
  32. ^ "Meet the Falcon, a new short-range air defense system". 18 February 2019.
  33. ^ "IDEX 2019: Lockheed Martin, Diehl and Saab unveil Falcon ground-based air defence (GBAD) system". 20 February 2019.
  34. ^ KG, Diehl Stiftung & Co. "Lockheed Martin, Diehl and Saab Unveil Collaboration to Counter Emerging Short and Medium-Range Threats with Falcon Weapon System | Diehl Defence".
  35. ^ "Fortion® IBMS | Integrated Battle Management Software".
  36. ^ a b "New German-made IRIS-T SLM air defense missile system of Egypt armed forces – Polygon Military Magazine".
  37. ^>
  38. ^ "Twinvis Passive Radar for Ground Based Air Defence | HENSOLDT".
  39. ^ "Egypt Gets its Own 'Iron Dome' Air Defense System". 20 December 2021.
  40. ^ "Egypt Air defence strengthened with IRIS-T SLM acquisition * Military Africa". 17 December 2021.
  41. ^ "Breakthrough: Invisible surveillance of airspace | BDLI".
  42. ^ "Diehl develops air-to-surface capability for IRIS-T AAM". Archived from the original on 16 December 2016.
  43. ^ Boyko Nikolov (19 October 2022). "IRIS-T SLM air defense shot down a Russian missile near Kyiv". Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  44. ^ "IRIS-T shows 100% success today, more of these systems needed, Air Force says". The New Voice of Ukraine. 31 October 2022. Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  45. ^ "German IRIS-T 'Blows Away' Russian Cruise Missile; Ukraine's Interceptor System Hunts At A Stunning Speed". EurAsian Times. 18 November 2022. Retrieved 19 November 2022.
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  47. ^ a b c d "South Africa Orders IRIS-T Missiles". Defense industry daily. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  48. ^ "Conheça as armas do caça Saab Gripen E/F da FAB". Poder Aéreo (in Portuguese). 15 September 2017.
  49. ^ "FAB adquire os modernos mísseis ar-ar IRIS-T para o Gripen". Defesa aérea & naval. 21 December 2021.
  50. ^ "Federal Government approves arms exports to Gulf States". Rheinische Post. 19 September 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  51. ^ Gebauer, Matthias; Schult, Christoph (15 December 2021). "Ägypten: GroKo genehmigte noch kurz vor Regierungswechsel heiklen Waffenexport". Der Spiegel (in German). ISSN 2195-1349. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
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  53. ^ a b "Diehl Defence: IRIS-T, the short-distance missile of the latest generation". Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  54. ^ "Trade Registers". Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  55. ^ "Sipri: Trade Registers". Archived from the original on 23 April 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
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  57. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "Thai F-5s to fight on with IRIS-T missiles". FlightGlobal.
  58. ^ "Germany to send IRIS-T air defence system to Ukraine - Scholz". 1 June 2022.
  59. ^ "Ukraine Might Get IRIS-T SLM Surface-To-Air Missile System: Reports". 13 May 2022.
  60. ^ ""Serial Killer" – Ukraine's 1st Western Missile Defense System To Challenge Russian Fighter Jets, Attack Helos". Eurasian times. 15 May 2022.
  61. ^ "Ukraine war: US to send longer-range rockets in latest aid package". BBC. 1 June 2022.
  62. ^ "Germany to 'quickly' send air defense systems to Ukraine". DW. 10 October 2022. Retrieved 11 October 2022.
  63. ^ Kormbaki, Marina (11 October 2022). "Ukraine hat deutsches Luftabwehrsystem erhalten" [Ukraine has received German air defense system]. Der Spiegel (in German). Archived from the original on 11 October 2022. Retrieved 11 October 2022.
  64. ^ "Ukraine seeks 'air shield' to counter Russian missiles and Iranian drones". 12 October 2022. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  65. ^ Knight, Ben (12 October 2022). "What is Germany's IRIS-T air defense system?". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  66. ^ Ismay, John; Erlanger, Steven; Schmitt, Eric; Schuetze, Christopher F. (12 October 2022). "Live Updates: Germany Rushes Air Defense System to Ukraine as Allies Pledge More Military Aid". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  67. ^ "A legkorszerűbb légiharc-rakétákkal bővül a Magyar Honvédség Gripenjeinek fegyverzete". (in Hungarian). 17 December 2021.
  68. ^ "South Korea confirms Meteor, Iris-T integration on KF-X fighter jet".

Further reading[edit]

  • Bonds, Ray ed. The Modern US War Machine. New York City: Crown Publishers, 1989. ISBN 0-517-68802-6.

External links[edit]