MAA-1 Piranha

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MAA-1A Piranha
MAA-1A seeker head.jpg
MAA-1A Seeker-head
Type Short-range air-to-air missile
Place of origin Brazil
Service history
Used by Brazilian Air Force
Brazilian Navy
Colombian Air Force
Indonesian Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
Production history
Manufacturer Mectron
Laser proximity fuse

Engine Solid-fuel rocket
Propellant Solid fuel
Infrared homing

The MAA-1A Piranha is a short-range infrared homing missile and the first air-to-air missile developed by Brazil for its Air Force and Navy. It was designed to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile in Brazilian service and has since been exported to Colombia, Indonesia and Pakistan.


Development of an air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-9B Sidewinder in FAB service began in March 1976 by Brazil's Instituto de Aeronáutica e Espaço (IAE). By 1978 it had been defined as a weapon similar in capability to the AIM-9G. The project was classified until 1981. The pace of the project was quickened after the 1982 Falklands war and the missile was dubbed Piranha. Contracts were awarded to DF Vasconcellos SA, a Brazilian company with experience in optics and guided weaponry which was given the task of developing the weapon's infra-red seeker. However the company went bankrupt in the mid-1980s and it abandoned the Piranha project in 1986.[1]

Piranha achieved some degree of operational capability in September 1992. It has been assumed that the missile achieved initial operational capability in 1993 coinciding with the last test campaign. The MAA-1 project has been handled by many Brazilian companies since its inception in the 1970s but finally was Mectron in the 1990s who developed the MAA-1 missile weapon system.

In 2005 a South African Skua high-speed target drone was used in final testing of the MAA-1A in order to simulate an aircraft by towing infrared targets at high speed.[2]


The MAA-1 Piranha is a supersonic, short-range air-to-air missile relying on infrared passive guidance which seeks the target's heat emissions coming primarily from an aircraft's engines. It is highly maneuverable and can turn at accelerations of up to 50g. The Piranha performs as a 'fire and forget' missile, that means once launched the missile does not require input data coming the aircraft's sensors to hit its target. A laser fuze is responsible for detonating the high-explosive warhead. Externally, the aerodynamic configuration is very similar to Rafael's Python 3 air-to-air missile.

During the 1990s Mectron conducted Piranha missile test firings on the AT-26 Xavante, F-5 and Mirage III aircraft. The missile was qualified for operation on the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) F-5E in September 1992. Missile production began from 1993 onwards but no date has been confirmed yet. The Piranha air-to-air missile has also been integrated into Brazilian AMX tactical attack aircraft and could be integrated into many other aircraft used by the Brazilian Air Force, Army and Navy in the near future.

The MAA-1 Piranha is a missile air-air short range with infrared guidance system for aerial combat of the "dogfight" in tactical characteristics of the F-103E IIIEBR (Mirage III), F-5E Tiger II, A-1 AMX, A-29 Super Tucano, AT-26 Xavante (tests) and possibly the AF-1 Hawks Navy and the "new" FAB Mirage 2000C.

The data indicate a missile Mectron sensor "passive infrared seeker all-aspect", with characteristic equivalent to the U.S. AIM-9L.

The technical specifications of the manufacturer advises that the missile is able to "pull" to 50 G's (capacity of the cell), has an infrared detector InSb scan cone-cooled gas, with scanning speed 35° and view angle of 37°. The G-load is more indicative of the strength of the cell as the missile does not have a narrow turning radius. To achieve a turning radius that would create a 50-G load would require a sophisticated digital autopilot and would only be possible when the rocket motor is burning.

The acquisition target may be in standalone mode or with the missile "appointed" by the radar, HUD or crosshairs on the helmet (which means some off-boresight capacity). Radar acquisition of the target is particularly useful in night time or low visibility conditions.

The CTA data indicate maximum g-load of 45 g's, a turning speed at or above 20 degrees per second and maximum angle of screening more than 30 degrees. Another source says that the CTA is also developing an infrared sensor capable of trapping front for future versions. This means that the missile is not "all-aspect" and can only engage targets when fired towards the rear of the aircraft. This data may refer to older models.

The warhead is a blast fragmentation type with HMX explosives and weighs 12 kg (20 kg in the original model). A proximity fuze is laser-active timer with fuze and impact.

The rocket motor has a burn time of 2.1 seconds, a maximum thrust of 27,000 newtons and can accelerate the Piranha missile up to Mach 2. The motor uses a smokeless propellant. The theoretical range is 8–10 km (4–6 km in early versions from the 70's and 80's). The mission time is 40 seconds.

Navigation is by proportional navigation with pneumatic actuator and "canards" for steering control. The scroll control and stabilization is by "rollerons" in stabilizers. The Piranha has achieved the design parameters of the first phase was to overcome the AIM-9B. In the second phase of the project the goal was to overcome the AIM-9E


  • MAA-1A Piranha - In service.
  • MAA-1B Piranha - Improved range, maneuverability and infra-red counter-measures (IRCM) systems. 80% of the components are Brazilian. Undergoing testing.


Map with MAA-1 operators in blue

Current operators[edit]



  1. ^ "MAA-1A Piranha 1, MAA-1B Piranha 2 (Brazil), Air-to-air missiles - Within visual range". Archived from the original on 29 August 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  2. ^ Campbell, Keith (13 May 2005). "Denel breaks into Brazilian market". Engineering News. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "Embraer avança na América Latina" (in Portuguese). 13 December 2006. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Akankah Indonesia Produksi Super Tucano?" (in Indonesian). Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "South Africa, Brazil ready for A-Darter missile test". Flight International. 2010-07-06. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  6. ^ Khan, Iftikhar A. (7 Apr 2010). "PAF Pakistani C-130 comes to Brazil and feeds information on the export of missiles". Newspaper article (in Portuguese). Thal Range, Pakistan: Dawn News (Pakistan). Archived from the original on 3 July 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2010.