Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Air Force's Air To Air Missiles - LRAAM, Python 5 - Industry Rumors

'Janes Defense Weekly' reports that India is likely to join in the air-to-air missile (AAM) development agreement between Brazil and South Africa. The issue of co-operation in research-and-development (R&D) had been discussed during recent high-level Brazilian military delegation visits to India. Brazil and South Africa had announced their AAM co-operation efforts in 2005.

India also has an indegineous AAM programme - Astra - which is being developed by DRDO and is said to have looked promising in the trials conducted thus far. Keeping in light of the Indian defence establishments recent "foreign collaboration" mantra, it could be possible that DRDO might jointly develop AAMs with Brazil & South Africa. The new tri-national agreement is reported to involve India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) working in a risk-sharing R&D programme dealing with two projects: a short-range imaging infrared (IIR) missile derived from the South African U-Darter and the Long Range Air-to-Air Missile (LRAAM).

The LRAAM programme would reportedly build on South African design efforts dating back to the 1980s for a 100 km range-class weapon referred to as LRAAAM or Darter-S. A second variant known as T-Darter and incorporating a datalink was also reported. For the collaborative venture, a configuration with a 180 mm diameter airframe powered by a solid-fuel ramjet fed by four air intakes is reported to have been selected. Maximum range would be about 120 km.

A dual-mode RF/IIR seeker was being considered for S-Darter. This remains a possibility for LRAAM, but a scheme involving alternative seekers has been reported: a passive IIR seeker with lock-on after-launch capability and pulse-Doppler radar using an active phased-array antenna. The missile would also have inertial mid-course guidance and a two-way datalink. LRAAM would be fitted with a 20 kg warhead and a laser proximity fuze. It would probably be integrated with the Indian Air Force's Su-30MKI fighters providing a beyond-visual-range capability greater than that associated with the 60 km-range R-77 (AA-12 'Adder') currently used.

However there have also been industry rumors that the Indian Air Force is interested in acquiring the Israeli Python 5 missile, this however is yet to be confirmed from official sources. The Python 5 is currently the most capable short-range AAM in Israel's inventory. It has BVR (beyond visual range), LOAL (lock-on after launch), and all-aspect, all-direction (including backward) attack capability. The missile has an advanced electro-optical imaging seeker that scans the target area for hostile aircraft, then locks-on for terminal chase.

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