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Denel Dynamics Completes A-Darter Missile Qualification Tests

On 17 September, South African munitions producer Denel Dynamics announced that it completed the A-Darter’s missile qualification tests. The A-Darter is Denel Dynamics’ fifth-generation, high off-boresight (HOBS) air-to-air missile (AAM) for use on South Africa and Brazil’s respective Gripen fighter fleets.

According to Denel Dynamics (via Engineering News), the A-Darter’s qualification tests had involved four launches against Denel Dynamics’ Skua target drones. The tests were done at Denel’s Overberg Test Range (OTR), an instrumented weapons test-range located in South Africa’s southern coast.

The tests were conducted through the following:

Lock-on-After-Launch (LOAL)

The first qualification test done in LOAL, i.e. the A-Darter was already flying before receiving its target. As per Denel Dynamics, the LOAL test was a success. Denel aimed to validate the AAM’s algorithm suite.

Close Range Air Combat

In the second test, the A-Darter was fired under high-g stress and was required to turn 180˚. The goal was to validate the AAM’s seeker’s wide-angle view, HOBS capability — i.e. the pilot’s ability to cue a target with the use of a helmet-mounted display and sight system (HMD/S) — and thrust-vector rocket.

Resilience Against Electronic Countermeasures (ECM)

The final two tests validated the A-Darter’s resilience against ECM and tested the A-Darter’s electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) capabilities. According to Denel, the A-Darter was launched via “blow-through” maneuvering, i.e. having the fighter fire the AAM and withdraw.

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Denel Dynamics will be marketing the A-Darter for export. In 2015, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) officials had listed the A-Darter as a prospective HOBS AAM for use on the JF-17 Block-III, the forthcoming variant of the PAF’s mainstay multi-role fighter. However, the PAF has yet to announce a concrete decision.

In terms of specifications, the A-Darter is equipped with an imaging infrared (IIR) seeker built on a two-colour, thermal imaging system. Denel states that the IIR seeker has strong ECCM via “image detection … and false target rejection.” As stated above, the A-Darter also has LOAL capability as well as compatibility with HMD/S. The A-Darter weighs 93 kg. Denel has not disclosed the HOBS AAM’s range.

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