Ukraine Develops Modernised Seeker For R-27ET AAM

Jane's Defense Weekly 

Kiev-based Arsenal Design Bureau has built and tested a new infrared (IR) seeker for the Russian-designed R-27ET (AA-10 'Alamo-D') beyond-visual-range  air-to-air missile  that significantly improves the combat performance of the existing weapon.

Production hardware for the AZ-10 seeker was exhibited for the first time by Arsenal at the Ukrainian Defense Industrial Forum, Kiev, on 31 August. Arsenal has also renamed the baseline missile, which becomes the R-47T when fitted with the new seeker.

Capable of accurately acquiring targets out to 30 km, the AZ-10 is a much better match for the extended range of the 'long Alamo' variants. The larger rocket motor of the improved 'E-type' (Energovooruzhenosti, energetic weaponry) R-27 missiles gives them a maximum range of around 100 km. R-27E designers have previously told Jane's that their missile can fly significantly further than the newer R-77/RVV-AE (AA-12 'Adder'). The emergence of the AZ-10 shows that there is demand on the international market for passive-homing BVR AAMs that permit 'stealthy' extended-range engagements. Russian and Ukrainian designers have continued to develop passive IR- and RF-guided AAMs that have almost no Western equivalent.

Arsenal representatives would not say openly who the intended customers for the seeker are. Unofficially, it was noted that the AZ-10 has been developed as an upgrade for the R-27ET missiles already serving with China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). China has established a local production capability for the R-27, which was transferred from Ukraine, where all Soviet-era production of the missile took place.

The original R-27ET seeker was developed and manufactured in Russia by Geophysika. It was accepted into service around 1991. "This type of seeker - for medium-range missiles like the long-burn R-27 - was not a product that we were responsible for developing during Soviet times," an Arsenal representative told Jane's . "We were the producers of the shorter-range IR missile seekers, like the R-73 [AA-11 'Archer']."

Since then, Arsenal has moved into the BVR missile sector. The AZ-10 seeker was shown as a concept at the MAKS 2009 Moscow Air Show, where it was referred to as the MR-2000.

Arsenal has gone on build and test-launch production standard seekers. Efforts to put it into full production continue. The company stated: "This seeker is not yet in series production. At this point it has been developed for this customer, but there is not a firm order."

"We have no large numbers of this seeker on order from the Chinese. It would be nice if we did, but what they want to do is to have us design the unit and transfer to them the technical documentation so that they can build this seeker themselves. They are beginning to develop the cadre of specialists and skill sets that they need to become independent in this field of technology," said a source.

According to Arsenal, it is involved in the AZ-10/R-47T programe without the co-operation of the R-27's original manufacturer, Artem, also located in Kiev. "This does not make much sense to us. We are neighbours and have a history of co-operation, but they want to go off and do something on their own in this particular instance," an Arsenal official commented.

It is likely that the name change to R-47T is a reflection of Artem's absence from the programe; Arsenal on its own has no legal right to use the R-27 designation.

Artem probably views Arsenal's work as damaging to its export prospects. According to Arsenal, the AZ-10 seeker can be swapped for the Geophysika seeker head, so customers need not purchase a new AAM. "This seeker may also be retrofitted to older-model SAM that use a previous generation IR seeker," added Arsenal.


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