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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.