South Africa, Brazil Ready For A-Darter Missile Test

A South African Air Force Saab Gripen D fighter is expected to perform
the first live firing of an A-Darter short-range air-to-air missile
later this month, advancing a joint project with Brazilian industry.

Launched in April 2007 under a 66-month development and production
programme co-funded by the Brazilian and South African air forces, the
A-Darter is intended to arm the services’ respective Northrop F-5EM/FM
and future F-X2 fighters, and Gripen and BAE Systems Hawk 120 aircraft.

Worth $130 million, the project involves Denel Dynamics and a group of
Brazilian companies headed by Mectron. Production activities should
start in 2013, with Brazil’s air force expecting the missile to enter
service the following year.

Launch trials with the new weapon are scheduled to take place at South
Africa’s Overberg test range. Ground seeker tests concluded in January
and captive carriage flight trials were completed in March, following
the delivery of a first test missile to Saab in Sweden last September.

Nearly 50 Brazilian civilian and military engineers are supporting
development work in South Africa, and Avibras and Mectron sources have
pinned high hopes on the A-Darter’s export potential.

Avibras chief executive Sami Hassuani believes an initial 100-200
units could be sold to international users, with Pakistan viewed as a
prime candidate. Mectron delivered its first MAA-1A Piranha-1 air-to-air
missiles to the nation last month, and Islamabad has also signed a
letter of intent to purchase B-version Piranha-2s.