The V3E A-Darter (Agile Darter) is a modern short-range infrared homing ("heat seeking") air-to-air missile, featuring countermeasures resistance with a 180-degree look angle and 120-degrees per second track rate, under development by South Africa’s Denel Dynamics (formerly Kentron) and Brazil’s Mectron, Avibras and Opto Eletrônica. It will equip South African Air Force’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen C/D and BAe Hawk 120; Brazilian Air Force’s A-1M AMX, Northrop F-5BR and Gripen E/F. It is expected to be in production before the end of 2015.

Class Missile
Type Air to Air
Manufacturer Denel
Origin South Africa
Country Name Origin Year
South Africa 2015
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Denel 2015 View

Development of the A-Darter started in 1995, however it suffered from inadequate funding and changes to the SAAF’s requirements. Mectron, Avibras and Atech joined the program in 2006 after a three-year negotiation process with US$52 million invested by the Brazilian Government in the project, estimated to be worth US$130 million. In that same year, Denel announced that it would use the latest solid-state inertial measurement unit, the SiIMU02 from BAE Systems, for mid course range guidance. The Brazilian company Opto Eletrônica has partnered with Denel Dynamics in the development of the missile imaging infrared seeker for thermal guidance.

Ground seeker tests were concluded in January 2010, while trajectory guidance and agility flight tests were performed in February 2010. Prototypes were sent to Saab AB in order to begin the integration of the missile to the Saab JAS 39 Gripen. Captive flight trials were concluded in March 2010. The first successful in-flight launch from a Gripen fighter took place on 17 June 2010.

In March 2012, Denel Dynamics disclosed that the missile, which was to be ready for production by end of 2013, entered the qualification phase. Several testing firings at Denel’s Overberg Test Range were carried out from a Gripen in January 2012. Final testing included the use of high-speed target drones to simulate an aircraft by towing infrared targets at high speed.

In December 2012, the Brazilian air force commissioned Denel to build a factory in São José dos Campos, close to Mectron, Avibras and Opto Eletrônica.

In February 2015, Denel Dynamics signed an agreement with Marotta Controls for supply of the latter's MPACT pure air compression technology to cool the A-Darter's infrared seeker.

Type Air-to-air missile
Place of origin South Africa
Production history
Manufacturer Denel Dynamics
Produced 2015
Weight 89 kilograms (196 lb)
Length 2.98 metres (117 in)
Diameter 0.166 metres (6.5 in)
Engine Solid fuel rocket
Wingspan 0.488 metres (19.2 in)
22 kilometres (14 mi)
dual-colour Infra-red homing, laser proximity fuse
Combat aircraft

End notes