Air Force buys hi-tech plane killer

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 18 Jun 2008

The SA Air Force (SAAF) has bought a small supply of high-tech IRIS-T short range air-to-air missiles (SRAAM) to arm its growing fleet of Gripen advanced light fighter aircraft.

The wikipedia says the processor-heavy infra-red guided missiles cost 400 000 euro each. It is not known how many missiles SA has bought.

The IRIS-T (Infra Red Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled) will arm the Gripen as an interim solution until a local missile, the Denel A-Darter, becomes available.

Diehl BGT Defence, the company that manufactures the IRIS-T, says the Air Force placed an order for the weapons in late May through the Department of Defence's acquisitions agency, Armscor.

The company says the missiles will be fully operational "in the course of 2009". The SAAF, at present, has three Gripens. The number will rise to five by year end and to 26 by 2012.

SA is the second export customer for the pan-European missile. Austria selected the IRIS-T missile at the end of 2005 and received 25 in 2007. It is also in service with the air forces of Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden, the countries that collaborated to develop the missile.

The IRIS-T will be on display at Africa Aerospace & Defence show, in Cape Town, in September.

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