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Diehl Defence highlighted regional (and global) opportunities for the IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile (SRAAM) during Defence and Security 2019 in Bangkok last week.

The six-nation IRIS-T consortium consists of companies from Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden; the system has also been adopted also by the air forces of Austria, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Thailand. As a result, the missile is fully integrated with key aerial combat platforms such as the Eurofighter TYPHOON, Panavia TORNADO, JAS-39 GRIPEN (C/D and E/F versions), EF-18 and a wide range of F-16 variants. To date, 4,100 missiles have been delivered since 2005.

The system is especially relevant to Thailand, due to its low maintenance needs and integration with the most modern platforms in the RTAF inventory, the F-16 and GRIPEN. It therefore has strong potential for further integration with additional regional platforms, such as the KF-X fighter or RTAF F-105 SUPER TIGER aircraft.

IRIS-T is an exclusively European solution for the SRAAM requirement and is offered without the ‘black box‘ concerns associated with some US solutions. During a presentation on 19 November, Markus Isphording, Head of Marketing Luftwaffensysteme at Diehl Defence, highlighted the missile's expanded firing zones, strong resistance to electronic counter-measures (ECM) and close-in combat capabilities. As the only newly-developed missile on the market, IRIS-T is equipped with an advanced imaging infrared (IIR) seeker, a seeker-assisted radar proximity fuse and a significant warhead, being at the same time fully compatible with existing AIM-9X SIDEWINDER infrastructure. As a result, IRIS-T is a fire-and-forget weapon system with a proven track record against a wide array of both primary and secondary targets, validated during more than 100 live firings with a hit-to-kill ratio of 100%. The missile has 360° radial self-defence zones and its IIR seeker provides excellent resistance to contemporary countermeasures, such as IRCM and DIRCM, unlike earlier US-manufactured weapons of similar range (SIDEWINDER or ASRAAM). It is also fully compatible with many widely-used subsystems such as SKYWARD-G, PIRATE, Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR), Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) and Link 16.

The system’s additional features include advanced terminal homing, directed by both heat-seekers and imaging sensors designed to strike the most vulnerable point of the target. Turn performance is also exceptional and the Lock-On After Launch (LOAL) system enables its effective use in intermittent weather with cloud cover. In addition, its air-to-ground mode using newly developed software and requires no hardware modifications, which expands its effectiveness against isolated secondary targets. This capability has already been demonstrated by a Norwegian F-16 against a naval target and by a TYPHOON against a ground target. The system also possesses credible anti-missile capability against cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems, both within and beyond visual range. The IRIS-T in surface-to-air role is also at the core of the new highly modular and flexible Ground-Based Air Defence System which uses its SLM and SLS upgraded variants, developed for the German and Swedish armed forces respectively, that were also presented by Diehl in Bangkok.

Tomás Chlebecek

Over 4,100 IRIS SRAAM have been delivered to multiple air forces since 2005. (Photo via Wikipedia)

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