Country of origin
German-led multinational program
Range of fire
up to 25 km
(Infra-Red Imaging System – Tail/Thrust Vector Controlled) is a
next-generation short-range air-to-air missile intended to replace
AIM-9 Sidewinder. It is currently among the most advanced
of its class, thanks to its high speed, state-of-art electronics,
and nearly unmatched maneuverability.
Originally, Germany was part of a joint project. The US was
to develop a medium-range missile (resulting in the
AIM-120 AMRAAM), while Germany, Norway, Canada, and England were
given charge of the short-range project. However, when the Cold War
ended, Germany decided in 1995, along with Greece, Italy, Norway,
Sweden, and Canada, to develop a missile with shorter range and more
maneuverability. Britain proceeded with its design, and the
entered service soon after. The German-led project took longer,
especially because Canada dropped out, but in 2005 it entered
Since the IRIS-T primarily replaces the venerable Sidewinder,
any aircraft that can fire the AIM-9 can also fire the IRIS-T,
making it an attractive replacement choice.
This air-to-air missile utilizes infrared homing, more
commonly known as heat seeking. This means that the IRIS-T tracks
its targets by following their infrared signature. It is also known
as heat seeking, because infrared light is radiated primarily by
heat. However, unlike many other contemporary missiles, the IRIS-T
can “see” the target, allowing it to distinguish between
countermeasures and its target. Also, this missile has high
resistance to electronic countermeasures.
The IRIS-T is one of the most deadly missiles today. It has a
powerful motor, which gives it a speed of Mach 3 (3 703 km/h),
enough to quickly reach most enemy aircraft and destroy them with
its lethal high-explosive proximity fuse-triggered fragmentation
warhead. Its thrust-vector/tail control system grants it such
maneuverability that it can make turns of 60 g without much trouble.
This massively outclasses even the most maneuverable fighter
aircraft of today, as they can only go to 12 g. However, the IRIS-T
is somewhat lacking in range—25 kilometers, a number that falls far
short of the ASRAAM’s 50-kilometer range.
The IRIS-T includes a number of advanced features. These
include Lock-On Before Launch (LOBL); Lock-On After Launch (LOAL),
allowing the IRIS-T to target aircraft behind its launch platform,
to be carried internally, and to give targets far less warning that
it is tracking them, improving hit chances; and the precision to
intercept incoming missiles.
The IRIS-T has had a fairly successful export history, with
missiles sold to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway,
Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand, at the cost
of about $455 000 each. Note that this is a few hundred thousand
dollars less expensive than the AIM-9X.
IDAS: a modified version for naval use, intended to attack
airborne, naval, and surface targets. It is currently being adapted
for use on the German
212 submarine. This will make it the first missile to give
submarines the ability to engage aerial threats, even while
submerged. It is fiber-optic guided and has a reduced range (20 km).
IRIS-T SL: a surface-launched (hence the SL) variant of the
IRIS-T that also incorporates a number of improvements including a
better motor, improved range, GPS, and a data link. It comes in two
variants: the SLS (short-ranged), mounted on a Unimog 5000 vehicle,
and the SLM (medium-ranged).
SAM Variants: both Sweden and Norway have decided to develop
a Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) version of the IRIS-T. For Sweden, it
will replace the aging
while Norway’s will be a modification of the NASAMS (Norwegian
Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System), which is generally equipped
with the AIM-120 AMRAAM. Deliveries of this system are slated to
begin in 2018.
this British missile entered service in 1998. It has been a mild
export success and is one of the most powerful missiles of its
class, with high maneuverability (up to 60 g), exceptional range (up
to 50 km), a devastating 10-kilogram warhead, and state-of-art
electronics. It is also fully compatible with all
R-73: known in the West as the AA-11 Archer, this
infrared-guided Russian short-range air-to-air missile entered
service in 1984. It has high maneuverability, a 7.4 kg warhead,
speed of 3 073 km/h, and depending on the variant, a range of 20-40
kilometers. It currently has more than 15 operators and can be used
on a wide variety of Russian fighters, interceptors, ground attack
aircraft, and attack helicopters.
AIM-9X Sidewinder: in service since 2003, the AIM-9X is the
latest version of the venerable
Sidewinder. It features
thrust-vectoring control, improved computing, and a reduced drag
design for better speed, maneuverability, and resistance to
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