Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA May 2014 Contents MISSILE TECHNOLOGY
A SUCCESSOR TO PYTHON 5?ARIE EGOZI / Tel Aviv
is is one of Israel's most classi ed development programs. You could have thought that a new generation of air-air
missile would be just an upgrade of existing capabilities - but this is much more.
Afew years ago, the author accompanied a
colleague from Europe to a Rafael facility
in Northern Israel. DRA persuaded the
company's people to show the guest a
video of their Python-5 air - air missile.
They agreed on a "for your eyes only" condition.
When the video started the guest, a journalist with
vast knowledge about air-air missiles, sat with his
mouth open for the duration of the video. "'This is
science fiction " he said when the lights in the room
were turned on.
What is known is that Rafael is developing an
even more advanced air-air missile. For the first time
the Israeli company has recently confirmed that fact
on record. Roni Potasman, Rafael's executive VP
for R&D said that the air forces of Arab countries
have lost much of their potential in recent years but
that may change: " We therefore made a decision
to continue the development of an advanced air-air
The Python-5, which is operational in the Israeli
Air Force (IAF) and other air forces around the
world, is considered one of the most advanced 5th
generation air-air missiles in existence. However,
sources say that based on past experience, the
company is certainly working on a "very advanced,
very surprising missile that will surpass any other
air-air weapon in the world".
The Python-5 is the newest member in the range
of Python air-air missiles. The missile can engage
enemy aircraft from very short ranges and "very
near" beyond visual range. Python-5 is the most
accurate and reliable A-A of the Israeli Air Force and
one of the most sophisticated guided missiles in the
Experts have said on many occasions that the
Python-5 is a very "super agile" missile. It has a
length of 3.1m, wing span of 64cm and diameter
of 16cm. The weight of the missile is 105kg. It can
carry an 11kg high explosive fragmentation warhead
equipped with an active laser proximity fuse.
To date, the Israeli company has only admitted
that it is developing "building blocks" for a 6th
generation air - air missile. In this context, Rafael
say that the "Stunner" missile developed for the
"David's Sling" rocket interceptor system, is the
basis for any 6th generation air-air missile that the
Israeli company is developing.
The advanced dual sensors to be used in future
air-air missiles developed by Rafael will probably
involve the "dolphin head" nose section that is
used in the "Stunner" missile. This distinctive shape
allows the two seekers to function simultaneously
with no interference even in "extreme conditions".
It uses a multi-pulse rocket motor, and is equipped
with a dual seeker. This according to company
sources, will ensure high sensitivity under all
weather conditions and immunity to deception and
countermeasures. The "Stunner" is 4.60 meters
Coincidentally, the Israeli Lockheed Martin F-35s
that the IAF will receive, starting in 2017, will be
armed with very advanced air-air missiles as part
of their combat suit. When speaking with Yosi
Druker Rafael's Executive VP and the director of
the company's new air superiority systems division,
he preferred to discuss "guidelines" rather than
specific work that is being done in his division.
Druker was the head of Rafael's Python-5 current
From our experience we know that even air-air
confrontations that start at long ranges finally end
in short range situations. This is why the pilots of
advanced fighter aircraft have targeting helmets.
He explained that in dense airspaces, launching
an air-air missile from long range can end in killing
innocent people: "The long range target can be one
of the force's other aircraft returning from a mission
or a civil aircraft. "
Druker said that when the Israeli Air Force was
scrambled to intercept unmanned air systems (UAS)
used by the Hizbulah terror organization in Lebanon,
air - air missiles were selected as the weapon of
choice: "The pilots launched only when they were
positive that the target was a hostile unmanned
platform." Druker said that the Python-5 is still
considered the best air-air missile and pointed
to the rival MBDA Meteor missile program that is
designed to have very long-range capabilities: "The
supporting systems for such a missile are not yet
available and that is one reason that this program is
in its current status."
Druker said that as fighter aircraft become more
stealthy, the air-air missiles to combat them must
be matched to overcome this obstacle. He was not
IAF F-16s with Python-5s
22 DefenceReviewAsia | MAY 2014
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