IRIS-T – the world's highest-performance, short-range, air-to-air guided missile

05-12-2005 | Diehl Defence

With delivery of the first IRIS-T (InfraRed Imaging System – Tail/Thrust-Vector Controlled) missiles to the German Federal Office für Military Technology and Procurement (BWB), Diehl will start series deliveries of over 4,000 guided missiles to the six European program nations in late 2005. The air forces of Germany and the partner nations Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Spain will receive the latest-generation air-to-air guided missile as standard weapon system for the Eurofighter, Gripen, F-16, F-18 and Tornado aircraft types.

Over decades, Diehl BGT Defence has gathered experience as prime contractor, project manager and system integrator of large European and transatlantic development and production programs. As system house, Diehl BGT Defence has delivered more than 35,000 Sidewinder missiles of various types to almost all NATO partners since the early 1960s. Sidewinder is an air-to-air missile for use within the pilot's visual range. The missile has been integrated in almost all European and US fighter aircraft and is today in service in more than 30 countries.

In the mid-1990s, Diehl BGT Defence decided to design a new short-range missile, based on own studies. In 1996, the definition phase began, which was followed by the 4-year development phase in 1998, in which Greece, Italy, Canada, Norway and Sweden participated. In 2002, Spain joined the IRIS-T consortium and Canada left it.

In January 2003, the German Parliament approved German procurement of the new weapon system and in October of the same year, the six nations involved in development agreed on series preparation. In December 2004, the contract on IRIS-T series production was signed by BWB and Diehl BGT Defence, with BWB acting on behalf of all six IRIS-T program nations. The contract has a total volume of approx. 1 billion Euros and makes a major contribution to securing Diehl's core capabilities in the field of missiles.

Diehl BGT Defence – Prime Contractor of the European IRIS-T Program

As prime contractor and project coordinator of the multi-national IRIS-T program, Diehl BGT Defence leads the European industrial consortium comprising Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Spain. Subcontractors from the participating program nations include Saab Bofors Dynamics in Sweden, NAMMO in Norway, MBDA-IT, LITAL, Magnaghi, Simmel in Italy, SENER, ICSA and EXPAL in Spain, INTRACOM, HAI as well as HDS in Greece. Each program partner has unrestricted access to the project data.

The IRIS-T missile will be introduced as standard weapon system for close-in combat and self-defence of modern fighter aircraft in the air forces of the European program nations. Delivery of the total of over 4,000 IRIS-T missiles will extend until 2011.

IRIS-T – Technical Concept and Performance Data

The technical concept of the new guided missile is reflected by completely newly developed components. The main assemblies comprise the Guidance Section with imaging IR seeker, warhead with safety and arming unit, solid-propellant rocket motor as well as the Control Section with fins and jet vane.

Compared with the predecessor generation, IRIS-T is characterized by essentially increased agility, target acquisition range and hit accuracy, a more effective warhead and considerably improved protection against countermeasures such as most-modern IR flares. Furthermore, the missile enables successful target engagement in the rear hemisphere (lock-on after launch).

The imaging IR seeker developed by Diehl BGT Defence provides extraordinarily high resolution, target discrimination and false-alarm suppression. This new type of IR seeker head is a high-tech product with very large look angle, extremely high tracking rate and intelligent image processing.

Body diameter (127mm), overall length (approx. 3m), total weight (approx. 89 kg) and center-of-gravity position of IRIS-T have been chosen so that they meet the requirement for compatibility with the predecessor, Sidewinder. The interface between missile and launcher has also been designed such that it is compatible with the analog Sidewinder interface and simultaneously with the digital interfaces of modern fighter aircraft.

As modern fighter aircraft are characterized by extremely high maneuverability, the missile's agility must exceed by several times that of the target to be engaged.