Ukraine Develops Modernised Seeker For R-27ET AAM

Jane's Defense Weekly 

Kiev-based Arsenal Design Bureau has built and tested a new infrared(IR) seeker for the Russian-designed R-27ET (AA-10 'Alamo-D')beyond-visual-range  air-to-air missile  that significantlyimproves the combat performance of the existing weapon.

Production hardware for the AZ-10 seeker was exhibited for the firsttime by Arsenal at the Ukrainian Defense Industrial Forum, Kiev, on 31August. Arsenal has also renamed the baseline missile, which becomesthe R-47T when fitted with the new seeker.

Capable of accurately acquiring targets out to 30 km, the AZ-10 is amuch better match for the extended range of the 'long Alamo' variants.The larger rocket motor of the improved 'E-type' (Energovooruzhenosti,energetic weaponry) R-27 missiles gives them a maximum range of around100 km. R-27E designers have previously told Jane's that their missilecan fly significantly further than the newer R-77/RVV-AE (AA-12'Adder'). The emergence of the AZ-10 shows that there is demand on theinternational market for passive-homing BVR AAMs that permit 'stealthy'extended-range engagements. Russian and Ukrainian designers havecontinued to develop passive IR- and RF-guided AAMs that have almost noWestern equivalent.

Arsenal representatives would not say openly who the intendedcustomers for the seeker are. Unofficially, it was noted that the AZ-10has been developed as an upgrade for the R-27ET missiles alreadyserving with China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Chinahas established a local production capability for the R-27, which wastransferred from Ukraine, where all Soviet-era production of themissile took place.

The original R-27ET seeker was developed and manufactured in Russia byGeophysika. It was accepted into service around 1991. "This type ofseeker - for medium-range missiles like the long-burn R-27 - was not aproduct that we were responsible for developing during Soviet times,"an Arsenal representative told Jane's . "We were the producers of theshorter-range IR missile seekers, like the R-73 [AA-11 'Archer']."

Since then, Arsenal has moved into the BVR missile sector. The AZ-10seeker was shown as a concept at the MAKS 2009 Moscow Air Show, whereit was referred to as the MR-2000.

Arsenal has gone on build and test-launch production standard seekers.Efforts to put it into full production continue. The company stated:"This seeker is not yet in series production. At this point it has beendeveloped for this customer, but there is not a firm order."

"We have no large numbers of this seeker on order from the Chinese.It would be nice if we did, but what they want to do is to have usdesign the unit and transfer to them the technical documentation sothat they can build this seeker themselves. They are beginning todevelop the cadre of specialists and skill sets that they need tobecome independent in this field of technology," said a source.

According to Arsenal, it is involved in the AZ-10/R-47T programewithout the co-operation of the R-27's original manufacturer, Artem,also located in Kiev. "This does not make much sense to us. We areneighbours and have a history of co-operation, but they want to go offand do something on their own in this particular instance," an Arsenalofficial commented.

It is likely that the name change to R-47T is a reflection of Artem'sabsence from the programe; Arsenal on its own has no legal right touse the R-27 designation.

Artem probably views Arsenal's work as damaging to its exportprospects. According to Arsenal, the AZ-10 seeker can be swapped forthe Geophysika seeker head, so customers need not purchase a new AAM."This seeker may also be retrofitted to older-model SAM that use aprevious generation IR seeker," added Arsenal.

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