The IAF Employs Israeli Designed Python And Derby AAMs

With their cutting-edge technology and relentless commitment to staying ahead, The IAF Employs Israeli Designed Python And Derby AAMs – both of these missiles have a comprehensive air-to-air 100% kill accuracy from short to medium to long ranges, leaving no room for error or escape. A Comprehensive Air-To-Air Missile Capability allows the Indian Air Force (IAF) to maintain air superiority in a variety of scenarios.

The IAF’s relentless pursuit of excellence ensures that these missiles will continue to be the backbone of their air-to-air combat capability, now and into the future.

The IAF Employs Israeli Designed Python And Derby AAMs, where The Python AAM is a family of short-to-medium-range infrared-guided missiles. It was first developed in the 1970s and has gone through several iterations, with the most recent being Python 5. It is used by several air forces around the world. The Derby AAM is a beyond-visual-range missile that uses an active radar seeker to engage targets. It was developed in the 1990s as a longer-range complement to the Python missile. It is primarily used by the Israeli and Indian Air Force.

Photo Credit: Rafael / The IAF Employs Israeli Designed Python And Derby AAMs
Photo Credit: Rafael / The IAF Employs Israeli-Designed Python And Derby AAMs

Together, the Python and Derby AAMs provide the military with a comprehensive air-to-air missile capability, allowing for the engagement of targets at short, medium, and long ranges, comprising of Fox 1 & 3 brevity code. This weapon is built by the Israeli Rafael Advanced Defence Systems. 

Design And Development Of The Python-5 Missile

The initial versions of this missile were known as Shafrir 1 and 2. But unfortunately, the Shafrir 1 was deemed a complete failure during actual operations. However, the Shafrir 2 proved to be a resounding success, having destroyed 89 enemy aircraft out of a total of 176 fired missiles. Following this accomplishment, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems introduced the 3rd version of the missile in 1970, which is now known as the Python.

The Python-3 boasts significant improvements, including enhanced range and all-aspect attack ability. This missile proved its efficacy prior to and during the 1982 Lebanon War, having successfully destroyed 35 enemy aircraft by F-16s. Thereafter, the Python missile family was expanded to include the Python-4 in the mid-1980s, which added the option for helmet-sight guidance.

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Photo Credit: IAF

During the 1990s, Rafael initiated the development of the Python-5 AAM, featuring an advanced electro-optical imaging seeker with lock-on after-launch capability. This cutting-edge missile was publicly exhibited at the 2003 Paris Air Show. The Python-5 is reputed to be an all-aspect missile with complete sphere launch capability, allowing it to be fired at targets regardless of their position relative to the launching aircraft’s direction. Remarkably, it can successfully lock onto targets located up to 100 degrees away from the launching aircraft’s boresight, even after it has been launched.

The Python-5 missile is equipped with advanced electro-optical and infrared seeker technologies, which enable it to track and engage targets even in adverse weather and electronic warfare conditions. The missile is also designed with a high degree of manoeuvrability and is capable of executing high-G manoeuvres to engage agile targets. It’s estimated that it can take between 40 to 60 g turns and still maintain control during high-speed manoeuvres.

In addition, the Python-5 is designed to be interoperable with a wide range of fighter aircraft and air defence systems, and it can be launched from both manned and unmanned platforms. The missile has been widely exported and is in service with numerous air forces around the world.

The Latest Generation Python-5 Missile Specifications

  • Weight:  104 kg ( 231 lb )
  • Length:  10 ft ( 120 in )
  • Diameter:  6.3 in ( 16 cm )
  • Warhead:  High Explosive Fragmentation Warhead ( HE-FRAG ), weighing 11kg ( 24 lb )
  • Detonation:  Active radar proximity fuse
  • Engine:  Solid fuel rocket motor
  • Range:  Approximately 20-30 km
  • Speed:  Mach 4
  • Guidance:  Infrared homing and electro-optical imaging, lock on after launch, with infrared counter-counter-measures ( IRCCM )
  • Manoeuvrability: High-G manoeuvring capability and all-aspect engagement
  • Compatibility: Compatible with a wide range of fighter aircraft and air defence systems, and can be launched from both manned and unmanned platforms.
  • Launch PlatformF-16, F-15, Su-25kM, Su-30MKI, LCA Tejas, Saab Gripen, Mirage 2000-5
Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023
Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023

Design And Development Of The Derby Missile

The development of the Derby ( also known as Alto ) missile began in the mid-1980s as a collaboration between Rafael and the British company British Aerospace. The missile was originally called the “Skyflash 2”, but the program was cancelled by the British government in 1993. Rafael continued the development of the missile independently, and it was eventually named the Derby.

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The missile is specifically engineered to engage aerial targets at ranges of 50 km and beyond. It incorporates an active radar seeker and houses a high-explosive fragmentation warhead. This versatile missile is designed for deployment from various platforms, such as fighter aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It boasts multiple advanced features that contribute to its effectiveness in air-to-air combat, including a low-smoke rocket motor, strong resistance to electronic countermeasures, and the capability to engage targets at all altitudes and in all weather conditions. Furthermore, the missile exhibits a high degree of manoeuvrability and can execute evasive manoeuvres to effectively evade counter-countermeasures.

The Derby missile has distinct variants, including the Derby-ER with an impressive range of up to 100 km (62 miles). Another advancement is the I-Derby ER, which offers enhanced features and an extended range of up to 150 km (93 miles). To achieve this, a dual-pulse solid rocket motor was integrated, extending flight time. The missile’s seeker and fuses were ingeniously combined into a single, compact sensor and fusing system, saving space and improving overall performance.

The I-Derby ER is a long-range derivative of the Derby missile and has been adopted by various air forces worldwide. It is part of Rafael’s lineage of air-to-air missile families, developed over the course of 65 years, with a remarkable track record of over 150 combat interceptions in Israel and other regions across the globe.

Photo Credit: Rafael
Photo Credit: Rafael / Derby AAM

The missile is in service with several air forces around the world, including Israel, India, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, the Philippines and Chile. It has been used in combat operations, including during the India-Pakistan conflict in 2019. But never fired due to orders from the base.

India reportedly intended to replace its R-77 missiles with I-Derby ER missiles for its Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters, according to a May 2019 report. However, for the HAL Tejas fighter of the Indian Air Force, it had already been chosen in 2018.

Furthermore, based on the successful design and development of these two AAMs, the Israeli major company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems also developed the Spyder ( Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby ) SAM ( Surface-to-Air Missile ) system.

Photo Credit: Rafael
Photo Credit: Rafael

The Latest Generation Derby-ER Missile Specifications

  • Weight:  118 kg ( 260 lb )
  • Length:  11.91 ft ( 143 in )
  • Diameter:  6.3 in ( 16 cm )
  • Warhead:  23 kg ( 51 lb )
  • Detonation:  Active radar proximity fuse
  • Engine:  Solid fuel rocket motor
  • Range:  100 km ( 62 miles )  //  I-Derby-ER: 150 km ( 93 miles )
  • Speed:  Mach 4
  • Guidance:  Active radar homing
  • Manoeuvrability: High-G manoeuvring capability and all-aspect engagement
  • Compatibility: Compatible with a wide range of fighter aircraft and air defence systems, and can be launched from both manned and unmanned platforms.
  • Launch PlatformF-16, F-15, Su-30MKI, LCA Tejas, Saab Gripen, Mirage 2000-5
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In conclusion, the Derby and Python missile systems are two advanced air-to-air missile families that demonstrate the cutting-edge capabilities of modern military technology. The Derby missile, with its long-range and radar-guided seeker, is designed to engage targets beyond the visual range, while the Python missile family, with its advanced infrared seeker and high manoeuvrability, is intended for short to medium-range engagements against highly manoeuvrable targets. Both missile systems are developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a leading developer of missile systems and other advanced defence technologies. The Derby and Python missile systems, with their advanced guidance and propulsion systems, demonstrate the significant progress in missile technology and their capabilities make them precise and formidable weapons in air-to-air combat scenarios.

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