Air Defense: More Air Launched Missiles Go To Ground


January 26, 2013: The Swedish government has decided to replace the 1970s era RBS-70 short-range SAM (surface to air missile) system with one based on the new IRIS-T heat seeking air-to-air missile. This is much to the dismay of Swedish manufacturer of the RBS-70. Despite pointing out that the RBS-70 has been improved over the decades, the government believes that the new system, because of the IRIS-T, will provide longer range and better accuracy. This is part of a trend, using easily adapted (to SAM use) air-to-air missiles.

The IRIS-T is relatively new but has performed well. The German Air Force was the first to receive the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, back in late 2005. The IRIS-T is very similar to the U.S. Sidewinder heat seeking missile but is built from European design specs and components in Europe. The IRIS-T can be used by any aircraft that can use Sidewinder. The IRIS has been in development since the 1980s, with the U.S. as one of the original partners. But that arrangement fell apart when the Cold War ended in 1991, and it wasn't until 1995 that the project was revived.

The first test launch of IRIS-T took place in 2000, with mass production starting five years later. The IRIS-T is 3.2 meters (9.8 feet) long, weighs 87.3 kg (192 pounds), has a 12 kilometer range, and is very maneuverable. Its rocket motor generates very little smoke. Most European nations are expected to use the IRIS-T from now on, instead of the Sidewinder. The Swedish Air Force already uses IRIS-T on its fighters.

From 1969-1998 the U.S. Army used the Sidewinder in a mobile SAM system (Chaparral). Several nations use the American AMRAAM (radar guided air-to-air missile) for SAM systems.


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