The use of 5th-generation missiles by the South African Air Force (SAAF) became a reality with the arrival of the final Gripen aircraft in the country recently. Their arrival completed South Africa’s four-year acquisition of a 26-strong fighter aircraft fleet.
The JAS 39 Gripen fighters are armed with 5th-generation missiles and their pilots equipped with the Cobra HMD targeting system, developed by BAE Systems, Denel Optronics and Saab.
HMD technology today enables fighter pilots to keep their hands on the throttle and joystick because their helmet visors provide them with all the information they need about airspeed, altitude, target range and threat and engagement data. This reduces pilot workload and increases the ease of flying.
The new advances in HMD now use a head angle as a targeting system. The tactical advantages of this development include less need for aircraft manoeuvring, greater situation awareness and increased chances of pilot survival.
New technology requires new guidelines
New technology advertently requires new guidelines for pilots to use it effectively. Gripen pilots needed a new set of tactics and standard operating procedures to maximise the use of 5th-generation missiles without placing the wingman in danger. The SAAF asked the CSIR to explore ‘over-the-shoulder’ scenarios and develop HMD guidelines to designate off bore-sight targets.
The CSIR’s expertise in modelling and simulation was brought to bear on developing a set of guidelines for the SAAF to use the 5th-generation missiles in ‘over-the-shoulder’ firing. The study team used a computer simulation to evaluate different conditions and parameters and develop a sound understanding of the factors involved. Distances between aircraft and their relative positions, flight speed and range, where investigated to improve the success rate of the missiles and provide insight into their use by the SAAF.
The objective of providing the SAAF with guidelines that would give pilots an insight into the use of the latest generation missiles was well-achieved. The CSIR will continue to support the SAAF in the optimal use of its new fleet of Gripen fighter jets.
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