During a firing campaign with the new Laser Guided Sidewinder (LaGS) developed by Diehl Defence, all targets could be successfully engaged in Sweden in mid April. The laser-guided missiles fired from a Saab Gripen JAS 39 did not only hit the stationary ground targets but also the two moving targets – a target board measuring 2 by 3 meters pulled on a trailer as well as a driving SUV. All targets were successfully countered with one direct hit. It was the second verification firing on the Northern Scandinavian test range in Vidsel, carried out by the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) in cooperation with the Swedish procurement agency FMV. The campaign was supported and accompanied by a Diehl Defence expert team.
Sidewinder is an air-to-air guided missile developed by the U.S. Navy for fighter aircraft. Since the 1960s, the missile has been produced and refined under license by Diehl Defence as European prime contractor in several versions. Today, its subsidiary Diehl Retrofit Missile Systeme provides worldwide maintenance and modernization of AIM 9L missiles. In 2016, Diehl Defence received a development contract for the reconstruction of AIM-9L-Sidewinders to a “motor driven short-range effector” in order to be able to engage targets on the ground instead of targets in the air. For this purpose, the missile’s guidance and control section has been modernized fundamentally.
The Laser-Guided Sidewinder, currently being developed by Diehl Defence, is an adapted air-to-air guided missile for air-to-surface missions on the basis of the AIM-9L-family. LaGS permits air-to-surface missions with a worldwide proven guided missile without having to shoulder considerable expenses for re-integration in the combat aircraft. The infrared seeker in the original missile´s guidance and control section is replaced by a Semi-Active Laser (SAL) seeker. The SAL seeker concept envisages marking the target with a Laser Designator. The SAL seeker directs the missile autonomously into the laser-lighted target.
Since the great majority of today´s air-to-air scenarios are covered by advanced missiles such as IRIS-T, adaptation and employment of the AIM-9L missile family, having already been procured, offers operational advantages and is practical in terms of logistics. LaGS` accuracy enables aircraft crews engagement of lightly armoured surface targets in the air-to-surface, Close Air Support (CAS) and Urban Close Air Support (UCAS) roles. Through the use of modern technologies, a proven but aging weapon system could be upgraded for a new task at relatively low costs, extending the mission spectrum of flying weapon systems. After having fulfilled the requirements for LaGS during the firing campaign, Diehl Defence now hopes to receive the envisaged purchase contract.