Portfolio reported that A Hungarian government official says the country has signed a deal to buy the IRIS-T dogfight missile for its Saab JAS-39C Gripen C/D fleet. In a statement that the contract for the IRIS-T air-to-air guided missiles was signed with German weapons maker Diehl on Friday. The deal is part of the MS20 Block II upgrade program that will keep the Hungarian Gripen fleet relevant for the next 10 years. The IRIS-T allows Hungary’s fighter fleet to regain the off-boresight lock-on capability that it once had with the MiG-29. Unlike the Sidewinder missiles that have been in use until now, the IRIS-Ts can be used in the most difficult air strike situations even under heavy overload.
The IRIS-T (Infra Red Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled) is a German-led program to develop a short-range infrared homing air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder found in some NATO member countries. In comparison to the AIM-9M Sidewinder, the IRIS-T has higher ECM-resistance and flare suppression. Improvements in target discrimination not only allows for 5 to 8 times longer head-on firing range than the AIM-9M. It can also engage targets behind the launching aircraft, the latter made possible by the extreme close-in agility allowing turns of 60 g at a rate of 60°/s via thrust vectoring and LOAL capability.
In addition, the IRIS-T has the unique ability, in comparison to other similar missiles such as the AIM-9X, to target and shoot down other air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles thus offering 360° defence capability. In fact, a surface launched variant of the IRIS-T the IRIS-T SL actually has even further enhanced capabilities capable of destroying aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles, air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missiles, anti-radar rockets and large-calibre rockets. It also has high probability of a killing shot against UAVs and other small maneuvering threats at very-short and medium-range distances.
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab AB. While the Hungarian Air Force operates a total of 14 Gripen aircraft under lease, in 2011, the country reportedly intended to purchase these aircraft outright. However, in January 2012, the Hungarian and Swedish governments agreed to extend the lease period for a further ten years; according to Hungarian Defence Minister Csaba Hende, the agreement represented considerable cost savings. Two Gripens were lost in crashes in May and June 2015, leaving 12 Gripens in operation. From 2017, Hungary is back to operating 14 fighters.