Derby (Alto) is a beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM) developed by Israeli defence company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to meet the combat needs of the armed forces.
The Derby AAM can be integrated onto a variety of fighter aircraft such as F-5, F-16 Fighting Falcon, Gripen E and Mirage and is capable of engaging aerial threats from short ranges and near-beyond visual range.
Derby can be configured as a surface-to-air missile (SAM) for launch from a Spyder-SR / MR short and medium-range mobile air defence system, which also incorporates Python-5 dual waveband imaging infrared (IIR) missile.
In November 2019, the naval variant of the LCA Tejas fighter aircraft carried the Derby BVR missile during a successful launch from a shore-based test facility in Goa, India.
Derby BVR missile development details
Development of the Derby began in early-1980s, while the missile was introduced in mid-1990s. The missile entered service in 1998 and is operational with six countries.
Rafael Armament Development Authority received a $25m contract in February 2005 to supply 20 Derby BVR missiles and six practice missiles for integration onto the Indian Navy’s Sea Harrier aircraft.
Derby missile variants
Derby’s variants include I-Derby and I-Derby ER (Extended Range). The upgraded I-Derby AAR missile is equipped with a software-defined active radar seeker and was unveiled at the Aero India 2015 exhibition held in Bengaluru, India.
The I-Derby ER advanced active radar missile was unveiled at the Paris Air Show 2015. It features a solid-state active radar seeker and a dual pulse rocket motor, which provides an operational range of up to 100km.
The missile can be launched from Sea Harrier jet fighter, F-16 (Block 52) Fighting Falcon, F-5E Tiger II, and IAI Kfir combat aircraft. It was exhibited during the Seoul International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX) held Seoul, South Korea, in October 2015.
The I-Derby ER has been selected by India to equip the LCA Tejas light combat supersonic fighter.
The Indian Air Force is also considering equipping its Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets with I-Derby ER missiles.
Test-firing from LCA Tejas
The missile was successfully test-fired for the first time from LCA Tejas aircraft in May 2017 as part of integration and demonstration tests. The launch was followed by another test-firing in April 2018 to expand the firing envelope. The successful tests were instrumental in the fighter achieving the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) in February 2019.
Derby air-to-air missile design and features
The Derby BVR missile, featuring lightweight design, is equipped with four main wings and four conventional planar fins in the tail assembly. It is designed to offer increased operational flexibility and multi-shot capability.
The weapon has a length of 362cm, a wing span of 64cm and a diameter of 16cm. It weighs 118kg and is armed with a 23kg warhead. The seeker and guidance system are fitted in the front of the missile, while the rocket motor is placed at the rear.
The missile can operate in lock-on before launch (LOBL) and lock-on after launch (LOAL) modes. In LOAL mode of operation, it receives target information after being deployed from its launch platform, while in LOBL mode, which is enabled in tight dogfights, the seeker is locked onto the target before the missile is launched.
Guidance and warhead
The active radar seeker provides guidance and improved target accuracy at radio frequency (RF). The radar’s look-down / shoot-down capability enables the missile to attack targets below and along the line of the horizon.
Derby’s high-explosive fragmentation (HE-FRAG) warhead defeats non-armoured targets and light material targets.
The weapon features fire-and-forget engagement capability and can be optionally fitted with advanced, programmable electronic counter countermeasures (ECCM) for operation in hostile environments.
Performance of the Derby missile for enemy target launch
Powered by a rocket motor, the Derby missile has a speed of Mach 4 and can hit targets at a range of up to 50km. It can be launched at an enemy target under all weather conditions, both during day and at night.
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