Pretoria - South Africa and Brazil have agreed in principle to a R300-million project to develop Denel's A-Darter short-range air-to-air missile from a prototype.
"It will be a good team effort by Denel, Brazil, the SA Air Force (SAAF) and the department of defence," Denel chief executive Shaun Liebenberg said on Monday.
"It is not 100 percent signed off yet, but is 80 percent to 90 percent there."
Brazil had placed a formal commitment on the table and would sign it in the next few weeks.
In other contracts, concluded on December 28 and October 23, Brazil is spending US$6,9m on acquiring "aeronautical material" from Armscor, and $300 000 on "services related to the validation of war systems" from Denel.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been visiting South Africa for the Progressive Governance Summit.
The Brazilian daily, O Estado de São Paulo, has reported that the investment in the A-Darter and the purchase of nine secondhand F5 Freedom Fighters from Saudi Arabia, at a further R24m, follow the passing in 2004 of a law authorising the Brazilian Air Force to shoot down aircraft used by drug traffickers.
According to the publication Engineering News, the A-Darter is being developed by Denel Aerospace Services and is not to be confused with another of its products, the R-Darter missile, in service in the SAAF as the V4.
The publication says the investment is by the Brazilian Air Force's department of research and development and that the money is not going directly to Denel but to Armscor, South Africa's agency for defence acquisition, disposal, research and development.
The investment was disclosed in an extract of an "exemption from tendering" notice published on January 27 in Brazil's Official Daily of the Union - the equivalent of South Africa's Government Gazette.
Engineering News said it was not known what Brazilian institutions would be involved, but speculated they would probably include the air force, through its Aerospace Technical Centre, and private Brazilian missile company Mectron, responsible for Brazil's MAA-1 Piranha short-range infrared homing air-to-air missile.
Denel has created a subsidiary, "Denel do Brasil", in Brazil. Its office is in the city of São José dos Campos, which is the centre of Brazil's aerospace industry.
The A-Darter is described as a highly agile fifth-generation short-range air-to-air missile.
It uses a highly sensitive thermal-imaging seeker with a multimode countermeasures suite which, it is claimed, makes it difficult to confuse and distract. Its long-drag wingless airframe allows greater range.
It is also lightweight and can be carried on launch rails developed for the US Sidewinder series of missiles.
The A-Darter can also be launched at targets outside the range of its thermal seeker.
It can be cued to a target by its host aircraft's radar or, if the fighter is observing radar silence, targets may be acquired by the A-Darter's seeker. The seeker has large "look angles", a feature that, coupled with the missile's agility, allows "high off-boresight helmet-designated firing".
Boresight is straight ahead of the fighter, so this feature allows the pilot to look left, right, up or down, fix a target in the sight projected onto the visor of his helmet, lock the missile seeker on to it and fire, even if his fighter is not pointing at the target aircraft. - Sapa