IRIS-T: Germany’s surface to air missile

Germany has announced that it will supply IRIS-T surface to air missiles.

According to an article of Wikipedia, in the 1980s, NATO countries signed a Memorandum of Agreement that the United States would develop a medium-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-7 Sparrow, while Britain and Germany would develop a short-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder. The US design developed as the AIM-120 AMRAAM, while the UK-German design developed as the AIM-132 ASRAAM.

The roots of the ASRAAM dated back to 1968 when development began on the Hawker Siddeley SRAAM (‘Taildog’), but this project ended in 1974 with no production orders. This work was dusted off for the UK/German effort, with the Germans providing a new seeker, and the British providing most of the remaining components. In the intervening time, the need for high manoeuvrability was downgraded in favor of greater range.

As the AIM-120 worked at long ranges well in excess of 20 miles, the very short-range Sidewinders and original Taildog left a wide performance gap that needed to be filled. The original design was re-worked to produce a much less manoeuvrable design, removing the thrust vectoring, and thereby greatly improving speed and range.

After German reunification in 1990, Germany found itself with large stockpiles of the Soviet Vympel R-73 missiles (NATO reporting name: AA-11 Archer) carried by the MiG-29 Fulcrum and concluded that the AA-11’s capabilities had been noticeably underestimated. In particular, it was found to be both far more manoeuvrable, and far more capable in terms of seeker acquisition and tracking than the latest AIM-9 Sidewinder. These conclusions led Germany to question certain aspects of the design of ASRAAM. Of particular concern was the lack of thrust vectoring to aid manoeuvrability in close-in air combat. When these concerns were raised, Germany and Britain could not come to an agreement about the design of ASRAAM, so in 1990 Germany withdrew from the ASRAAM project, while Britain resolved to find another seeker and develop ASRAAM according to the original requirements.

In late 1990, the US partnership expressed similar concerns and embarked on an upgrade to the existing Sidewinder design to provide increased manoeuvrability and IRCCM (infrared counter counter measures) performance, i.e. measures to counter infrared countermeasures (IRCM). This program was designated AIM-9X.

Missile characteristics

In comparison to the AIM-9L 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-9L, 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.

Development partners

In 1995, Germany announced the IRIS-T development program, in collaboration with Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Canada. Canada later dropped out.

Workshare arrangements for IRIS-T development are:

  • Germany 46%
  • Italy 19%
  • Sweden 18%
  • Greece 13%
  • 4% split between Canada and Norway.

In 2003 Spain joined as a partner for procurement.

The German Air Force took first delivery of the missile on 5 December 2005.



The IDAS variant is a navalized version of the missile, is also being developed for the new Type 212 submarine of the German Navy. IDAS is supposed to engage air threats, small or medium surface vessels or near land targets.


Within the MEADS program, the German Air Force plans to integrate a land-launched radar-guided version of the missile, called IRIS-T SL. It has a pointed nose, unlike the normal IRIS-T.[citation needed]

SAM Version

The Swedish Army plans to develop a ground launched version of the IRIS-T to replace the RBS 70 missile system.[2]

The Norwegian Army is currently developing a self-propelled anti-aircraft system, combining IRIS-T missiles fired from existing NASAMS II-launchers mounted on a lengthened M113 chassis. Delivery is set for 2015.[3]

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