Czech Ministry of Defense purchases 48 I-Derby ER air defense missiles from Rafael

On October 27, 2023, the Czech Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that it had signed a contract to purchase 48 I-Derby ER Long Range anti-aircraft missiles from Israeli defense manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. This acquisition marks a significant development for the Czech Army's air defense capabilities, as the missile can serve as both an air-to-air and surface-to-air missile.
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Manufactured by the Israeli company Rafael, the I-Derby ER missile can serve as both an air-to-air and surface-to-air missile (Picture source: Rafael)

This procurement is the result of negotiations that began in December 2022 when the Czech Ministry of Defense initiated discussions about acquiring Israeli-made Rafael Spyder LR air defense missile systems. The Czech Republic had previously signed an agreement with Rafael for the purchase of four batteries of Spyder LR air defense systems. The Czech authorities have planned for a 20-year operational lifespan for the new Rafael Spyder air defense system, aiming to counter a variety of aerial threats, including drones, helicopters, aircraft, and cruise missiles.

With the contract now finalized, the Czech Republic anticipates the arrival of the first Rafael Spyder LR air defense missile system in 2023. The procurement includes four batteries, each consisting of four launcher vehicles, a loader truck system, and a fire control and command vehicle, all mounted on a Czech-made 8x8 Tatra 815-7 truck chassis. This modern air defense system is intended to replace the aging Soviet-made 2K12 Kub, which has been in service with the Czech Army for over four decades.

The I-Derby ER can serve dual roles, functioning both as an air-to-air and surface-to-air missile, and is fully compatible with all platforms within the Derby family, which can be used in the Spyder air defense systems as an interceptor combined with the Python-5 missile, and most common aerial launchers.

The Spyder air defense system is a family of advanced air defense solutions jointly developed by Israeli firms Rafael and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). It features a range of advanced air-to-air missiles, including the Python-5 dual-waveband imaging infra-red missile, the I-Derby active radar beyond visual range missile, and the I-Derby ER long-range missile, which incorporates a two-pulse advanced rocket motor. With the capability to intercept aerial threats within a range spanning 2 to 80 km and altitudes of up to 20 km, the Spyder LR system offers versatility in countering a broad spectrum of airborne threats.

The I-Derby ER, an extended-range version of the Derby missile, is designed to engage aerial targets at distances beyond 100 km, and features a dual-pulse rocket motor that allows for optimized thrust management, enabling the missile to adjust its propulsion to match specific mission requirements and to extend its flight range compared to previous versions.

The missile incorporates advanced algorithms for trajectory optimization based on launch conditions and target behavior, contributing to higher engagement success rates. The I-Derby ER also includes Electronic Counter Countermeasures (ECCM) capabilities designed to counter electronic countermeasures employed by adversaries.

A distinctive feature of the I-Derby ER is its software-controlled radar seeker. This technology allows operators to have full control over operational parameters through software, ensuring that the missile's performance can be rapidly upgraded in response to new threats, including Electronic Warfare tactics and emerging aerial platforms. The software update process is efficient and can be executed during combat operations.

The missile is equipped with two-way communication capabilities based on Rafael's proven Software-Defined Radio (SDR) technology. This enables effective communication between the missile and the launching platform, enhancing situational awareness and operational effectiveness. Additionally, the missile can also integrate with the customer's communication system, providing integration flexibility.

As an air-to-air missile, the I-Derby ER is designed for simplified integration with a range of fighter aircraft, including the F-16, F-15, Sukhoi-30, JAS-39 Gripen, Mirage-2000, LCA-Tejas, M346FA, and F/A-50. It offers a launching range of over 100 km, capabilities for short-, medium-, and long-range engagements, and all-weather operability. The missile supports both lock-before-launch (LOBL) and Lock-on-after-launch (LOAL) operational modes, providing flexibility in targeting and engagement procedures.