An Israeli F-16 has been spotted carrying what appears to be the country’s Stunner surface-to-air missile.
An image emerged on May 30, 2017 on a Hebrew-language forum apparently depicting an Israeli F-16I (848) carrying a Stunner surface-to-air missile.
Israeli F-16D (046) in flight with Stunner missile (second pic for comparison, see missile all the way on right) http://t.co/MZR8IvWE7E pic.twitter.com/qi6wnpo8zv
— Derek Bisaccio (@DerekBisaccio) June 2, 2017
Alert5 reported the image and included another angle of the aircraft and missile on its website.
The images appear to confirm that Israeli firm Rafael has developed an air-launched version of Stunner, which is a surface-to-air missile. Rafael and U.S. firm Raytheon collaborated on the initial development of Stunner, the missile interceptor that equips Israel’s David’s Sling system.
A Rafael brochure on the Stunner missile (in reference to its use as a surface-to-air missile) notes, “Stunner delivers superior kinematics, maneuverability and lethality by combining novel steering control, multi-pulse propulsion and a next-generation seeker into a lightweight airframe.”
“Stunner’s next-generation seeker detects and tracks the most challenging ballistic missile and air defense threats in all weather while maintaining precision hit-to-kill aimpoint selection at the endgame. Its multi-pulse propulsion and agile steering allow for optimal intercept engagements along threat trajectories, enable real-time retargeting in flight, and greatly extend the battlespace of current air and missile defense systems. Stunner’s lethal hit-to-kill effects ensure a wide margin of tactical overmatch against a broad spectrum of current and projected air and missile defense threats.”
Details, such as specifications, of the apparent air-launched version are not available. The surface-to-air missile is designed to intercept missiles at distances between 40 and 300 kilometers.
Rafael officials hinted at using Stunner as an air-to-air missile back in 2009. Lova Drori, Rafael executive vice-president of marketing, said, “In the air the missile is the same.
“The Stunner missile for David’s Sling can be adapted in the future as the next air-to-air missile,” Drori added.
Writing in 2012 about the possibility of Stunner being used in an air-to-air configuration, Hush-Kit, an aviation blog, asserted,
“Never mind the Meteor, the air-to-air missile (AAMs) that will shake up the future will be based on the Israeli-American Rafael/Raytheon Stunner. Presently in development as a surface-to-air missile (SAM), the Stunner (part of the Israeli Sling of David defence system) uses a dual-band optical/radar guidance system. Its dual-band guidance is unusual, as is the fact it is ‘hit-to-kill’, and that it is starting life as a SAM (normally AAMs evolve a SAM variant, not the other way around).”
UPDATE: This post has been updated to correct an initial misidentification of the aircraft. This post initially reported the aircraft was F-16 number 046, which is an F-16D. The inaccurate identification can be seen in the tweet shared above. The correct number is 848, making it an F-16I. A link to an additional image of the aircraft has been included.