AIM-120 AMRAAM

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Used by all the U.S. military services and a number of allied countries, the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile is, as opposed to its predecessor, the AIM-7 Sparrow, a "fire-and-forget" air-to-air missile (AAM) using its own on-board radar for terminal guidance, although the midcourse inertial guidance system gets general target information from the launching aircraft. It is unofficially called the "Slammer" The launching aircraft may be no more than the physical connection to the missile, with the general targeting information coming from another radar, such as that on the E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control aircraft, a ground radar, or another fighter, as long as they can share information through the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS Link 16).

In air combat, while beyond visual range capability requires radar gudance, active radar homing on the missile has advantages over semi-active radar homing (SARH) when the radar transmitter is on the launching aircraft, which was the case with Sparrow. If SARH illumination from another aircraft, such as a E-3 Sentry, can illuminate the target, then the launching aircraft is not constrained to continue flying at the targe.

Since the launching aircraft does not need to hold its own radar beam on the target, which was the case with the Sparrow, the AMRAAM-carrier can make radical maneuvers immediately after launching one or more missiles. By keeping its own radar turned off, or in a low-probability-of-intercept mode, the target is not alerted by a nearby fighter aircraft.

It is carried by the U.S. F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-18 Hornet, F-18 Super Hornet, EF-18 Growler, F-22 Raptor, and is scheduled for all versions of the Joint Strike Fighter. It is also used by the German F-4 Phantom II, British Tornado and Sea Harrier.

Variants

While there have been the usual incremental improvements, improving range as well as improving its resistance to electronic countermeasures, qualitative variants include surface-to-air missile (SAM) derivatives, and longer-range versions of the AAM.

Long range variants

There are two basic upgrade approaches to increase the range of the AMRAAM, of especial concern since the AIM-54 Phoenix. Actually, both can be implemented as incremental upgrades. Future medium range air-to-air missile (FMRAAM) is the high end, which replaces the existing engine with a ramjet using a high-energy rocket fuel. ERAAM would upgrade to a dual pulse rocket motor, and is estimated to give 80% of the capability of FMRAAM for 50% of the cost. [1]

SAM versions

SLAMRAAM is a Norwegian-developed SAM variant that fires AIM-120 missiles from a modified HAWK launcher. A battery of these missiles are deployed in the Washington, D.C. area as well as Avenger vehicles carrying the shorter-ranged FIM-92 Stinger.

Raytheon and Norwegian Kongsberg have developed a next generation, called NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced SAM System). This uses the AN/TPQ-36A radar. NASAMS is also JTIDS Link 16 enabled.

A U.S. team led by Raytheon is developing a system called SL-ARAAM by the U.S. Army and Complementary Low Altitude Weapons System (CLAWS) by the U.S. Marine Corps[2] as an incremental replacement for existing Stinger-based systems. with six missiles mounted on a HMMWV vehicle, from which missiles can be fired up to 70° off the direction to the target without loss of accuracy. In addition, this system will add the SL-AMRAAM ER missile, with a 40 km announced range, and the existing AIM-9 Sidewinder with a range of about 10 km. Ground-launched versions of AAMs always have less range than their air-launched counterpart, since the aircraft adds its own speed and altitude to the missile. [3]

For the present, SL-AMRAAM will cue the missiles using the AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel radar operated by U.S. Army The SLAMRAAM, which has not received a formal U.S. designation, will interface with the Forward Area Air Defense (FAAD) system..

Competitive missiles

  • Russian R-77(NATO reporting name: AA-12 ADDER) has a comparable role and performance.
  • European (multiple manufacturer) MBDA is intended for the Eurofighter Typhoons of the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF), the F-35C of the British Royal Navy, Germany's Luftwaffe, Spain's Ejér

General information

  • Primary Function: Air-to-air tactical missile
  • Contractor: Hughes Aircraft Co. and Raytheon Co.
  • Power Plant: High performance
  • Length: 143.9 inches (366 centimeters)
  • Launch Weight: 335 pounds (150.75 kilograms)
  • Diameter: 7 inches (17.78 centimeters)
  • Wingspan: 20.7 inches (52.58 centimeters)
  • Range: 20+ miles (17.38+ nautical miles)
  • Speed: Supersonic
  • Guidance System: Active radar terminal/inertial midcourse
  • Warhead: Blast fragmentation
  • Unit Cost: $386,000
  • Date Deployed: September 1991

Competitors

Missiles comparable to the AMRAAM include the Russian Vympel R-77/NATO: AA-12 Adder. Competing against EMRAAM/FMRAAM would be the European Matra-Bae Meteor, which combines a ramject with the radar from the Matra-Bae MICA AAM, or a ramjet derivative of the R-77.

General characteristics

  • Primary Function: Air-to-air tactical missile[4]
  • Contractor: Hughes Aircraft Co. and Raytheon Co.
  • Power Plant: High performance
  • Length: 143.9 inches (366 centimeters)
  • Launch Weight: 335 pounds (150.75 kilograms)
  • Diameter: 7 inches (17.78 centimeters)
  • Wingspan: 20.7 inches (52.58 centimeters)
  • Range: 20+ miles (17.38+ nautical miles)
  • Speed: Supersonic
  • Guidance System: Active radar terminal/inertial midcourse
  • Warhead: Blast fragmentation
  • Unit Cost: $386,000
  • Date Deployed: September 1991

References