AMRAAM in Action
Replacing the AMRAAM?
The AMRAAM is an American-made supersonic air-to-air missile currently used by 37 nations, including the United States. It was designed to replace the aging AIM-7 Sparrow missile in the BVR (Beyond Visual Range) combat role. Crucially it's fire and forget, which means a pilot could fire an AMRAAM at one target and then turn to engage another. In contrast the Sparrow required the launching aircraft to "paint" the target with its own radar until impact. The new missile achieved this by having a small active radar in its nose. Following a long development and testing phase the AMRAAM emerged as a very capable weapon. Achieving IOC (Initial Operating Capability) with the Air Force in September of 1991 and the Navy two years later, it has a total of eleven aerial victories after several conflicts. More than 17,500 missiles have been produced (first by Hughes and since 1997 by Raytheon), comprised of four major variants: the AIM-120A, AIM-120B, AIM-120C and the most advanced, the D model. The AMRAAM is integrated on the following aircraft: the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, F-22, F-35, Typhoon, Gripen, Tornado and Harrier jump jet. The F-22 and F-35 carry their AMRAAMs internally to maintain a low radar crosss section (stealth). The twelve foot long and seven inch diameter missile weighs some 350 pounds and is capable of flying at four times the speed of sound (3,069 mph / 4782 kph). Range varies by type, see details below.
|Type||Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile|
|Cost||?||$1,968,750 2||$3.250,000 3 $1.39 million 4|
|In Service||Sept. 1991/1994||July 2000?||2008||2015|
|Propulsion||Dual thrust solid-fuel rocket motor|
|Guidance||Inertial, Active Radar||GPS-IMU, two-way datalink, Active Radar|
|Warhead||WDU-33/B, 50 lb (22.7 kg) HE Fragmentation||WDU-41/B, 40 lb (18.1 kg) HE Fragmentation|
|Fuzing||RF Proximity, Impact|
|Weight||348 lb (158 kg)||356 lb (161 kg)|
|Length||12 ft (3.66 m)|
|Diameter||7 in (180 mm)|
|Range||30-45 mi (50-70 km)||65 mi (105 km)?||74 mi (120 km)?||100 mi (160 km)|
|Speed||Mach 4 (3,069 mph / 4782 kph)|
|1||Manufactured by Hughes Aircraft till 1997 then by Raytheon to the present|
|2||32 AIM-120C7 at $63 million for Japan. Includes containers and support equipment, etc. press release Defense Security Cooperation Agency|
|3||200 AIM-120D at $650 million for the UK. Includes containers and support equipment, etc. press release Defense Security Cooperation Agency|
|4||USAF acqusition annual report 2017 FY|
Estimates vary by source, especially range.
The WDU (Weapons Detonation Unit) contains the warhead and fuze.
The WDU-33/B consists of a high explosive blast-fragmenting warhead, Mk-44 booster, and a fuzing unit (FZU)-49/B safe and arm fuze (SAF).
Software programmable without hardware changes.
The C variant introduced clipped wing surfaces to allow internal carriage. ECCM re-programmable.
C4/C5 longer motor and shorter control section, with new improved 40 lb (18.1 kg) warhead. Home on jamming radar signals and revert to active radar if necessary.
C6 has an improved fuze.
C7 features greater range with improved homing algorithm.
Originally designated AIM-120C8 the D variant has a 50% increase in range over the C7, a two-way data link, and a GPS-enhanced IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit). It features a HOBS (High-Angle Off-Boresight) capability and an expanded no-escape zone as well. Initial Operating Capability came on January 5, 2015 for the US Navy and July 9, 2015 for the US Air Force. 1
|1||DOD Select Acquisition Report (pdf format)|
|Date||Launch Aircraft||Unit||Pilot||Target Hit||Op / Conflict||Notes|
|December 27||1992||USAF F-16D||33rd FS 1||Lt. Col. Gary North||Iraq AF MIG-25 Foxbat||Op Southern Watch||First USAF kill with F-16|
|January 17||1993||USAF F-16C||23 FS||1st Lt. Craig 'Trigger' Stevenson||Iraq AF MIG-23 Flogger||Op Provide Comfort II|
|February 28||1994||USAF F-16C||526th FS||Capt. Robert G. Wright||Republika Srpska 2 AF J-21 Jastreb 3||Op Deny Flight|
|April 14||1994||USAF F-15C||53 FS||Capt. Eric Wickson||US Army UH-60 Black Hawk||Op Provide Comfort II||Friendly fire incident 4|
|March 24||1999||RNLAF 5 F-16AM 6||322 sqn||Major Peter Tankink||FRYAF 7 MIG-29 Fulcrum||Op Allied Force|
|March 24||1999||USAF F-15C||493rd FS||Capt. Mike Shower||FRYAF 7 MIG-29 Fulcrum||Op Allied Force|
|March 24||1999||USAF F-15C||493rd FS||Lt. Col. Cesar Rodriguez||FRYAF 7 MIG-29 Fulcrum||Op Allied Force|
|March 26||1999||USAF F-15C||493rd FS||Capt. Jeff 'Claw' Hwang||(two) FRYAF 7 MIG-29 Fulcrum||Op Allied Force|
|May 4||1999||USAF F-16CJ||77 FS||Lt. Col. Michael H. Geczy||FRYAF 7 MIG-29 Fulcrum||Op Allied Force|
|June 18||2017||USN F/A-18E||VFA-87 8||Lt. Cmdr. Michael 'Mob' Tremel||SAF 9 Su-22 Fitter||Op Inherent Resolve|
|August 7||2018||SPAF 10 Typhoon||?||?||none||Over Estonia||Accidental Firing|
|February 27||2019||PAF 11 F-16 12||?||?||IAF 13 MIG-21 Bison||India-Pakistan standoff|
|1||The F-16D was part of the 19th FS but on loan to the 33rd FS.|
|2||Republika Srpska is one of two political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.|
|3||J-21 Jastreb is a light attack aircraft built by SOKO (Yugoslavia).|
|4||In the same engagement a second Black Hawk was downed with a AIM-9 Sidewinder by Wickson's wingman.|
|5||RNLAF (Royal Netherlands Air Force)|
|6||F-16AM is a F-16A with the Mid-Life Update (MLU) package.|
|7||FRYAF (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Air Force)|
|8||VFA-87 (Strike Fighter Squadron 87) flying from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77).|
|9||SAF (Syrian Air Force) - also abbreviated as SAAF or SyAAF.|
|10||SPAF (Spanish Air Force)|
|11||PAF (Pakistan Air Force)|
|12||Pakistan denies it was an F-16, they claim they achieved the kill with a JF-17 'Thunder'|
|13||IAF (India Air Force)|
The AMRAAM is beginning to show its age when compared to new or proposed missiles. with China and Russia both working on long range weapons with superior performance. The European Meteor BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile) also outclasses the AMRAAM, even the D model. In the mid-1990's the US looked into a AMRAAM type missile with ramjet propulsion called the FMRAAM (Future Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) for the British. This was canceled when the UK went with the Meteor design. More recently, work began on the JDRADM (Joint Dual Role Air Dominance Missile), later named the Next Generation Missile. Combining the functions and capabilities of the AMRAAM and AGM-88 HARM in a AMRAAM size package, this weapon would give aircraft great flexibility to target SAM threats as well as airborne ones as needed. But, funding was terminated in the 2013 budget plan. In 2017 initial work began on the LREW (Long-Range Engagement Weapon), apparently a two-stage missile - but details are classified.
The latest news, concerns an air-to-air missile given the designation AIM-260 and known as the Joint Advanced Tactical Missile (JATM). Being developed by Lockheed Martin this air dominance missile will replace the AMRAAM and feature significantly greater range. Initially intended for the F-22 and F/A-18 with compatibility for the F-35 coming later.
Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Deagel Guide to Military Equipment and Civil Aviation
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