July 14, 2004 (by Eric L. Palmer) - The air-to-air combat ability of the F-16 will be even more dangerous in the very near future. Janes.com has some great reading on the new AIM-120 AMRAAM variants in the works. One the AIM-120C-7 and an even more interesting version to be fielded in a few years: the AIM-120-D.
Quoting the article:
Raytheon is developing a new version of its premier beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile for the US Air Force
and Navy that will deliver greater accuracy, lethality, range and survivability.
Enhancements will include a two-way datalink and GPS
guidance, say air force officials.
The new missile is designated the 'D' variant or 'phase 4' version of the company's AIM-120
Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM
). The AIM-120D is expected to be in operational service by 2008, with initial deliveries in 2007, according to the air force.
Raytheon began work on the D-model with little fanfare in December 2003. The company will still not discuss the new variant publicly but the air force has provided insights.
Lt Col Tim Morris, the air force's AMRAAM phase 4 programme manager at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, says the missile will feature improved guidance via a "tightly coupled" GPS/inertial measurement unit (IMU) that reduces on-aircraft and in-flight alignment errors.
The new datalink will replace the missile's existing receive-only link and enable the missile to report back after launch its status downrange to the launch aircraft, he said. Among the benefits, this will expand the AMRAAM's capacity for 'high-off-boresight' (HOB) engagements, he noted. HOB engagements are where the missile goes after a threat in its launch aircraft's rear hemisphere.
While work on the D-model ensues, the air force and navy await the newest AMRAAM variant: the AIM-120C-7. The missile is undergoing operational testing, with initial deliveries anticipated later this year, said Col Louis Dantzler, deputy director of Eglin's counter-air joint system programme office.
The C-7 features a new guidance section in the missile's front end that gives it an improved ability to detect, track and home in on current and emerging air threats, even when operating in an environment of severe electrical interference, said Col Dantzler.
Raytheon says the redesigned front end also creates about 15.2cm of space for future enhancements.
- The quoted article at janes.com (registration required)