January 5, 1998 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A European Participating Air Force F-16 made history with the successful launch of an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) at Eglin AFB, FL, on December 12. The aircraft was a Danish F-16B assigned to the F-16 Combined Test Force, Edwards AFB, CA, that is one of the test platforms in the F-16A/B Mid-Life Update (MLU) program.
The launch was the first F-16 AMRAAM
firing conducted by an international customer.
For the test, two unmanned targets were separated 3 nautical miles horizontally and 4, 000 feet vertically at medium altitude and on a reciprocal course to the F-16 shooter at 9, 000 feet altitude. One live missile was fired and a captive carry missile was used to simulate the launch of a second missile.
The missiles were launched near maximum range, and, at a specified distance, both targets executed 4g "F-pole" evasive maneuvers turning 40 degrees away and changing altitudes. One of the drones climbed to 14, 000 feet and the other descended to 1, 200 feet. Throughout the engagement the aircraft's fire control system continued to track both targets and send updates to the live and simulated missiles. The result was the live missile successfully destroyed its assigned target (the low drone), and the simulated missile launch was judged a success based on in-flight data.
This test confirmed the new multi-target intercept capability of the MLU
configured F-16A/B weapon system, which is comparable to the latest production Block 50/52 F-16C/D. The AMRAAM launch was a dramatic conclusion to a very successful development test and evaluation (DT&E) and operational test and evaluation(OT&E) MLU flight test efforts totaling over 900 sorties and 1, 300 flighthours using nine aircraft from the five participating NATO
countries (USA, Belgium
). This trans-Atlantic cooperative effort has transitioned into the production and operational phase, and the first aircraft has been modified in European depots.