Published December 20, 2005
The AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) is a new generation air-to-air missile. It has an all-weather, beyond-visual-range capability and is scheduled to be operational beyond 2000. The AMRAAM is being procured for the Air Force, U.S. Navy and America's allies.
The AMRAAM program improves the aerial combat capabilities of U.S. and allied aircraft to meet current and future threat of enemy air-to-air weapons. AMRAAM is compatible with the Air Force F-15, F-16 and developmental F-22; Navy F-14 D/D (R) and F/A-18 C/D; German F-4 and the British Sea Harrier aircraft.
AMRAAM is a follow-on to the AIM-7 Sparrow missile series. The missile is faster, smaller and lighter, and has improved capabilities against low-altitude targets. It incorporates active radar with an inertial reference unit and micro-computer system, which makes the missile less dependent upon the fire-control system of the aircraft. Once the missile closes on a target, its active radar guides it to intercept. This enables the pilot to aim and fire several missiles simultaneously at multiple targets. The pilot may then perform evasive maneuvers while the missiles guide themselves to their targets.
The AMRAAM program completed its conceptual phase in February 1979 when the U.S. Air Force selected two of five competing contractors, Hughes Aircraft Co. and Raytheon Co., to continue into the validation phase.
During the 33-month validation phase the contractors continued missile development by building actual hardware to demonstrate their technological concepts. The program phase concluded in December 1981 after both contractors demonstrated that their flight-test missiles could satisfy Air Force and Navy requirements. The Air Force competitively selected Hughes Aircraft Co.'s Missile System Group, Canoga Park, Calif., as the full-scale developer.
During the full-scale development phase, Hughes Aircraft Co. completed missile development and Raytheon was selected as a follower producer. A production contract to both vendors was awarded in 1987. More than 200 of the test missiles were launched during flight tests at Eglin AFB, Fla.; White Sands Missile Range, N.M.; and Point Mugu, Calif. AMRAAM is combat tested, scoring two kills during Operation Southern Watch, and one kill in Bosnia.
AMRAAM has three variants - AIM-120A/B/C -- operational on U.S. Air Force F-15 and F-16 aircraft.
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)
Guidance System: Active radar terminal/inertial midcourse
Warhead: Blast fragmentation
Unit Cost: $386,000
Date Deployed: September 1991