AMRAAM: Deploying & Developing America’s Medium-Range Air-Air Missile
July 15/19: Qatar Qatar awarded Raytheon two direct commercial sales contracts worth $2.2 billion for additional integrated air and missile defense capability. The awards are part of a larger agreement being pursued by Qatar with the US government. The deals include the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, final certification of the AMRAAM Extended Range missile, and an unspecified number of additional Patriot fire units. The NASAMS is a medium to long-range air defense system that can enhance the air defender’s ability to quickly identify, engage and destroy current and evolving enemy aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicle and emerging cruise missile threats. The AMRAAM Extend Range missile is a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile able to operate in all weather day and night operations. Qatar is the first country to procure AMRAAM-ER. Qatar also becomes the 11th country to procure NASAMS, a medium-range air-defense solution manufactured by Raytheon and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS. NASAMS uses the Raytheon Sentinel radar, and fires multiple interceptors, including AMRAAM-ER.
Raytheon’s AIM-120 Advanced, Medium-Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) has become the world market leader for medium range air-to-air missiles, and is also beginning to make inroads within land-based defense systems. It was designed with the lessons of Vietnam in mind, and of local air combat exercises like ACEVAL and Red Flag. This DID FOCUS article covers successive generations of AMRAAM missiles, international contracts and key events from 2006 onward, and even some of its emerging competitors.
One of the key lessons learned from Vietnam was that a fighter would be likely to encounter multiple enemies, and would need to launch and guide several missiles at once in order to ensure its survival. This had not been possible with the AIM-7 Sparrow, a “semi-active radar homing” missile that required a constant radar lock on one target. To make matters worse, enemy fighters were capable of launching missiles of their own. Pilots who weren’t free to maneuver after launch would often be forced to “break lock,” or be killed – sometimes even by a short-range missile fired during the last phases of their enemy’s approach. Since fighters that could carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 tended to be larger and more expensive, and the Soviets were known to have far more fighters overall, this was not a good trade.
Some MRAAM History, and AMRAAM’s Design Approach
Customers & Performance
AMRAAM: Upgrades & Derivatives
Other AMRAAM-Related Systems
AMRAAM’s International Competitors
AMRAAM Program: Technical Challenges
AMRAAM: Contracts & Key Events
FY 2015 – 2019
FY 2005 and Earlier (Partial)
Additional Readings & Sources: Current Missiles
Additional Readings & Sources
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