The AIM-9X is the USA’s newest short-range air-to-air missile, using an advanced array seeker that widens the missile’s “boresight” cone, and allows a TV-like “imaging infrared” picture that’s much harder to fool with decoys. The missile’s maneuvering fins are smaller than previous Sidewinders, lowering aerodynamic drag in flight, but the missile compensates with thrust vectoring in the tail for added maneuverability. The final piece of the puzzle is lock-on after launch capability (the key Block II improvement), which takes full advantage of the improved sighting cone, maneuverability, and low drag. By telling the missile to fly to a designated location and look for a target, kills have even been scored behind the firing aircraft.
That keeps up with modern 5th generation air-air missiles. What steps beyond, is the adaptations to give Sidewinders ground attack capabilities. Successful tests offer high-flying UAVs a dual threat that can protect them from aerial aggression, while offering a precision ranged ground attack weapon that can stand up to the bitter cold and conditions found at high altitudes.
In late June 2010, Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ received over $120 million in orders for Lot 10 (FY 2010) production of its AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile, and associated components. The AIM-9X has been bought by a number of countries around the world, but this order included only the US military and South Korea, plus minor orders for Australia and Singapore…
Burma’s air force relies heavily on Chinese weapons. A handful of Russian MiG-29s will grow to 30 in the wake of a 2009 order, but the rest of its fighter fleet is made up of Chinese MiG-21 (60 J-7s) and MiG-19 (12 J-6 and 36 Q-5) variants. Reports indicate that they are supported by about 6 Serbian Super Galeb trainer/ light attack jets, and 17 Swiss Pilatus PC-6/7/9 turboprop trainers that have been armed for counterinsurgency.
Recent reports indicate that some standardization may be on the way. In 1998, the Burmese air force bought K-8 Karakorum (export version of China’s JL-8) jet trainers and light attack aircraft, which are a cooperative venture between China and Pakistan. They are now stationed at Taungoo Air Base north of Yangon, and sources vary between 4-12 aircraft. In the wake of a November 2009 visit to China, Burma’s SLORC regime will be adding another 50 K-8s. As one might expect, this deal has a strong Chinese resource angle…
Kirkland AFB, NM recently entered into a cooperative effort with the University of Hawaii of Honolulu, Hawaii under the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (PanSTARRS) multi-year program.
PanSTARRS will address numerous science applications ranging from the structure of the Solar System to the properties of the Universe of the largest scales. It will also be able to detect and catalog large numbers of earth-orbit crossing asteroids, or near earth objects (NEO) that present a potential threat to mankind. That last component to the mission is especially intriguing, as there is a long history of partial efforts in this direction within the US and elsewhere. So, where does this award fit in?