Raytheon Missiles & Defense is upgrading the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) to keep pace with evolving threats.
The $125 million F3R (form, fit, function) refresh entails new software and guidance upgrades to optimize performance, with plans for future design modification to accommodate new parts, processors, more advanced algorithms, and faster calculations.
US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall reacted to the upgrade saying, “To be stronger, we are going to have to change. Our strategic competitors have studied how we fight and they have taken asymmetric steps to exploit our vulnerabilities and to defeat us.”
“We have to respond with a sense of urgency, but we also have to take the time necessary to make smart choices about our future and our investments.”
In collaboration with the US Air force, Raytheon recently test-flew multiple missile-equipped fighters to check the munition’s performance in a “realistic environment.”
The data gathered from the tests will help the developer to fine-tune the weapon’s software. Another round of tests will be conducted this year, followed by live-fire tests in 2022. The variant is expected to enter service in 2023.
Vice president of Air Power at Raytheon Missiles & Defense Paul Ferraro said, “In addition to allowing for continued AMRAAM production, the F3R program with SIP 3F will deliver significantly enhanced capabilities, enabling the missile to address the rapidly evolving threats we are seeing from our adversaries today.”
“These captive carry flights are essential for assessing the software upgrades’ performance while verifying the missile meets all its aircraft communication interface requirements.”
The upgrade comes as Lockheed Martin is developing the next version of the missile, the AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile, with a stated range of 200 km (124 mi). Boeing also displayed a warhead-less Long-Range Air-to-Air Missile concept in September that relies on sheer force of impact.