26 Apr 02. A Eurofighter has carried out its first fully guided firing of a Raytheon AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile (AMRAAM) on the 9th April. The firing was undertaken at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Benbecula range off the coast of Scotland at an unmanned Mirach target drone.
The AMRAAM was fired in a nose aspect, lookdown launch geometry. Although configured with a telemetry package rather than a warhead, the missile destroyed the target by scoring a direct hit. (AMRAAM does not normally need to hit its target to destroy it, only pass and detonate within the prescribed kill zone). More detailed weapons system performance data will be available after telemetry data analysis.
This launch is the first in a series of guided tests that will be conducted to fully certify AMRAAM for operational deployment on Eurofighter.
For this particular trial the aircraft, Eurofighter DA4, was flown by BAE Systems test pilot Craig Penrice, who commented: “The radar acquired the target at a very long range and continued to track it all the way through until after the missile actually destroyed the target. It was very exhilarating to be involved in such an large team effort which brought about a significant achievement.”
Raytheon’s AMRAAM was selected by the UK MoD in 2000 to equip the Eurofighter as its primary air defence weapon system when it comes into service in 2004. Four missiles can be accommodated in special recesses under the aircraft’s fuselage and others on pylons under the wing giving Eurofighter formidable firepower.
Whilst the AMRAAM integration on Eurofighter Typhoon continues apace, news of the European Meteor rocket-ramjet air-to-air missile solution chosen to equip the Typhoon fleets of the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, Sweden’s Gripens and France’s Rafales, following a lengthy battle between Raytheon and MBDA, remains cloudy. With little news emanating from MBDA, news from Germany suggests that due to a continuing tight defence budget, the Budestag is reported to be unlikely to approve in German participation ion the Meteor programme before the September 22nd elections, this will delay funding until 2003. The Germans plan to procure 1488 Meteors worth €1.3bn ($1.14bn) by 2012. The German development share is €277m ($243.9m). The A400M problems have not helped the current budget crisis and have reportedly precipitated the Meteor delay. On April 26th German opposition conservatives said that they were considering another legal challenge to Germany’s participation in the Airbus A400M military transport plane project because the terms of the deal were flawed.
The conservatives said they would be seeking legal advice over the weekend
whether Germany’s constitutional court could intervene in the matter and they
would meet next Tuesday to decide whether to file a case.
The Meteor, contract won by MBDA, provided a number of onerous milestones in development terms before the missile is accepted. These were put in place following the huge problems encountered with ASRAAM deployment. Raytheon’s position in the air-to-air missile market was bolstered on April 30th, following a DoD announcement that the company had won a $165m contract to build 387 missiles for the U.S. Navy, Air Force and foreign military customers.
The Defense Department said the contract award included 387 AMRAAM AIM-120 C
missiles, and included integrated test vehicles and AMRAAM equipment pods for the Air Force, miscellaneous hardware for the Navy, as well as spares for foreign military customers.
One point is certain, as we reported some time ago, Raytheon is going to be a beneficiary of more drip feed orders for AMRAAM while he Meteor story unfolds