AIM-120 AMRAAM

The AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM, is a modern beyond visual range air-to-air missile (AAM) capable of all-weather, day and night performance. AMRAAM was developed as the result of an agreement, the Family of Weapons Memorandum of Agreement no longer in effect by 1990, among the United States and several other NATO nations to develop air-to-air missiles and to share production technology. Under this agreement the United States was to develop the next generation medium range missile (AMRAAM). AMRAAM serves as a follow-on to the AIM-7 Sparrow missile series. The new missile is faster, smaller, and lighter, and has improved capabilities against low-altitude targets. It also incorporates a datalink to guide the missile to a point where its active radar turns on and makes terminal intercept of the target. An inertial reference unit and micro-computer system makes the missile less dependent upon the fire-control system of the aircraft.

AIM-120 AMRAAM
Class Missile
Type Air to Air
Manufacturer Hughes Missile Systems Company
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1991
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Australia View
Austria View
Belgium View
Denmark View
Finland View
Germany View
Greece View
Israel View
Italy View
Japan View
Saudi Arabia View
South Korea View
Spain View
Sweden View
Switzerland View
Thailand (Siam) View
Turkey (Ottoman Empire) View
United Arab Emirates View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
United States of America 1991 View
United States of America 1993 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Hughes Missile Systems Company View

AMRAAM was developed as the result of an agreement (the Family of Weapons MOA, no longer in effect by 1990), among the United States and several other NATO nations to develop air-to-air missiles and to share production technology. Under this agreement the U.S. was to develop the next generation medium range missile (AMRAAM) and Europe would develop the next generation short range missile (ASRAAM). Although Europe initially adopted the AMRAAM, an effort to develop the MBDA Meteor, a competitor to AMRAAM, was begun in Great Britain. Eventually the ASRAAM was developed solely by the British, but using another source for its infrared seeker. After protracted development, the deployment of AMRAAM (AIM-120A) began in September 1991 in US Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter squadrons. The US Navy soon followed (in 1993) in its F/A-18 Hornet squadrons.

The eastern counterpart of AMRAAM is the somewhat similar Russian Air Force AA-12 "Adder", sometimes referred to in the West as the "AMRAAMski." Likewise, France began its own air-to-air missile development with the MICA concept that used a common airframe for separate radar-guided and infrared-guided versions.

The AMRAAM was used for the first time on December 27, 1992, when a USAF F-16D shot down an Iraqi MiG-25 that violated the southern no-fly-zone. Interestingly, this missile had been returned from the flight line as defective a day earlier. AMRAAM gained a second victory in January 1993 when an Iraqi MiG-23 was shot down by a USAF F-16C.

The third combat use of the AMRAAM was in 1994, when a Republika Srpska Air Force J-21 Jastreb aircraft was shot down by a USAF F-16C that was patrolling the UN-imposed no-fly zone over Bosnia. In that engagement, at least three other Serbian aircraft were shot down by USAF F-16C fighters using AIM-9 missiles (see Banja Luka incident for more details). At that point, three launches in combat had resulted in three kills, resulting in the AMRAAM's being informally named "slammer" in the second half of the 1990s.

In 1998 and 1999 AMRAAMs were again fired by USAF F-15 fighters at Iraqi aircraft violating the No-Fly-Zone, but this time they failed to hit their targets. During the spring of 1999, AMRAAMs saw their main combat action during Operation Allied Force, the Kosovo bombing campaign. Six Serbian MiG-29 were shot down by NATO (4 USAF F-15C, 1 USAF F-16C, 1 Dutch F-16A MLU), all of them using AIM-120 missiles (the kill by the F-16C may have happened due to friendly fire, from SA-7 MANPAD fired by Serbian infantry).

As of mid 2008, the AIM-120 AMRAAM has shot down nine aircraft (six MiG-29s, one MiG-25, one MiG-23, and one Soko J-21 Jastreb). An AMRAAM was also involved in a friendly-fire incident in 1994 when F-15 fighters patrolling the Northern No-Fly Zone inadvertently shot down a pair of U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters.

Since 2007 Raytheon has continued to slip on AMRAAM deliveries, leading the USAF to withhold $621 million in 2012 on account of 193 missiles not delivered.

On 23 March 2014, a Turkish Air Force F-16 shot down a Syrian Air Force Mig-23 that was violating air space.

General Information
Developed by USA
Deployed by Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UK, UAE, USA
Development Year 1981
Deployment Year 1991(the Air Force), 1993(the Navy)
Platform F-14D, F-15, F-16, F/A-18, F-22, Sea Harrier, Tornado F/3 ADF, F-4
Launcher rail-launcher (LAU-106, LAU-128, LAU-127, LAU-129)
Number manufactured 7,785(through 1998)
Contractor Hughes Missile Systems

Dimensions and Performance
Length 3.65m
Body Diameter 17.8cm
Wing/Fin span 44.7cm
Launch Weight 161.5kg
Range 48km
Speed Mach 4.0

Components
Propulsion solid propellant
Engine Hercules/Aerojet WPU-6/B rocket motor
Warhead 22kg HE hollow charge blast effect
Guidance inertial with command update, active radar

End notes