Navy Seeks to Boost Missile Range for F-35s

IDGA Editor

The U.S. Navy is looking to increase the range of the Raytheon AIM-9X air/air missile by up to 60 per cent over current Sidewinder variants.

The Navy wants this enhanced capability particularly for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) says.

The new weapon is scheduled to become operational in 2022.

To achieve the extended range, the new AIM-9X Block III will be equipped with a new rocket motor providing increased performance and improved missile power management.

The new weapon will also use an insensitive munitions warhead, which gives better safety on board aircraft carriers.

The new missile will use the current Block II’s guidance unit and electronics.

-including the missile’s AMRAAM-derived datalink.

The F-35 is currently cleared to carry two AIM-9X underwing, along with four AIM-120Ds which are carried internally.

When fielded, the fighters are likely to be carrying Block II missiles internally, which can acquire targets after being launched.

According to NAVAIR, the current Block II AIM-9X already overlaps some of the range capability of the more powerful Raytheon AIM-120D AMRAAM.

This overlap is expected to increase with the future Block III, providing the F-35 pilot the flexibility to employ both radar guided or passive homing missiles in Beyond Visual Range (BVR) engagements, reports.