The Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) is a state of the art, highly manoeuvrable and combat effective weapon. Many combat aircraft are currently equipped with radar-guided AIM-120 AMRAAM for long range engagements and the AIM-9 Sidewinder for close combat. The two missiles are an ill-matched pair, since nearly four decades separates their origins. construction. While AMRAAM is highly effective at ranges between 5-50 kilometers, its usefulness diminishes rapidly at a shorter ranges.
A rival to the American-built AIM-9X Sidewinder, ASRAAM is equipped with a Raytheon-Hughes infrared seeker which is the baseline for the company's AIM-9X seeker. The company developed an infrared seeker featuring a unique sapphire dome as part of an engineering-manufacturing-development and production effort valued at $215 million. This ASRAAM seeker played a part the company's competitive win of the AIM-9X missile contract that could lead to some $5 billion in business over the next 20 years.
ASRAAM was initiated in the 1980's by Germany and the United Kingdom, but the two countries were unable to agree on the details of the joint-venture. Germany left the ASRAAM project in the early 1990s, and in the spring of 1995 initiated an improved version of the Sidewinder, the IRIS-T (Infra Red Imagery Sidewinder-Tail controlled) built by Bodensee Geraetetechnik GmBH (BGT). This decision was largely motivated by new insights into the performance of the Russian AA- 11 Archer missile carried by the MiG-29s which Germany inherited during reunification. The Luftwaffe concluded that the AA-11's performance had been seriously underestimated -- the AA-11 turned out to be superior to the Sidewinder AIM-9L in all respects: homing head field of view, acquisition range, maneuverability, ease of designation, and target lock-on. The Germans concluded that the ASRAAM demonstrated a serious lack of agility compared to the Russian Archer.
The British Government has spent 636 million pounds (about one billion dollars) since 1992 developing and industrializing ASRAAM. The first ASRAAM was delivered to the RAF [Royal Air Force] in late 1998. It will be used to equip the RAF's Tornado F3 and Harrier GR-7 before the missile becomes the British Eurofighter standard short-range weapon.
In January 1995 British Aerospace Dynamics, Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England, was awarded a letter contract with a ceiling amount of $10,933,154 for foreign comparative testing [FCT] of the ASRAAM Missile. The purpose of the testing is to gather data to determine if the missile meets AIM-9X operational requirements. Work was performed in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England (50%), Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (25%), and China Lake, California (25%), and was completed by June 1996. The tests focused on the risk areas of the ASRAAM: focal plane array effectiveness, seeker signal processing, warhead effectiveness, rocket motor testing, and kinematic/guidance ability to support the lethality requirements of the AIM-9X. After several modifications to the scope of the FCT, the program assessed four ground-to-air sorties, 19 air-to-air captive carry sorties, four programmed missile launches, eight static warhead tests, and four rocket motor case tests. The resulting assessment was that the ASRAAM (as is) could not meet the AIM-9X operational requirements in high off-boresight angle performance, infrared counter-countermeasures robustness, lethality, and interoperability. Subsequently, Hughes and BAe proposed an improved "P3I ASRAAM" using thrust-vectoring to provide increased agility and to carry a heavier warhead.
In February 1998 the British-French Matra British Aerospace consortium [formed in 1996] won a multi-million dollar contract to supply the ASRAAM missile to the Australian Air Force to be used on the F/A-18 Hornet. marking the first export sale. The first missiles should be delivered between 1999 and the year 2000.
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