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AIM-95 Agile

The US has been studying the subject of super-agility missiles since the late 1970s. Between 1968 and 1975, the Naval Warfare Center developed and tested the Agile XAIM-95 to replace the AIM-9L. The Agile missile would be an advanced aerial combat missile with new vector thrust technologies (vector thrust control), multi-mode guidance and goal setting.

The AIM-95A Agile was developed by the Naval Weapons Center in China Lake between 1968 and 1975. The AIM-95 Agile started out in 1968 as a project of the Naval Weapons Centre, China Lake to explore new technologies for short range, manouvreable AAMs. It was designed as an advanced short-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder. The US Navy requirement asked for greater agility, shorter minimum range, and greater off-boresight capability. Under the "QuickTurn" program, in 1970 a China Lake test TVC (thrust vectoring control) system demonstrated 55g turns and 118 deg AOA (angle of attack) capability. The USAF AIM-82 project was shelved due to the progress of the Agile program.

Agile featured an infrared seeker with high off-boresight lock-on capability, was powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor, and used thrust vectoring for control. Agile was intended to be used for both Air Force and Navy aircraft.

The US Air Force was developing the AIM-82 missile to equip the F-15 Eagle at the same time. Since both missiles were more or less identical in their role, it was decided to abandon the AIM-82 in favor of the Agile. In 1973 Hughes were given responsibility for guidance, and Thiokol the propulsion system. The principal guidance system was to be IR, but an EO seeker was also tested and an passive radar seeker was planned.

Millions of simulated firings were made, and missiles and seekers were tested, but the program was cancelled in 1975 on cost grounds. The AIM-95A reached the flight test stage, but Agile was cancelled in 1975 as being too expensive. The project was abandoned because of the high costs. The Navy spent $ 74 million on the project (US $ 1972).

A number of other advanced air combat missile evaluation programs were conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s including Thrust (USAF / Secret), Top Hat (USAF / Hughes), Box Office (Loral / Raytheon) and Boa (NWC China Lake). The Navy continued to use the Sidewinder that long-term option would be replaced by AIM-132 European ASRAAM. The characteristics of ASRAAM would be determined by the results of tests called AIMVAL conducted in 1976 and determined that the sensors of the AIM-95 would not bring much advantage over other variants of the AIM-9.

As a short-term replacement, USAF and Navy eventually fielded improved versions of the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Some 60 years after it was first introduced, the AIM-9 looks to be one of those weapons, like the AK-47 and B-52, that are more easily improved than replaced. The British AIM-132 ASRAAM couldnt do it; Americas own AIM-95 Agile couldnt do it either.

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