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AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile (JATM)
LREW (long-range engagement weapon)

The existence of the beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) AIM-260, or the [very poorly attested] Joint Advanced Tactical Missile [not to be confused with the surface-to-surface Advanced Tactical Missile System (ATACMS)], was revealed in June 2019, with the expectation for the missile to enter service in 2022. Air Force Weapons Program Executive Officer Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo told reporters in a 20 June 2019 interview "It is meant to be the next air-to-air air dominance weapon for our air-to-air fighters... It has a range greater than AMRAAM, different capabilities onboard to go after that specific [next generation air-dominance] threat set, but certainly longer legs... As I bring up JATM production, AMRAAM production is kind of going to start tailing off."

The Air Force and Navy are developing and producing the Joint Advanced Tactical Missile, an air superiority missile capable of defeating current and projected enemy air threats. Due to the increased range over currently fielded weapons, the missile will be primarily tested over the Gulf of Mexico (GOMEX). Without sufficient surface limiting stipulations and/or oil and gas activity restrictions mutually agreed by the DoD and DoI, DoD will not be able to conduct operations in any area where oil and gas activity precludes the ability to establish the required safety footprints.

To compensate for the reduced propellant, Lockheed added the a divert and attitude control system (DACS) from the ground-based PAC-3 missile. The DACS provides multiple small rocket thrusters in the nose of the missile. Combined with aft-mounted control fins, these thrusters could render the Cuda more effective than the AIM-120 during the terminal-phase of a long-range intercept. In addition to the F-22 and F-35, Lockheed also views Cuda as playing a potential role in the Air Force’s Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.

The US military is responding to the Chinese PL-15 with a very long range misswile with active radar. The range is about 200 kilometers. China's military also plans another PL-21 rocket that exceeds 300 kilometers. The PL-15 rocket, which is larger than the AIM-120D rocket, was used in weapons in 2016. And at the 2018 Zhuhai Air Show, an incredible J-20 aircraft flight performed a demonstration and showed its boxes with rocket weapons, similar to the PL-15.

The Air Force started the JATM design because of the PL-15 rocket. The AIM-260, built by the US Air Force in partnership with the Army, Marine Corps and Lockheed Martin Corporation, will first be moved to F-22s (Raptor) and F/A-18, and later on, the F-35 will be fitted with it. Flight tests will begin in 2021, and in 2022 the missile will be used for weaponry. The US military would cease production of the AIM-120 in 2026, and will eventually remove the rocket from weapons.

In the fall of 2017, it became known that the new defense budget envisaged the development of a long-range air-to-air missile called the Long-Range Engagement Weapon. At that time, it was reported that research and development work would be carried out over the next two years. No technical details were available. It was mentioned that the rocket was being developed as a response to foreign weapons, such as Russian R-77 or R-33 products.

The Pentagon is implementing a two-year program to develop a new air-to-air missile that is capable of intercepting targets at long ranges, reports FlightGlobal. The weapon will become an analog of the "absolute killer" - the Russian K-77M missile, designed to equip the fifth generation of Su-57 fighters. The purpose of creating the LREW (long-range engagement weapon) is stated to be "maintaining air supremacy". The weapons should replace the all-weather guided air-to-air missile of the medium-range AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) adopted in the 1980s.

The latest version of the AIM-120 AMRAAM has a range of 160 kilometers and is equipped with GPS navigation, but inferior to the "absolute killer" and Chinese counterparts (PL-12D and PL-21 missiles). The project analysis and engineering rationale for LREW were completed in 2016, now the Pentagon is determined with the final design of the new missile, reported Popular Mechanics. It is assumed that a radar with an active phased array will be installed in the nose of the LREW, and the range of the rocket will also be increased.

The Emerging Capabilities Technology Development (ECTD) Program Element (PE) produces risk-reducing, conceptual and operational prototypes and conducts demonstrations of emerging technologies to support the priorities of the new Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E)). ECTD supports the USD(R&E) with experimentation and longer-term, mission-focused capability development that crosses functional domains and enhances warfighter technical superiority, adaptability, and resilience. The ECTD funding supports projects that reduce technology risk of emerging capabilities by advancing conceptual and operational prototypes in support of near- and mid-term operational engagements and stability operations. With an emphasis on interagency and joint partnerships, ECTD matures capability options to anticipate and inform formal joint and interagency requirements and acquisition processes. Individual projects generally span one to three years through efforts that emphasize affordability, typically at a cost of less than $6 million.

Long Range Engagement Weapon (LREW), with funding of $7.686 million in Fy2017, completed the engineering and design work required to rigorously demonstrate the feasibility of a multi-role, long-range interceptor missile for maintaining air dominance. The LREW concept combined proven components from existing missile systems with new, innovative technologies to provide a leap-ahead increase in overall performance. Efforts included analysis validating systems design, wind tunnel testing, engineering assessments, and kill chain investigations to inform potential future programs for the Navy and Air Force. LREW products transitioned to the Air Force for further development. Details of this project are classified.

Press reports repeatedly mention Army participation in this program. The Army is not a big consumer of long range air-to-air missiles, but they are a big consumer of surface to air missiles, and there has been a tendency in recent years to unify AAM and SAM programs. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control on 14 November 2018 conducted a successful initial ballistic flight test of its new M-SHORAD Future Interceptor from a Stryker Maneuver SHORAD Launcher (MSL) at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The M-SHORAD Future Interceptor leverages Lockheed Martin and government technology investment in a 6 ft-class hit-to-kill interceptor designed to defeat unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, and cruise missiles. The features of the appearance of the future AIM-260 rocket, as well as the tactical and technical characteristics, have not yet been announced. Nevertheless, the individual statements of General Jenatempo make it possible to roughly imagine what the “Unified Missile” can be and how it can be used to change the combat capabilities of the US Air Force and Navy fighters.

First of all, the missile is constrained by data on the future use of JATM on the F-22 and F-35 fighters. These aircraft are designed to reduce visibility and have internal cargo compartments for weapons. The standard AIM-120 rocket has the maximum possible length allowing its transportation in such a compartment. It can be assumed that the perspective AIM-260 will not be significantly different in size from the existing AMRAAM. At the same time, the need to increase flight performance can lead to an increase in the diameter and a certain increase in mass.

As a pretext for the development of JATM called the emergence of the PRC new missile PL-15. According to known data, this product is able to reach speeds of up to M = 5 and fly over a distance of more than 200 km. AIM-260 must show performance at a minimum not lower than that of PL-15. In this regard, the development of a new propulsion system with the corresponding characteristics and permissible dimensions is required. According to some foreign publications, this is a new solid-fuel engine. A ramjet engine is excluded.

The use of a solid fuel engine allows keeping the overall architecture like the AIM-120 rocket. The latter is a single-stage solid-fuel rocket of a normal aerodynamic configuration with combined control systems. The body of the product is divided into three compartments - by function.

In recent years, the possibility of introducing radar homing heads based on an active phased antenna array has been discussed. It is believed that the Chinese rocket PL-15 has just such a GOS, providing an increase in the detection range and reliable target tracking. It is quite possible that the American AIM-260 will also receive a GOS on the basis of AFAR, and this will give it serious advantages over the current armament.

At the same time, it is obvious that launching at a greater range will require equipping the rocket with an autopilot with inertial and satellite navigation. With their help, the product will have to reach the line of detection of the GOS target. Onboard electronics must be fully compatible with modern Air Force and Navy fighter jets. It is obvious that all these devices will be developed anew. The use of finished components borrowed from AIM-120, simply does not make sense.

All modern American air-to-air missiles are equipped with high-explosive fragmentation warheads. It is unlikely that the terms of reference for AIM-260 provides for the use of another system.

The flight range of a new American missile must exceed 200 km. Target height - from 0 to 25-27 km It is necessary to ensure the flight speed at the level of M = 4 ... 5. The missile must intercept any aerodynamic targets capable of appearing in the protected airspace - from airplanes and helicopters to cruise missiles and other means of destruction. With all this, the product should be placed in the internal cargo compartment of the American fighter of the fifth generation.

A rocket with such characteristics will give tactical aircraft obvious advantages. Fighters will be able to attack the enemy at a greater range, reducing the likelihood of retaliatory shelling. A “fire-and-forget” missile allows immediately starting evading a possible counter-attack. The radar GPS with AFAR in theory should show high characteristics of detection and tracking, as well as cope with the search for stealth targets.

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Page last modified: 29-06-2019 13:59:37 ZULU