The 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) partnered with the 83d Fighter Weapons Squadron (FWS) to execute the longest known air-to-air missile shot to date during March 2021.
An F-15C Eagle fired an AIM-120 AMRAAM at a BQM-167 subscale drone, resulting in a “kill” of the aerial target from the furthest distance ever recorded. The test took place out of Tyndall AFB, Fla., in conjunction with Weapons Systems Evaluation Program (WSEP) East.
“This test effort supported requests from the CAF for “long range kill chain” capabilities,” said Maj. Aaron Osborne, 28th TES, said in the article F-15C records longest known missile shot by 1st Lt Savanah Bray, 53rd Wing. “Key partnerships within the 53rd Wing enabled the expansion of capabilities on a currently fielded weapons system, resulting in warfighters gaining enhanced weapons employment envelopes.”
This test also exercised existing long-range weapons testing infrastructure and laid the ground work for modernizing range capabilities in support of future long-range weapons testing on the Eglin-Gulf Test and Training Range.
Noteworthy this test brings to our memory the famous six-on-six missile shot test that took place on Nov. 21, 1973 to prove that that both US Navy F-14 Tomcat and AIM-54 Phoenix long-range missile were ready to enter active service. That time six missiles were fired against six different targets simultaneously.
The targets against which the AIM-54s were launched were three QT-33s (the drone version of the old jet trainer), two aerial target BQM-34As and one BQM-34E. The missiles were in flight together under guidance from the fire control system in the Tomcat and four targets, which were simulating bombers (two QT-33s, one of the BQM-34As and the BQM-34E), were directly hit. The other BQM-34A experienced a failure at the flight control module which led the Phoenix radar to break lock, while the last AIM-54 missed the last QT-33 due to a failure of the Phoenix radar antenna.
The six-on-six missile shot was considered a huge success since the AIM-54 had an impressive range of about 100 miles (160 km), a great improvement over the 15 miles of range possessed by the Sparrow. The Phoenix was the first “fire and forget” missile, meaning that the Tomcat had not to keep its radar locked on the target during the flight of the AIM-54 towards it, a feature possible thanks to the small Phoenix radar, which guided the missile in the final stages of its flight.
The AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) instead is the follow-on to the AIM-7 Sparrow. The missile is faster, smaller and lighter, and has improved capabilities against low-altitude targets. It incorporates active radar with an inertial reference unit and micro-computer system, which makes the missile less dependent upon the fire-control system of the aircraft. Exactly like the AIM-54, once the missile closes on a target, its active radar guides it to intercept. This enables the pilot to aim and fire several missiles simultaneously at multiple targets. The pilot may then perform evasive maneuvers while the missiles guide themselves to their targets.
The AMRAAM improves the aerial combat capabilities of US and allied aircraft to meet current and future threat of enemy air-to-air weapons. AMRAAM is compatible with the Air Force F-15, F-16, F-22, the USAF, US Navy and USMC F-35 and Navy F/A-18 C-F and EA-18G.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy
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