F-15E Strike Eagle completes first-ever guided launch of AIM-120D3

F-15E Strike Eagle completes first-ever guided launch of AIM-120D3

By Dario Leone
Jul 19 2022
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A 53rd Wing F-15E Strike Eagle executed the first-ever guided launch of the AIM-120D3 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile.

A 53rd Wing F-15E Strike Eagle executed the first-ever guided launch of the AIM-120D3 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) on Jun. 30, 2022 successfully engaging a QF-16 full-scale aerial target.

As explained by 1st Lt Lindsey Heflin, 53rd Wing, in the article 53rd Wing completes first-ever guided launch of AIM-120D3, the 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron and 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron’s test effort was to execute a long-range shot that physically stressed the new missile hardware and verified missile performance capabilities.

The AMRAAM F3R is a comprehensive hardware system redesign impacting 15 Circuit Card Assemblies replacing early 2000s technology components.

F-15E Strike Eagle completes first-ever guided launch of AIM-120D3
An F-15E Strike Eagle taxis in preparation for a live-fire mission where the crew will launch an AIM-120D3 using production missile hardware developed under the AMRAAM Form, Fit, Function Refresh program. Executed by the 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron and 85th TES, the core objective of the test was to execute a long-range shot that physically stressed the new missile hardware and verified no changes to the missile kinematic or target intercept capabilities.

Combined with software upgrades, AIM-120D System Improvement Program (SIP) Tape 3 (AIM-120D3) will deliver advanced capabilities to improve missile effectiveness against advanced threats for Air Force, Navy, and Allied Partners. SIP-3 primarily incorporates Advanced Electronic Protection Improvement Program (AEPIP) capabilities in the AIM-120D.

“Successful execution proves the redesigned hardware and software are progressing as expected and puts us one step closer to fielding a reliable, sustainable air-to-air capability to the warfighter,” said Maj. Heath Honaker, 28th TES director of engineering and advanced programs.

In the months preceding the launch, the test team conducted several captive-carry test missions with AIM-120D3 instrumented test vehicles to collect data and ensure the new missile hardware and software functioned correctly.

F-15E Strike Eagle completes first-ever guided launch of AIM-120D3
A maintenance support contractor checks the AIM-120D3 attached to an F-15E Strike Eagle as it prepares for a live-fire mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., June 30, 2022. In the months preceding the live-fire execution, the Integrated Test team conducted several captive carry test missions with AIM-120D Instrumented Test Vehicles to collect data and ensure the new missile hardware and software would function correctly on the day of the live-fire.

“F3R is critical to enabling high-confidence AIM-120D production from 2022 through the remainder of the missile life-cycle,” said Honaker.

Completion of the live-fire event required close coordination between Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Air Dominance Division, 96th Test Wing, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, Boeing and Raytheon Missiles & Defense personnel to ensure the aircraft, missile, airborne targets, and Eglin range safety and data collection systems were ready. The result was an effective live-fire test that met all objectives.

This launch is the first of five combined Air Force and Navy live-fires scheduled for the AMRAAM F3R program.

F-15E SJ
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AMRAAM is the world’s most sophisticated, combat-proven air dominance weapon. With AIM-120D3 production deliveries beginning in 2023, the AIM-120 missile will continue to meet warfighter requirements in all weather and beyond visual range engagements. Its capabilities have been fully demonstrated in over 4,900 test shots and more than 13 air-to-air combat victories.

Procured by 40 countries and the US, the AMRAAM missile has been integrated onto the F-15A/B/C/D/E Eagle/Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-22 Raptor, Eurofighter Typhoon, JAS-39 Gripen, F-35 Lightning II and Harrier. It is also the baseline weapon on the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, also known as NASAMS.

Photo credit: 1st Lindsey Heflin / U.S. Air Force

F-15 model
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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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