US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet successfully executes the final shot in the Integrated Test Program of the AIM-120D SIP-3

US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet completes Two Free Flight Test Shots of upgraded AIM-120D-3 AMRAAM

By Dario Leone
May 14 2021
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Combined with software upgrades, AIM-120D-3 AMRAAM will deliver advanced capabilities to improve missile effectiveness against advanced threats for Air Force, Navy, and Allied Partners.

The Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) joint program office completed the second live fire test of the new AIM 120D-3 missile variant, incorporating upgraded hardware into the guidance section on May 12, 2021.

As told by Ross Novack, Program Manager for F3R Program, in the article AMRAAM Completes Two Free Flight Test Shots, the weapon safely launched from an F/A-18F Super Hornet and flew the expected flight path over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range in California. Preliminary analysis provided by the prime contractor, Raytheon Missiles & Defense, indicates all primary and secondary objectives of the shot were met.

“Completing the first two free flight shots of upgraded hardware and software is a significant milestone in the integration and test phase of the new AIM-120D-3 missile,” said Col. Sean Bradley, AMRAAM Senior Materiel Leader at the U.S. Air Force’s Armament Directorate. “These successes are important to the overall execution of the Form, Fit, Function Refresh (F3R) program; a program implemented to address an increasing number of production challenges due to obsolescence of various electronic components within the AIM-120.”

Combined with software upgrades, AIM-120D System Improvement Program (SIP) Tape 3 (AIM-120D-3) 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.

This missile shot from an F/A-18F Super Hornet tested the missile’s safe separation autopilot and free-flight navigation capabilities. Together, with the first shot on Dec. 9, 2020, these shots represent a critical first in a series of developmental flight tests that provides crucial data to assess the missile’s ability to acquire, track and guide to targets.

AMRAAM is the world’s most sophisticated, combat-proven air dominance weapon. With AIM-120D-3 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 U.S., 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.

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Photo credit: U.S. Navy


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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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