- AIM-132 ASRAAM
type=short-range air-to-air missile
engine=solid rocket motor
vehicle_range=300 mndash 18 km
filling=10 kg blast/fragmentation
guidance=Imaging infra-red, 128×128 element focal plane array, with lock-on after launch (LOAL)
detonation=laser proximity and impact
Royal Air Force: Tornado, Harrier, Typhoon
Royal Australian Air Force: F/A-18The AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile is a British infrared homing("heat seeking") air-to-air missile. It is currently in service in the Royal Air Forceand Royal Australian Air Force, replacing the AIM-9 Sidewinderin those services.
In the 1980s,
NATOcountries signed a Memorandum of Agreementthat the United Stateswould develop a medium-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-7 Sparrow, while Britain and Germanywould develop a short-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder. The US design developed as the AIM-120 AMRAAM, while the UK-German design started as the AIM-132 ASRAAM.
The starting point for the ASRAAM design was an experimental short-range missile designed by
Hawker Siddeleyin the 1970s, "Taildog". Studying combat reports from the air war during the Vietnam War, it was clear that a missile with better maneuverability and a wider seeker angle was needed in order to successfully intercept the target in the types of shots the pilots were attempting to make. The initial US response was to train their pilots to only fire missiles under certain conditions, and use their cannon under others.
Taildog attempted to address this problem with a better missile instead, one that would guide properly under all conditions. Taildog was highly maneuverable through the use of
thrust vectoringfor all flight control. The vectoring was accomplished by rotating small vanes into the rocket exhaust from their "hiding" positions behind the rocket body. The aerodynamic surfaces were reduced to vestigial surfaces near the rear, and were unmovable. In 1970 the Ministry of Defence awarded them a development contract under the name "SRAAM-100", which was later changed to SRAAM. The contract was cancelled in 1974, but retained as a technology demonstration program.
The SRAAM work was dusted off as the starting point of the UK portion of the program in the 1980s, while the Germans supplied a new advanced seeker. Unlike SRAAM, however, outright maneuverability was no longer the main concern. The new AIM-120 had a fairly long range and could be expect to be fired against targets around 20 miles away, while Taildog and Sidewinder were much shorter-range weapons with useful ranges of only a few miles. There was a fairly large range gap between the two designs that the UK-German team felt was the most important problem to solve. Although portions of the original SRAAM design were used, the airframe was extensively redesigned to produce a missile with less maneuverability, but greater speed and range, closing the distance gap as well as making it difficult to avoid simply because it was so fast. The new ASRAAM dropped the thrust vectoring system in favor of conventional aerodynamic surfaces, in the form of four small delta-wings at the extreme rear of the missile.
While ASRAAM was being developed, re-unification of Germany gave the
Luftwaffetheir first look at the Russian Vympel R-73missile, known in the west as the AA-11 "Archer". This proved to be far more advanced than either the Sidewinder or the ASRAAM, outperforming them particularly in the ability to guide in high off-axis attacks, but also in terms of field of view, acquisition range, maneuverability, ease of target designation, and target lock-on. Concluding that they needed a missile with better performance than the "Archer", the UK-German partnership broke down in the early 1990s, with the Luftwaffe deciding in 1995 to produce a new, greatly improved air-to-air missile, the IRIS-Tbuilt by Diehl BGT Defence. Due to the numerous developmental delays caused by the UK-German bickering over ASRAAM design with no solution in sight, and in light of threat of "Archer", the US could not wait any longer and began development of their own improved version of the Sidewinder, the in 1990.
With the German exit from the ASRAAM project, the UK sought a new source for the ASRAAM seeker and selected a Hughes
focal plane arrayimaging infrared seeker. Somewhat ironically, Hughes used the same technology in their winning submission for AIM-9X, so the ASRAAM and the AIM-9X both use the same Hughes-developed seeker. Raytheon also proposed a seeker for ASRAAM and submitted an AIM-9X proposal, but was not selected. However, Raytheon ultimately purchased Hughes and is now the producer of seekers for both ASRAAM and AIM-9X.
In January 1995 British Aerospace Dynamics, who had purchased Hawker Siddeley, arranged for financing from the British Government to enter the ASRAAM in the AIM-9X contest. The testing concluded in June 1996, with the result that the ASRAAM did not meet the AIM-9X in terms of off-axis capabilities, and the project was dropped from US contention.
UK manufacture went ahead regardless, and the first ASRAAM was delivered to the RAF in late 1998. It equips the RAF's
Tornado F3and Harrier GR7, and will become the primary short-range weapon for the RAF's Eurofighters. In February 1998 the British-French Matra British Aerospace consortium won a contract to supply the ASRAAM to the Australian Air Forcefor use on their F/A-18 Hornets.
The main improvement, which was also made on the latest version of the
AIM-9 Sidewinder, is a new focal plane arrayFPA (128x128 resolution imaging infrared) seeker developed by Hughes before they were acquired by Raytheon. This seeker has a long acquisition range, high countermeasures resistance, approximately 90 degrees off-boresight lock-on capability, and the possibility to designate specific parts of the targeted aircraft (like cockpit, engines, etc). The ASRAAM also has a LOAL(Lock-On After Launch) ability which is a distinct advantage when the missile is carried in an internal bay such as in the upcoming F-35 Lightning II.
In 1995, Hughes and
British Aerospacecollaborated on the "P3I ASRAAM" version of ASRAAM as a candidate for the AIM-9X program. The P3I would have been very much like the AIM-132, but with the addition of thrust vectoringto provide increased agility and to carry a larger warhead to meet the requirements expressed by the US Navy led AIM-9X program. The ultimate winner was the Hughes submission using the same seeker but utilizing the existing AIM-9M rocket motor, fuze and warhead. The latter was a US Air Force stipulation to ease the logistics burden and save by reutilizing as much of the existing AIM-9 Sidewinder as possible since remaining assets in US inventory numbered well over 20,000.
Potential future development
At the DSEi conference in September 2007 it was announced the UK MoD was funding a study by
MBDAto investigate a replacement for the Rapier and Sea Wolf missiles. The Common Anti-Air Module Missile (CAMM), would share components with ASRAAM. [ [http://www.defense-update.com/events/2007/summary/dsei07_missiles.htm#camm Missiles and Fire Support at DSEi 2007 ] ]
Royal Air Force; AUS: Royal Australian Air Force; IND: Indian Air Force: Plans for upgrading 52 Dassault Mirage 2000aircraft to carry the missile, beginning in 2007"Missile Mirage", " Aviation Week & Space Technology", 1 January 2007.] .
List of missiles
* [http://www.mbda.net/mbda/site/FO/scripts/siteFO_contenu.php?lang=EN&noeu_id=121 MBDA manufacturer ASRAAM page]
* [http://www.raf.mod.uk/equipment/airtoair.html#ASRAAM Royal Air Force ASRAAM]
* [http://www.ausairpower.net/API-ASRAAM-Analysis.html Matra-BAe AIM-132 ASRAAM - The RAAF's New WVR AAM]
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