|Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile|
Two ASRAAM (center) on a RAF Typhoon in 2007
|Type||Short-range air-to-air missile|
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|Used by||See Operators|
|Diameter||166 mm (motor diameter)|
|Warhead||10 kg blast/fragmentation|
|laser proximity fuze and impact|
|Engine||dual-burn, high-impulse solid rocket motor|
|300 m – 50 km|
|infrared homing, 128×128 element focal plane array, with lock-on after launch (LOAL) and strapdown inertial guidance|
The Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile, also known by its United States identifier AIM-132, is an imaging infrared homing ("heat seeking") air-to-air missile, produced by MBDA. It is currently in service in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), replacing the AIM-9 Sidewinder. The project started as a British-German collaboration in the 1980s; eventually the Germans left the project due to concerns over the missile’s performance. The British proceeded on their own, and the missile was introduced into RAF service in 1998. The ASRAAM was developed to have longer range and higher speed than the Sidewinder, whilst exceptional 50g manoeuvrability is provided by a sophisticated control system using innovative body lift technology coupled with tail control.
In the 1980s, NATO countries signed a Memorandum of Agreement that the United States would develop a medium-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-7 Sparrow, while Britain and Germany would 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 UK portion of the ASRAAM design was an experimental short-range missile designed by Hawker Siddeley in the 1970s, SRAAM/Taildog. The SRAAM contract was cancelled in 1974, but retained as a technology demonstration program. The German contribution to ASRAAM was a new advanced seeker.
Unlike SRAAM, outright maneuverability was no longer the main concern. The new AIM-120 had a fairly long range and could be expected to be fired against targets around 20 miles away, while SRAAM 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 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 did not use the thrust vectoring system of SRAAM but body lift technology and small fins at the extreme rear of the missile to give directional control and reducing aerodynamic drag.
While ASRAAM was being developed, reunification of Germany gave the German Air Force their first look at the Russian Vympel R-73 missile, known in the west as the AA-11 Archer. This proved to be a far more dangerous short-range attack weapon than had been known previously. It was clearly able to outperform all operational Western short-range IR tracking missiles – 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 German Air Force deciding in 1995 to procure its own new air-to-air missile, the IRIS-T built by Diehl BGT Defence. Due to the numerous developmental delays caused by the UK-German disagreement 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 AIM-9X 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 array imaging 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 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 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 US requirements and the project was dropped from US contention.
UK development and manufacture went ahead and the first ASRAAM was delivered to the RAF in late 1998. It equips the RAF’s Tornado GR4 and Typhoon. It was also used by the RAF's Harrier GR7 force until its retirement.
In February 1998 the British-French Matra British Aerospace consortium won a contract to supply ASRAAM to the Royal Australian Air Force for use on their F/A-18 Hornets following competitive evaluation of the improved ASRAAM, the Rafael Python 4 and the AIM-9X.
In March 2009 the Royal Australian Air Force successfully carried out the first in-service ‘Lock on After Launch’ firing of an ASRAAM at a target located behind the wing-line of the ‘shooter’ aircraft.
The main improvement, which was also made on the latest version of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, is a new focal plane array FPA (128×128 resolution imaging infrared) seeker manufactured by Hughes before they were acquired by Raytheon. This seeker has a long acquisition range, high countermeasures resistance, approximately 100 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 F-35 Lightning II. The ASRAAM has a 6½ inch diameter rocket motor compared with Sidewinder’s (AIM-9M and X) and IRIS-T’s 5 inch motors. This gives the ASRAAM significantly more thrust and therefore increased range (up to 50 km) and speed. The ASRAAM warhead is triggered either by laser proximity fuse or impact. A laser proximity fuse was selected because RF fuses are vulnerable to EW intervention from enemy jammers.
In 1995, Hughes and British Aerospace collaborated on the "P3I ASRAAM", a 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 vectoring to 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 with the rocket motor, fuze and warhead of the AIM-9M. The latter was a US Air Force stipulation to ease the logistics burden and save by reusing as much as possible of the existing AIM-9 Sidewinder, of which 20,000 remained in the US inventory.
Potential future development
At the DSEi conference in September 2007 it was announced the UK MoD was funding a study by MBDA to investigate a replacement for the Rapier and Sea Wolf missiles. The Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM) would share components with ASRAAM.
MBDA has agreed to jointly develop a new generation air-to-air missile with India.
- United Kingdom
- Royal Air Force
- Royal Australian Air Force
- Indian Air Force; on 8 July 2014 India & UK signed a deal to procure 384 ASRAAM from MBDA to replace the ageing Matra Magic R550, to be integrated onto the SEPECAT Jaguar strike aircraft.
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- "RAAF has successfully fired ASRAAM at a target located behind the wing-line of the ‘shooter’ aircraft". Your Industry News. 2009-03-09. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- You tube, Google.
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- "Air Weapons: The Magic Is Gone". Strategy page. 2010-02-18. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
- "India, UK sign deals worth 370 million", Live Mint.
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- ASRAAM, MBDA.