The U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Raytheon [RTN] together successfully test-fired three AIM-9X Block I Sidewinder missiles from an F-35A at airborne targets for the first time, the company said Wednesday.

Scoring direct hits, the Sidewinder is the first short-range air-to-air missile to be used on the F-35.

The launch of an AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Missile. Photo: Raytheon.
The launch of an AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Missile. Photo: Raytheon.

AIM-9X Sidewinder is a Navy-led joint Navy and Air Force air-to-air missile program. Raytheon has been producing the missile for over 14 years and it entered into operational service in 2002.

The series of guided live fire tests proved various elements of the end-to-end system capability of the AIM-9X used on the F-35, Raytheon said. These elements included loading, in-flight carriage, target acquisition by the aircraft and passing a target cue to the missile on the rail, missile target acquisition and track, launch initiation, safe separation, in-flight guidance, and impact/proximity fuzing at target intercept.

“These tests validated the on-board communications and handoffs between the aircraft and the missile required to prosecute an aerial target. AIM-9X will help ensure our pilots and allies have the most reliable and effective weapons on the F-35,” Mark Justus, AIM-9X program director at Raytheon, said in a statement.

“We look forward to the remaining flight test and integration work, leading to fielding of the AIM-9X on the most advanced fighter aircraft,” Justus added.

The F-35 can carry to two AIM-9Xs on its wings and four AIM-120s internally when configured for an air dominance mission. These new test firings are meant to help advance the integration of the AIM-9X, which is expected to be introduced across the F-35 fleet in 2017.

The next and fourth guided test in the AIM-9X series is expected to occur later in 2016.