On June 30, the U.S. Air Force 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron and 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) conducted the first live fire test of the Raytheon Technologies [RTX] AIM-120D3 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) Form, Fit, Function, Refresh (F3R) from an F-15E Strike Eagle against a Boeing [BA] QF-16 full-scale aerial target, the Air Force 53rd Wing said on July 18.
The squadrons are part of Eglin AFB, Fla.’s 53rd Wing, which conducts operational testing.
“The AMRAAM F3R is a comprehensive hardware system redesign impacting 15 circuit card assemblies replacing early 2000s technology components,” the Air Force 53rd Wing said in a statement. “The core objective of the test was to execute a long-range shot that physically stressed the new missile hardware and verified missile performance capabilities.”
Air Force Maj. Heath Honaker, the director of engineering and advanced programs at the 28th TES, said in the 53rd Wing’s statement that “F3R is critical to enabling high-confidence AIM-120D production from 2022 through the remainder of the missile life-cycle” and that the program “will take advantage of F3R’s inherent hardware performance in the development of future software updates.”
In March last year, the 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron and the 83d Fighter Weapons Squadron at Eglin set an air-to-air missile range record when an F-15C hit a Kratos [KTOS] BQM-167 subscale drone with an AIM-120D, the Air Force said in April 2021 (Defense Daily, Apr. 15, 2021).
Defense analysts estimate that the AIM-120D, the latest version of AMRAAM, has a range of some 100 miles. The initial AIM-120A AMRAAM achieved initial operational capability in 1991.
The Air Force plans to modernize the Eglin-Gulf Test and Training Range to support future long-range weapons testing.
The service is developing the Lockheed Martin [LMT] AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile (JATM).
The Air Force and the Navy are to field JATM on the Lockheed Martin F-22, the Boeing F/A-18E/F, and the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter aircraft.
In 2019, the Air Force said that it was developing JATM to counter the Chinese-made PL-15 air-to-air missile (Defense Daily, June 20, 2019). JATM is to have a longer range than the AIM-120D to deter and win against countries with advanced aerial capabilities, such as China. While the Air Force has divulged little about JATM and has said that its capabilities are classified, defense analysts have said that the missile will likely have a speed of Mach 4 to 5 and a range of 120 to 150 miles.