NEWS: £300m contract for new ASRAAM variant

ASRAAM F-35

MBDA (UK) Ltd has been awarded a £300m contract to develop the next variant of their AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) missile used by RAF Typhoon and Tornado fast-jets as well as arming the F-35B Lightning II when it enters service with the RAF and Royal Navy. As well as improving performance with the replacement of older sub-systems the new variant will make it easier to upgrade the weapon as and when is necessary speeding up the ability to meet new threats.

Defence secretary Michael Fallon emphasized that the eight-year contract will directly sustain around 200 highly skilled technology jobs across MBDA sites in Bristol, Stevenage, Hertfordshire and Lostock, Lancashire with around another 200 supported in wider industry. This was no doubt an effort to appease recent criticism of the Conservative Party’s pre-election pledge to award more defence contracts to UK based companies following the revelation that 40% of the work for the Army’s new Scout IFV will go to American companies.

The ASRAAM replaced the venerable AIM-9L Sidewinder in the RAF as the main close-in dogfight missile entering service in 1998. The missile is capable of being targeted on to an enemy aircraft with a sight mounted on the pilot’s helmet and with its off-boresight performance it means that rather than turning to get on to an enemy plane’s tail all the pilot has to do is look at the target and press FIRE. Guidance is by an infra-red seeker and the missile has a head-on range of nearly 15 miles.

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5 responses to “NEWS: £300m contract for new ASRAAM variant

  1. As brilliant as all these weapons are, visual targeting has its limitations – poor weather / visibility being the obvious one, is it not more practical therefore to develop radar locking missiles that don’t require line of sight? I’m sure these have their place in ‘close combat’ situations but wouldn’t you want to ‘kill’ your enemy before you get that close?

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    • Some valid points and in this day and age I am sure the plan is never to let the enemy get that close. The truly modern “dogfight” is no longer decided by high-G manoeuvres but who can get their off boresight missile launched first. When USAF F-16s tangled with East German MiG-29s right after the end of the Cold War they were horrified to find that the MiGs could knock them out quickly with their R-73s while the F-16s were still trying to get behind them.

      I do believe ASRAAM can be slaved to the radar as well which allows the pilot to acquire the target even if he cant see it through cloud. Interestingly the old Red Top on the Lightning and Sea Vixen had the pilot or observer use the radar to show the IR seeker where to look for the target.

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