F-16 fired a 5th-gen missile with upgraded circuit guidance cards

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In a landmark achievement for US military aviation, the US Air Force and Raytheon have successfully completed all developmental and operational testing of the AIM-120D-3. This is the latest and most sophisticated variant of the renowned AMRAAM missile [Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile]. 

Photo credit: USAF

The F-16 Fighting Falcon’s final test firing of the AIM-120D-3 signifies a major leap forward in enhancing the air-to-air prowess of US military aircraft. 

Developed under the Form, Fit, Function Refresh program, the AIM-120D-3 has successfully flown its final test flight, proving its readiness for deployment. 

Upgraded circuit cards

During the test firing on the Eglin Test and Training Range, the F-16 Fighting Falcon showcased the missile’s hardware and software capabilities. Notably, the AIM-120D-3 comes with upgraded circuit cards in the guidance section, delivering continuous agile software improvements and effective countermeasures against peer threats. 

Photo credit: YouTube

Paul Ferraro, president of Air Power at Raytheon, hailed the completion of the flight test program as a significant milestone for the AMRAAM project. “The increased AMRAAM production rate is unprecedented in the program’s history,” Ferraro stated. 

Thanks to significantly improved functionality, performance, and producibility, warfighters can rely on having a robust supply of the fifth-generation AMRAAM in their arsenal, according to Ferraro. 

How do circuit cards work?

Circuit cards, also known as printed circuit boards [PCBs], are a crucial component in the guidance section of missiles. These cards are responsible for controlling the missile’s flight path and ensuring it reaches its intended target with precision.

The circuit cards contain electronic components such as resistors, capacitors, and transistors that work together to regulate the missile’s guidance system. The upgraded circuit cards in the 5th-gen missile provide more advanced and efficient control over the missile’s flight path.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The circuit cards work by receiving signals from the missile’s sensors and processing them to determine the missile’s current position and velocity. Based on this information, the circuit cards calculate the necessary adjustments to the missile’s trajectory to ensure it reaches its target.

The upgraded circuit cards in the 5th-gen missile use advanced algorithms and processing power to make more precise calculations and adjustments to the missile’s flight path. This results in a more accurate and effective missile that can hit its target with greater precision.

Strong platform integration

As per GlobalData’s “The Global Missiles & Missile Defense Systems Market 2022-2032” report, Raytheon Technologies is a leading MMDS supplier in North America. The company is projected to secure 24.9% of the MMDS market in North America, translating into an estimated revenue share of $34.7 billion from 2022 to 2032. 

This successful test underscores the value of live-fire testing and strong platform integration in an operationally relevant environment. 

The AIM-120D-3’s capabilities were rigorously evaluated in various air-to-air scenarios throughout the test program. This involved both US Navy and US Air Force fourth and fifth-generation platforms, ensuring the latest AMRAAM variant is ready for modern aerial warfare. 

A way for increased production

Raytheon’s AMRAAM missiles have been purchased by many nations, from Asian countries like Japan and Singapore to Scandinavian nations such as Norway and Sweden. 

The successful final test firing of the AIM-120D-3 paves the way for increased production and deployment of this advanced missile variant. Multi-billion dollar contracts awarded in recent years reflect the US government’s commitment to fortifying its warfighters with superior air-to-air capabilities. 

As the AIM-120D-3 gears up for deployment, the US Air Force and Raytheon are committed to ensuring the fifth generation of AMRAAM is ready to reinforce the nation’s defense, safeguarding the skies and maintaining air dominance.

Several versions

The AIM-120 missile has undergone several versions and modifications since its introduction in 1991. The first version, AIM-120A, had a range of approximately 35 km and used semi-active radar guidance. It was later upgraded to AIM-120B, which had improved guidance and a range of 50 km.

The next version, AIM-120C, introduced an active radar seeker and improved guidance algorithms, increasing the range to over 100 km. AIM-120C also had a reduced smoke motor, making it harder to detect. AIM-120D, the latest version, has further improvements in guidance and range, with a reported range of over 180 km. It also has a two-way data link, allowing for in-flight updates and retargeting.


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