crew to get the missile safely on
and off the plane.
The AIM-9X will come standard
on the F- 35 Lightning II joint
strike fighter, he noted.
Meanwhile, manufacturer Raytheon Missile Systems is continuing to do its own work on the missile in conjunction with the program office. Steve Anderson,
Raytheon’s business development
manager for the AIM-9X program,
said the company tries to keep in
contact with the program office
almost daily, and has been successful in selling the missile to 11
He said the hardware is virtually
the same for all versions of the AIM-
9X, and the main concern is obsolescence of computers and circuitry.
“We’ve had a lot of people
spending a lot of man-hours on
what is going obsolete and trying
to mitigate that,” Anderson said.
Work on the Block II led to
improvements in the reliability of
the fuse, as well as the incorporation of new data link capabilities.
“The main focus of our follow-
on investigations is to try and
prove the kinematics as much as
we can,” Anderson said. “I think most of our effort
right now is looking at how do we improve max range
and do it with even longer legs?”
After that, the company is seeking a way to drive the
cost back down on the Block II, which ended up more
expensive than the Block I, he said.
The program was able to bring the costs of Block II
missiles down to $468,000 per copy with the most
recent lot. A December Selected Acquisition Report
shows that the Navy was able to buy 3,097 Block I missiles for $911.6 million, or about $300,000 per copy,
although that does not include $561.2 million in
research and development.
Moving forward, the focus remains on improving the
reliability of the data link and the sensitivity of the seeker, Anderson said, a process that is easier with a missile
that is software-based and won’t require major hardware
refreshes to match the current threat. For now, however,
the vast majority of the focus for Raytheon has been on
simply completing the flight tests.
“We’re happy with performance thus far in [opera-tional test],” he said. “It’s looking really good so far.” ■
U.S. NAVY/COURTESY OF LOCKHEED MARTIN
The carrier variant of the F- 35 Lightning II joint strike fighter flies for the first
time with external weapons June 27 over Patuxent River, Md. Navy test pilot
Lt. Christopher Tabert flew CF- 1 with inert AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles on the port and starboard pylons to measure flying qualities and aircraft
vibrations. The AIM-9X will be standard equipment on the F- 35.
and Block II should wrap up operational testing in fall
2013, Martins said.
For Block III, the program wants a missile that can
do everything Block II does, but “even better,” he said,
so it is aiming to improve the computers, make the
missile safer to handle and even extend the range. The
Block III will achieve initial operational capability in
Martins does not envision a new version of the missile anytime soon. The Navy would prefer to simply
upgrade what it has and does not see the need to seek
a radically new missile.
“The missile has a lot of growth potential and a long
life ahead of it, in that it’s very hard to fool and it’s performing very well for us,” he said.
For the most part, the AIM-9X is adaptable to any
strike fighter platform, although there is some integration work left to be done with the Air Force’s F- 22
Raptor, which at the moment can only carry AIM-
9Ms. The program is in the process of writing the software for a missile that must fly internally on a very
fast jet, as well as some hardware changes to allow the