AIM-132 ASRAAM: Wikis


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AIM-132 ASRAAM.jpg
Type Short-range air-to-air missile
Place of origin  United Kingdom
Service history
In service 2002
Used by See Operators
Production history
Manufacturer MBDA
Unit cost > £200,000
Weight 88 kg
Length 2.90 m
Diameter 166 mm

Warhead 10 kg blast/fragmentation
laser proximity and impact

Engine solid rocket motor
Wingspan 450 mm
300 m – 18 km
Flight altitude N/A
Speed Mach 3+[1]
Imaging infra-red, 128×128 element focal plane array, with lock-on after launch (LOAL) and strapdown inertial[2]

The AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile is a British infrared homing ("heat seeking") air-to-air missile. It is currently in service in the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force, replacing the AIM-9 Sidewinder in those services.



In the 1980s, NATO countries signed a Memorandum of Agreement that the United States would develop a medium-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-7 Sparrow, while Britain and Germany would develop a short-range air-to-air missile to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder. The US design developed as the AIM-120 AMRAAM, while the UK-German design started as the AIM-132 ASRAAM.

The starting point for the ASRAAM design was an experimental short-range missile designed by Hawker Siddeley in the 1970s, "Taildog". Studying combat reports from the air war during the Vietnam War, it was clear that a missile with better maneuverability and a wider seeker angle was needed in order to successfully intercept the target in the types of shots the pilots were attempting to make. The initial US response was to train their pilots to only fire missiles under certain conditions, and use their cannon under others. The British concluded that a better missile was the proper solution, and started development of Taildog.

Taildog was highly maneuverable through the use of thrust vectoring for all flight control. The vectoring was accomplished by rotating small vanes into the rocket exhaust from their "hiding" positions behind the rocket body. External aerodynamic surfaces were reduced to vestigial surfaces near the rear, and were unmovable. In 1970 the Ministry of Defence awarded a development contract under the name "SRAAM-100", which was later changed to SRAAM. The contract was cancelled in 1974, but retained as a technology demonstration program.

The SRAAM work was dusted off as the starting point of the UK portion of the program in the 1980s, while the Germans supplied a new advanced seeker. Unlike SRAAM, however, outright maneuverability was no longer the main concern. The new AIM-120 had a fairly long range and could be expect to be fired against targets around 20 miles away, while Taildog and Sidewinder were much shorter-range weapons with useful ranges of only a few miles. There was a fairly large range gap between the two designs that the UK-German team felt was the most important problem to solve. Although portions of the original SRAAM design were used, the airframe was extensively redesigned to produce a missile with less maneuverability, but greater speed and range, closing the distance gap as well as making it difficult to avoid simply because it was so fast. The new ASRAAM dropped the thrust vectoring system in favor of conventional aerodynamic surfaces, in the form of four small delta-wings at the extreme rear of the missile.

While ASRAAM was being developed, re-unification of Germany gave the Luftwaffe their first look at the Russian Vympel R-73 missile, known in the west as the AA-11 Archer. This proved to be far more advanced than either the Sidewinder or the ASRAAM, outperforming them particularly in the ability to guide in high off-axis attacks, but also in terms of field of view, acquisition range, maneuverability, ease of target designation, and target lock-on. Concluding that they needed a missile with better performance than the Archer, the UK-German partnership broke down in the early 1990s, with the Luftwaffe deciding in 1995 to produce a new, greatly improved air-to-air missile, the IRIS-T built by Diehl BGT Defence. Due to the numerous developmental delays caused by the UK-German bickering over ASRAAM design with no solution in sight, and in light of threat of Archer, the US could not wait any longer and began development of their own improved version of the Sidewinder, the AIM-9X in 1990.

With the German exit from the ASRAAM project, the UK sought a new source for the ASRAAM seeker and selected a Hughes focal plane array imaging infrared seeker. Somewhat ironically, Hughes used the same technology in their winning submission for AIM-9X, so the ASRAAM and the AIM-9X both use the same Hughes-developed seeker. Raytheon also proposed a seeker for ASRAAM and submitted an AIM-9X proposal, but was not selected. However, Raytheon ultimately purchased Hughes and is now the producer of seekers for both ASRAAM and AIM-9X.

In January 1995 British Aerospace Dynamics, who had purchased Hawker Siddeley, arranged for financing from the British Government to enter the ASRAAM in the AIM-9X contest. The testing concluded in June 1996, with the result that the ASRAAM did not meet the AIM-9X in terms of off-axis capabilities, and the project was dropped from US contention.

UK development and manufacture went ahead regardless, and the first ASRAAM was delivered to the RAF in late 1998. It equips the RAF's Tornado F3 and Harrier GR7, and will become the primary short-range weapon for the RAF's Eurofighters. In February 1998 the British-French Matra British Aerospace consortium won a contract to supply the ASRAAM to the Royal Australian Air Force for use on their F/A-18 Hornets where the improved ASRAAM, the Rafael Python 4 and the AIM-9X were competitively evaluated, with the ASRAAM selected over the other two contenders. [1]

In March 2009 the Royal Australian Air Force successfully carried out the first in-service 'Lock After Launch' firing of an ASRAAM at a target located behind the wing-line of the ‘shooter’ aircraft.[3]




The main improvement, which was also made on the latest version of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, is a new focal plane array FPA (128x128 resolution imaging infrared) seeker developed by Hughes before they were acquired by Raytheon. This seeker has a long acquisition range, high countermeasures resistance, approximately 90 degrees off-boresight lock-on capability, and the possibility to designate specific parts of the targeted aircraft (like cockpit, engines, etc). The ASRAAM also has a LOAL (Lock-On After Launch) ability which is a distinct advantage when the missile is carried in an internal bay such as in the upcoming F-35 Lightning II.


In 1995, Hughes and British Aerospace collaborated on the "P3I ASRAAM" version of ASRAAM as a candidate for the AIM-9X program. The P3I would have been very much like the AIM-132, but with the addition of thrust vectoring to provide increased agility and to carry a larger warhead to meet the requirements expressed by the US Navy led AIM-9X program. The ultimate winner was the Hughes submission using the same seeker but utilizing the existing AIM-9M rocket motor, fuze and warhead. The latter was a US Air Force stipulation to ease the logistics burden and save by reutilizing as much as possible of the existing AIM-9 Sidewinder — of which 20,000 remained in the US inventory.

Potential future development

At the DSEi conference in September 2007 it was announced the UK MoD was funding a study by MBDA to investigate a replacement for the Rapier and Sea Wolf missiles. The Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM), would share components with ASRAAM.[4]


 United Kingdom
Royal Air Force
 United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Indian Air Force : Plans for upgrading 52 Dassault Mirage 2000 aircraft to carry the missile, beginning in 2007[5].

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Industry News, Your (2009-03-09). "RAAF has successfully fired ASRAAM at a target located behind the wing-line of the ‘shooter’ aircraft". Your Industry News.‘shooter’+aircraft_26109.html. Retrieved 2009-03-10.  
  4. ^ Missiles and Fire Support at DSEi 2007
  5. ^ "Missile Mirage", Aviation Week & Space Technology, 1 January 2007.


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