WASHINGTON — Raytheon has announced the development of a new air-to-air missile, one it claims will be half the size of current weapons but achieve greater speed and maneuverability.

In a news release during the Air Force Association’s annual conference, Raytheon claimed the new Peregrine weapon is applicable for use against “drones, manned aircraft and cruise missiles.”

“Through the use of additive manufacturing and readily available materials, it effectively doubles the number of missiles current fighter jets can carry, at a significantly lower cost than current weapons,” the statement said. The weapon will be about 50 pounds and 6 feet long

“Peregrine will allow U.S. and allied fighter pilots to carry more missiles into battle to maintain air dominance,” Thomas Bussing, the vice president of Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems, said in the statement. “With its advanced sensor, guidance and propulsion systems packed into a much smaller airframe, this new weapon represents a significant leap forward in air-to-air missile development.”

Details on when the weapons might be available for testing and, eventually, sale were not released by the company.

The U.S. Air Force primarily uses the AIM-9 Sidewinder and the AIM-120 AMRAAM as its air-to-air weapons; both are produced by Raytheon. According to a Pentagon report from 2018, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin receive about 97 percent of the Defense Department’s munitions and missile procurement dollars.

The Defense Department would likely welcome the introduction of a new, lighter alternative to those legacy weapons, as Peregrine appears to be. The department is looking for ways to increase capability for its existing fleets, as well as international partners who have been reliable purchasers of air-to-air weapons. In fiscal 2019, Hungary, Japan, Qatar, Bahrain and Australia requested to purchase air-to-air munitions.

The emphasis on the size of the weapon, its speed and maneuverability, as well as the ability to destroy unmanned systems fits with statements last week from a company executive that Raytheon expects the counter-drone market to grow significantly in the coming years.

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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