WASHINGTON -- A new extended range version of Raytheon's Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile destroyed a target in its first flight test in Norway, the company's AMRAAM program manager told Defense News ahead of the Association of the US Army's annual convention.
AMRAAM ER is made up of the front-end of an AMRAAM missile and the back-end – or the rocket motor – of Raytheon's Evolved Sea Sparrow missile (ESSM), Raytheon's Michael High said in a Sept. 28 interview.
The configuration gives the missile a 50 percent increase in maximum range and 70 percent increase in maximum altitude.
AMRAAM is used by seven countries in Norwegian company Kongsberg’s National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS). The US National Capital Region has been defended by NASAMS since 2005. Over 2,000 ESSMs have been produced for 13 different countries, High said.
Raytheon and Kongsberg held the AMRAAM ER’s first flight test at the Andoya flight center in Norway on Aug. 31, where the new missile was fired from a NASAMS system against a drone target simulating a fighter aircraft, according to High. "What we did was we proved as a complete system, it works very well together, there were no issues whatsoever," he said.
The test was conducted by the Norwegian Air Force’s NASAMS operators using their fire distribution center and their Sentinel radar.
AMRAAM ER was ready to take out a target in flight, according to High, because of extensive testing over the course of 2015. Kongsberg reconfigured its NASAMS launcher, extending the top row of three canisters by a foot. The company also updated the software in the launcher to recognize the new missile, High noted.
Raytheon developed the missile because the company believes "there is a very good market out there," for such a capability, High said. "There is a lot of interest in medium-range capability versus advanced threats out there."
There are 15 countries that currently field the Hawk missile, he noted, that is reaching the end of its useful life at several decades old, which AMRAAM ER could replace, High said.
And the NASAMS users would likely be interested as well. Then there are non-NASAMS customers who might be looking for an ability to defend against unmanned aircraft systems, hovering targets, and cruise missiles, he added.
NASAMS is in service in Norway, Finland, Spain, the Netherlands and one undisclosed country. It is also in production for Oman, according to Raytheon.
AMRAAM ER can be produced for a "relatively low-cost" compared to other missiles in the same category because Raytheon is taking a known production AMRAAM front-end and a known production ESSM back-end, according to High. "There are economies of scale you get from production of both of those missiles," he said.
Raytheon is targeting first deliveries of the missile in the 2020 time frame based on the anticipated time it would take to move through a testing plan and a foreign military sales certification process, High noted.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.