Discover the Best of the ASRAAM Missile

The Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) stands as a highly sophisticated and versatile missile system explicitly crafted for air-to-air engagements. Discover the Best of the ASRAAM Missile; this Fire-And-Forget Air-To-Air Missile (AAM) emerges as the ultimate weapon designed for within-visual-range engagements. Endowed with cutting-edge technology, it possesses the capability to neutralize any fighter aircraft, irrespective of the sophistication of their countermeasures.

Once launched, the Fox-2 missile ensures the enemy’s destruction is both inevitable and unstoppable. The ASRAAM asserts itself as the harbinger of demise for any aircraft daring to challenge its supremacy, leaving behind nothing but a trail of destruction and devastation.

Photo Credit: RAF / A fully armed Typhoon is equipped with two Paveway bombs, four Meteor missiles, and two ASRAAM air-to-air missiles, along with a 3+3 configuration of Brimstone missiles

ASRAAM is currently in service with the Royal Air Force, serving as a Within Visual Range (WVR) Dominance weapon. This weapon is also operationally deployed with the Indian Air Force, integrated into its Jaguar Darin III, LCA Tejas, and Sukhoi 30MKI aircraft. Developed by MBDA in the United Kingdom, ASRAAM demonstrates exceptional performance, achieving success in more than 100 per cent of within-visual-range scenarios.

This makes it a crucial component in modern air-to-air warfare strategies. With a flight capability exceeding Mach 3 and a range surpassing 25 kilometres (16 mi), ASRAAM maintains a remarkable 50 g manoeuvrability, thanks to its body lift technology combined with tail control.

Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023 / ASRAAM is mounted on the wings of the SEPECAT Jaguar of the Indian Air Force

The ASRAAM missile boasts a compact design and a sophisticated guidance system that incorporates an imaging infrared seeker, delivering outstanding agility and precise target-tracking capabilities. Renowned for its high-speed performance and swift reaction time, the missile proves highly effective in dynamic aerial combat scenarios. ASRAAM’s compatibility extends across a diverse array of aircraft, elevating the air-to-air capabilities of numerous military platforms.

With its state-of-the-art technology and adaptability, ASRAAM stands as an indispensable asset within the arsenals of air forces globally, significantly contributing to air superiority and enhancing the overall defence capabilities of modern military forces.

Photo Credit: MBDA / ASRAAM
Photo Credit: MBDA / Discover the Best of the ASRAAM Missile / Typhoon armed with ASRAAM

ASRAAM: Development and Testing Overview

During a series of tests conducted in the mid-1970s, the USAF discovered that the Sidewinder, which was supposed to have a far shorter range than the AIM-7 Sparrow, exhibited an effective range against fighter targets. The launching aircraft had to maintain its direction for its radar to continue illuminating the target since the missile was guided by the signals reflected off the target by the attacking aircraft’s radar. As the target aircraft approached, there was a window of opportunity for it to fire infrared missiles before being struck during the missile’s flight. Mutual kills were the outcome, which is undesirable.

Upon analyzing consistent results, the USAF concluded that developing a new weapon to replace the Sparrow was the most effective strategy. The primary goals included reducing the weight to a level suitable for launchers designed for the Sidewinder, implementing a self-contained active seeker to enable the launching fighter to turn away, and extending the range to prevent IR-guided missile-firing fighters from entering the launch range. This led to the evolution of the AIM-120 AMRAAM project; its initial versions boasted a range of 50 to 75 kilometres.
Photo Credit: RAF / A fantastic image showing the ASRAAM being fired from the RAF F-35A during its testing phase
The AMRAAM highlighted a significant challenge, namely the substantial disparity in range between the short range of the Sidewinder and the extensive range of the AMRAAM. In contrast to the Sidewinder, which remains a sought-after weapon, the AMRAAM was not specifically designed as a snap-shot weapon. The passive assault capability of a heatseeker can offer a considerable advantage in combat. The AIM-9L was always intended as a temporary solution; designing a new infrared-guided missile to function as an AMRAAM equivalent would necessitate a fundamentally different approach.
NATO nations agreed in the 1980s that the US would develop the AMRAAM and that a team composed mainly of British and German engineers would create a short-range air-to-air missile to replace the Sidewinder. This missile was designated AIM-132 ASRAAM by the US.
Following Germany’s withdrawal from the project, ASRAAM became exclusively a British-designed missile developed by MBDA UK. Initiated in the late 1980s, the project underwent a comprehensive series of developmental tests before receiving clearance for induction into the British Armed Forces. The missile has undergone extensive testing, including live firing from fighter aircraft, showcasing a high level of accuracy and reliability.
Photo Credit: RAF / ASRAAM has been externally integrated into the F-35
The ASRAAM Block 6 standard, developed as part of the ASRAAM Sustainment programme, entered service on the Typhoon in April 2022 and will be deployed on the F-35 in 2024. Block 6 introduces new and updated subsystems, as well as a new internal cooler that replaces external cooling. The seeker has been replaced with a new, higher-resolution seeker built in the United Kingdom. Because there are no US-made components, it is exempt from ITAR restrictions and can thus be exported without US approval.
In within-visual-range (WVR) air combat, the ability to initiate an attack swiftly is paramount. A pilot engaged with an adversary requires a missile that reacts with unparalleled speed and agility to maximize the probability of a successful strike, overcoming evasive target manoeuvres and countermeasures. ASR-AAM has demonstrated its capability in this regard.
ASR-AAM utilizes data from the aircraft’s sensors, including radar or helmet-mounted sight, and can autonomously serve as an infrared search and track system. Demonstrating its versatility, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) successfully conducted ‘over the shoulder’ firing in Lock On After Launch (LOAL) mode, effectively engaging target drones situated behind the wing-line of the launching aircraft during a demonstrative showcase.
Photo Credit: RAF / The AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon is integrated alongside ASRAAM inside the RAF F-35

Technology and Features of ASRAAM

ASRAAM stands out as a high-speed, exceptionally manoeuvrable, heat-seeking air-to-air missile. Fundamentally, it is conceived as a “fire-and-forget” projectile. Propelled by a solid-fuel rocket motor, the ASRAAM measures 2.9 meters in length and has a diameter of 166 mm. Weighing approximately 88 kg, it has the capacity to carry a high-explosive blast fragmentation warhead weighing up to 10 kg. The missile boasts an advanced guidance system encompassing an inertial navigation system, mid-course guidance, and an imaging infrared seeker dedicated to terminal guidance.

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Travelling at speeds well beyond Mach 3 and covering distances of over 25 kilometres (16 miles), ASRAAM retains an impressive 50g of manoeuvrability, attributed to the combination of body lift technology and tail control fins. The Advanced Short Range Air-To-Air Missile (ASRAAM), produced by MBDA UK and alternatively known by its American designation AIM-132, is an imaging infrared homing (heat-seeking) air-to-air missile specifically designed for close-range combat.

Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023 / ASRAAM mounted on the wings of Jaguar Darin-III

The primary enhancement is a newly designed 128×128 resolution imaging infrared focal plane array (FPA) seeker, which was produced by Hughes before its acquisition by Raytheon. This seeker can identify specific elements of the targeted aircraft, such as the cockpit and engines, and has a long acquisition range, great resilience to countermeasures, and a 90-degree off-boresight lock-on capability. Additionally, the F-35 Lightning II and other aircraft carrying the ASRAAM benefit greatly from the missile’s Lock-On After Launch (LOAL) capability.

The ASRAAM warhead can be activated by impact or a laser proximity fuse. Due to susceptibility to electronic warfare intervention by adversarial jammers, a laser proximity fuse was utilized. When comparing ASRAAM to other dogfighting missiles like the AIM-9X, the larger diameter of ASRAAM also allows for increased computer power and, consequently, improved countermeasure capabilities.

Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023

Assessing the Export Potential of ASRAAM Missile

The ASRAAM has been exported to various countries, including the USA, Australia, and India. It is widely acknowledged as a highly capable air-to-air missile and is currently in active service with numerous air forces globally. In the future, both Qatar and Oman are slated to operate this missile.

In 2014, India’s defence ministry entered into a $428 million contract with MBDA to outfit its SEPECAT Jaguar strike aircraft with the ASRAAM short-range air-to-air missile. MBDA’s proposal triumphed over competitors, including Rafael’s Python-5 missile, securing victory in 2012. This contract followed a previous 2012 order for 493 MICA missiles, replacing Matra S-530D and Magic II missiles as part of an update for the Indian Air Force’s Mirage 2000.

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The ASRAAM dogfighting missile is presently undergoing extensive testing by the Indian Air Force on the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, aiming to establish itself as the standard dogfighting missile for various aircraft, including the Tejas. The manufacturing of the missile will take place at the Bhanoor plant of Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), where comprehensive services for maintenance, repair, and overhaul will also be offered by the facility.

Photo Credit: RAF / A captivating image capturing the moment ASRAAM is fired from the RAF Typhoon during its testing phase
Evaluating the Operational Capability of ASRAAM Missile

The ASRAAM is meticulously designed to engage a diverse range of aerial targets, encompassing fighter aircraft, UAVs, and helicopters, all within the visual range of the pilot. It exhibits the capability to engage targets at altitudes ranging from 50 meters to 50,000 ft and can intercept at speeds of up to Mach 3.

During the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) conference in September 2007, an announcement was made regarding the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) funding a study conducted by MBDA. This study aimed to explore potential replacements for the Rapier and Sea Wolf missiles. The outcome was the development of the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM), designed to share components with ASRAAM.

Notably, it incorporates the very low signature rocket motor from Roxel and the warhead and proximity fuze from Thales. CAMM is equipped with a Common Data Link (CDL), allowing it to receive mid-course corrections from suitably equipped land or air platforms and seamlessly transition to active homing when in close proximity to the target.

Photo Credit: RAF / A fully armed Typhoon is equipped with two Paveway bombs, four Meteor missiles, and two ASRAAM air-to-air missiles, along with a 3+3 configuration of Brimstone missiles

In February 2017, pivotal milestones were achieved with the successful firing of ASRAAMs from F-35 Lightning IIs at both Naval Air Station Patuxent River and Edwards Air Force Base in the USA. This groundbreaking event marked not only the inaugural firing of a British-designed missile from an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) but also the unprecedented occasion of any non-US missile being launched from this advanced aircraft.

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The ASRAAM Block 6 standard, a product of the ASRAAM Sustainment program, was officially commissioned on the Typhoon in April 2022 and is scheduled to commence F-35 service in 2024. This latest block iteration brings forth a host of advancements, featuring newly developed and updated sub-systems, and a transition from external cooling to a more efficient internal cooler.

Notably, the seeker technology has undergone an upgrade, now integrating a higher-resolution seeker manufactured in the UK. A noteworthy distinction is that the ASRAAM Block 6 incorporates no components of U.S. origin, making it exempt from ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) restrictions. Consequently, this exemption allows for export without requiring approval from the United States.

Photo Credit: RAF / A formidable display of firepower: a fully armed F/A-18 Hornet boasting an arsenal of six ASRAAM and six AMRAAM air-to-air missiles

The Technical Specifications of ASRAAM Missile

  • Weight:  88kg (194 lb)
  • Length:  9 ft 6 in (2.9 m)
  • Diameter:  166mm (6.5 in)
  • Wingspan:  450 mm
  • Range:  25 km
  • Warhead: 10kg (22 lb) blast/fragmentation
  • Detonation:  Laser proximity fuse and impact
  • Engine:  High-impulse, dual-burn solid rocket motor
  • Speed:  Mach 3
  • Guidance:  Infrared Homing with Lock-On After Launch ( LOAL ) and Inertial Guidance
  • Launch Platform:  RAF Typhoon, F-35 A and C, IAF Jaguar, Tejas, SU-30MKI, Hawk Mk 132 trainer
Photo Credit: MBDA / Tornado GR-4, with a distinctive configuration, carries ASRAAM on pylons alongside the drop tanks

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In conclusion, the ASRAAM represents the pinnacle of air-to-air missile technology, providing a potent combination of precision, speed, and adaptability. Its development by MBDA showcases a commitment to advancing aerial combat capabilities, rendering it a vital asset for air forces worldwide. With its compact design and cutting-edge guidance system, ASRAAM stands as a testament to innovation in modern warfare. Serving as a crucial component in the defence strategies of various nations, this advanced missile system plays a pivotal role in ensuring air superiority and enhancing overall national security.

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