The new missile will complement the AIM-120 and AIM-9 in the Air Force’s inventory
On Sept. 16, during the Air Force Association’s annual National Convention in Washington, Raytheon unveiled the mockup of its new Peregrine medium-range air-to-air missile, which was internally funded and wasn’t developed to meet a specific Air Force or Navy requirement. According to a statement released by Raytheon, “the new, smaller Peregrine missile is faster and more maneuverable than legacy medium-range, air-to-air missiles, and doubles the weapons loadout on a variety of fighter platforms. Its sophisticated, miniaturized guidance system can detect and track targets at any time of day and in any weather condition.”
“Peregrine will allow U.S. and allied fighter pilots to carry more missiles into battle to maintain air dominance”, said Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. “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.”
Mark Noyes, a senior manager for Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems, said during the presentation that the missile will have a multi-mode, autonomous seeker which also includes infrared imaging, a “new, high-performance propulsion system”, a blast fragmentation warhead and a “new lightweight airframe and high-performance modular control system”.
The Peregrine will use military off-the-shelf components, additive manufacturing processes and readily available materials to obtain a missile that is both lighter and cheaper than current weapons in the U.S. Armed Forces inventory. The missile is in fact expected to be about 6 feet long and to weigh 150 pounds, that is shorter and lighter than both the AIM-120 AMRAAM (which is 12 feet long and weighs about 335 pounds) and the AIM-9 Sidewinder (which is 9 feet long and weighs about 190 pounds).
According to Noyes, the new missile is designed to be carried externally by all fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft, specifying that it will fit in the F-35’s weapons bays. However, he declined to say to reporters whether it will fit also in the F-22’s weapons bays, even if in an image released by Raytheon the missile can be seen launched by an F-22 which has its weapons bays open.
The U.S. Air Force currently use the AIM-9 Sidewinder and the AIM-120, both produced by Raytheon. According to the company, Peregrine “combines the range and the autonomy of the AMRAAM with the maneuverability characteristics of the AIM-9X”. Noyes said that Peregrine is meant to complement the AMRAAM and Sidewinder and will not replace them, adding that the AIM-9X will still be the world’s best close-in dogfighting missile.
Just three months ago, the Air Force announced that Lockheed Martin is also developing the AIM-260 to replace the AIM-120 and counter new air-to-air threats. The new missile will be compatible with the AMRAAM dimensions, but with greater range, and is planned to be carried in the F-22 weapons bay and on the F/A-18 at first, with the F-35 to follow.