F/A-18F Super Hornet Firing New AMRAAM Missile Over California Looks Majestic

In December last year, a new variant of the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) was fired for the first time. Five months later, in May 2021, the second test firing was conducted as the team behind the missile moves to validate its potential further.
F/A-18F Super Hornet firing AIM?120D-3 missile 1 photo
Photo: U.S. Navy
The AMRAAM missile, also known as AIM-120, was first fired in 1991. It has been created as a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile capable of operating regardless of the weather. This fire-and-forget weapon was used in combat in several hot areas worldwide. Still, given how the world is not getting nearly as many dog fights as it once used to, it is credited with just under 20 kills of enemy aircraft since its introduction. At least that we know of…

The American military is planning to sometime replace the AIM-120, but it will squeeze some more life out of it until that time comes. And it will do so by fielding a more modern variant called AIM-120D-3. That’s the missile that was fired twice in test runs during these past few months.

According to the U.S. Navy, the new variant comes with an improved guidance system. It was tested on May 13 over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range in California after being fired from the underside of an F/A-18F Super Hornet. According to the people overseeing the launch, the objectives of the mission were met.

More to the point, the military wanted to see if the missile’s safe separation autopilot works as it should, but also have a look at the weapon’s free-flight navigation toward its target. Sadly, there's no video of the test, for obvious reasons, but the image released by the U.S. Navy and attached above says all there is to say about it.

The plan is to have the new variant of the AMRAAM ready for deployment in 2023. It will have some big shoes to fill, as the present version sold over 14,000 units to both the American military and its allies.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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