Raytheon gets DARPA boost for AMRAAM, HARM replacement

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Raytheon has received a boost in the race to develop a successor to two of its most successful missiles - the AIM-120 AMRAAM and the AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missile (HARM).

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded the company a $21 million deal to start developing the triple target terminator (T3) missile, a long-range weapon designed to be carried internally by stealth fighters.

 
© Senior Airman Laura Turner/US Air Force 
The USAF's F-22 Raptor carries the AIM-120 AMRAAM in its internal weapons bays

Raytheon referred comment about the award to DARPA, which has not responded to questions about the announcement. However, the defence agency's budget documents for the programme describe T3 as a "high-speed, long-range missile that can engage air, cruise missile and air defence targets".

The project has been launched in parallel with another programme sponsored by the US Air Force Research Laboratory called the joint dual-role air dominance missile (JDRADM). This aims to replace the medium-range AMRAAM and HARM radar-killer (below) with a single missile.

 
© Tech Sgt Michael Ammons/US Air Force

The laboratory has selected Boeing to develop a series of enabling technologies under the JDRADM banner. A programme called MR ROKM is developing a warhead that focuses the explosive blast in a single direction. Another programme, called SITES, is developing a technology that links the missile's guidance system to the warhead fusing mechanism. Finally, Boeing is working on thrust-vectored controls for the solid rocket motor under the DRADM-T contract.

Few details about these programmes have been released, but US government officials have described plans to field a new long-range missile by 2025. The Lockheed Martin F-35 has no ability to carry an anti-radiation missile internally until the HARM is replaced with a weapon sharing the 17.8cm (7in) diameter of AMRAAM.

Meanwhile, Aerojet has reported progress in developing a solid fuel for a ramjet-powered JDRADM missile. In August, it announced completing ground tests on a new AerGen fuel designed to burn efficiently with "reduced" visible exhaust.