The US Air Force and missile manufacturer Raytheon Co. successfully tested an upgraded anti-radar missile designed to more accurately take out enemy air defense early-warning systems.

An air force Lockheed Martin F-16 on 22 August fired an AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missile (HARM), which scored a direct hit on a specific radar emitter outside a zone of exclusion that included another decoy emitter, Raytheon announces.

The AGM-88 is used to find and destroy surface-to-air missile radars, early warning radars, and radar-directed air defence artillery systems to allow safe battlefield overflight of conflict zones by US and allied aircraft. The missiles identify and home in on the electronic transmissions emitted by radar installations. More than 4,000 HARMs have been fired in combat by the eight nations that include them in their munitions inventories.

"Raytheon's HCSM offers the warfighter enhanced capabilities at an affordable price, providing best value for suppression of enemy air defence weapon options," Mike Jarrett, vice president of Raytheon Air Warfare Systems, says in a statement announcing the test’s success.

Improvements to the missile in the recent test include a HARM control section modification (HCSM) that increases accuracy and precision, thereby reducing the risk of collateral damage, Raytheon says. GPS and an inertial measurement unit provide more accurate targeting and navigation data to the warhead after launch “to engage time-critical targets”, the company says.

The missiles is also specially designed to destroy modern surface-to-air missile installations and resist jamming and other counter-HARM systems.

“The HCSM used its new ... capability and successfully impacted the correct target,” Raytheon says. Yet more testing “is needed to determine if the HCSM is ready for deployment to the US Air Force.”

Raytheon produces HARM missiles under a 2012 contract with the air force and is currently under full-rate production.