McDONNELL DOUGLAS (MDC) is to demonstrate flight-control technology for an advanced beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile with the high agility required for close-in combat. The dual-range missile concept combines the capabilities of the Hughes AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) and short-range Hughes AIM-9X in a single airframe.

To flight-test the concept, MDC will modify the AIM-120 with tail-mounted reaction-control jets enabling the missile to reach angles of attack up to 90í "off the rail", and turn through up to 180í to engage targets behind the launch aircraft. Four launches are planned in 2002 under a five-year, $22 million Air-Superiority Missile-Technology contract from the US Air Force.

Six valves around the aft end of the airframe bleed propulsive gas from the missile's rocket motor to provide reaction control, says Tony Arena, propulsion team leader. This avoids the drag penalty of thrust-vectoring vanes in the rocket exhaust, and increases close-in manoeuvrability without reducing range, he says.

The AIM-120 airframe will be modified by removing the wings and cutting down the tailfins. AIM-120 developer Hughes will work with MDC on development of a new autopilot, while Thiokol will integrate the reaction-control system with the improved "+5" rocket motor which Alliant Techsystems is developing for the AIM-120.

Under a separate contract, Hughes and Ball Aerospace are working on an advanced conformal-array seeker. The two technologies could be brought together in a programme to develop a dual-range missile which could be available by 2010, at the earliest.

Source: Flight International