MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC (Melco) is to begin full-scale development of the XAAM-4 medium-range air-to-air missile under a ´3.2 billion ($38 million) contract awarded by the Japan's Defence Agency.

The active-radar-guided missile is being proposed as a replacement for the slightly smaller Raytheon AIM-7M missile, in service with the Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF). It is intended to provide a similar capability to that of the Hughes AIM-120 AMRAAM.

The AMRAAM also is being considered by the JASDF as an AIM-7 replacement, with the offer of licence production in Japan. A new beyond-visual-range missile forms part of a joint Japanese-US Air Force avionics upgrade of the McDonnell Douglas F-15J.

Hughes remains optimistic that the AMRAAM will be selected in place of the indigenous XAAM-4. "The Melco development contract was not unexpected and the competition is still very much alive," says Hughes.

Japan's Technical Research and Development Agency has already spent ´7 billion on preliminary design work on the programme. A further ´15.3 billion in funding has been approved in the budget for fiscal year 1995 for Melco to complete development of the XAAM-4 by 1998.

Source: Flight International