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Raytheon reveals first glimpse of next-generation missile

Raytheon has offered the first peek into the company's approach to designing a next generation missile to replace both the AIM-120 AMRAAM and AGM-88 HARM.

For the first time, the company has displayed a full-scale mock-up of one of several candidates being considered for the emerging US Air Force requirement for a dual role air dominance missile (DRADM).

The design shown at the Air Warfare Sympsoium on 16-17 February features an AMRAAM-like missile body integrated with what appears to be a variable flow ducted rocket (VFDR), or ramjet.

In 2004, Raytheon commissioned Aerojet to demonstrate a VFDR propulsion system on an AMRAAM for a contract sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory. Raytheon acknowledges the influence of the VFDR demonstration.

"This model incorporates lessons learned from VFDR," Raytheon says. "However, the requirements haven't been established yet, so the model you see is one of several possibilities in consideration."

Raytheon and Boeing received separate contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) late last year to work on a next generation missile. The triple target terminator (T3) programme is aimed at hitting three types of targets - aircraft, cruise missiles and ground-based radars.

For two years, Boeing has displayed a conventional, solid rocket-powered missile at major trade shows as its DRADM concept. The 18cm (7in)-diameter mock-up for a next generation missile also was shown at Boeing's booth in the exhibit hall.

In addition to the DARPA work, Boeing also is known to have received three contracts from AFRL to develop three key technologies for a next-generation air dominance missile.

These include adaptable warheads that increase the lethal distance of the weapon, sensors that also serve as fuses for the warhead and reaction jet controls that allow the missile to intercept targets behind the launching platform.

The USAF had previously intended to launch full development of DRADM in Fiscal 2014, but the Pentagon's latest budget request may allow the service to accelerate contract award to 2013.

Speaking to the symposium audience on 16 February, Gen William Fraser, head of Air Combat Command, noted that the appearance of China's Chengdu J-20 underscores the need for key modernization programmes, including a next generation missile.

[See photos of the Raytheon and Boeing next generation missile concepts on The DEW Line blog.]

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