The Royal Australian Air Force is considering expanding its Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missile stockpile and upgrading its current air-launched weapons to introduce dual-mode seeker capabilities in a bid to expand its strike options over the next two decades.

It could also acquire Raytheon's AIM-9X Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile to arm its proposed fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF).

The plans are contained in a draft air-delivered weapons roadmap due to be considered by the peak Australian Defence Capability Committee this month. Covering the period until 2025, this recommends that Australia also examine its long-term options for air-delivered directed energy and non-lethal weapon systems.

The roadmap assesses the RAAF's current air-launched weapons capability, and the implications for strike operations to emerge from replacing its Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornet and General Dynamics F-111 fighters solely with the JSF. It also examines a staged transition based on Australia's planned interim acquisition of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Block II Super Hornets.

Future air-to-ground weapons capability should be capable of operating within a fully networked battlefield environment and of supporting third-party targeting, providing good stand-off range and offering selectable fusing and variable penetration capabilities, the document says. Commonality and affordability across the weapons range is also emphasised, along with an ability to assist with post-strike analysis.

Follow-on studies need to be carried out into the cost effectiveness of upgrading older-generation guided weapons and Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance kits with dual-mode seekers, the roadmap says, but it notes that technical options are available.

The draft document also says the air force should assess the cost of integrating MBDA's ASRAAM short-range air-to-air missile with the JSF - a requirement already held by the UK - alongside an option to swap to the AIM-9X.

Source: Flight International