Stewart Penney/LONDON

Raytheon is starting to look at preplanned product improvements (P3I) for the AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided short range air-to-air missile.


Bill West, Raytheon senior manager business development air-to-air programmes, says the company has begun to consider the AIM-9X P3I programme, which will become formal once the low-rate initial production decision (LRIP) has been made.

West says obvious areas for early P3I phases include the systems retained from the AIM-9M to hasten development - including the rocket motor, fuse and warhead. The motor is likely to be replaced by a unit that takes advantage of on-going, long-term US research and development programmes.

"Notional ideas" for a ground- launched AIM-9X have also been considered, says West, "but there is no genuine interest while the missile is in development".

The missile's thrust-vectoring control system would allow the missile to be used in vertical launchers.

The critical Defense Acquisition Board meeting to clear the AIM-9X for a 1,000 missile LRIP is set for September with a go-ahead expected in November. Initial examples of the improved Sidewinder will enter US service in 2002. The USA forces require over 10,000 AIM-9Xs .

Meanwhile, Raytheon is to introduce the Motorola PowerPC processor to the AIM-120 AMRAAM radar guided air-to-air missile and the SM-2 surface to air missile. The commercial processor is used on the AIM-9X and is cheaper and easier to source than bespoke processors.

AMRAAM phase three P3I is under way and planning for phase four has started. Changes will include advanced propulsion technologies, says West, which will give improved kinematics and range. A Raytheon source says "a ramjet won't be the solution", referring to the UK's recent selection of the Matra BAe Dynamics Meteor, which is ramjet powered.

• Spain is to acquire the NASAMS ground launched AMRAAM system developed with Norway to meet that country's surface-to-air missile needs.

The selection has been made as part of Spain's offset commitment to Norway for the latter's purchase of warships from Bazan.

Source: Flight International