The US Marine Corps and the US Army may join Norway in deploying a ground-based air-defence weapon incorporating the Raytheon Systems advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM).

The so-called HUMRAAM air-defence system is mounted on the high-mobility, multi-purpose, wheeled vehicle in a similar set-up to that of the Avenger pedestal mounted Stinger (PMS).

In contrast, the Norwegian advanced surface-to-air missile system (NASAMS) uses canister-packed missiles mounted on a trailer towed by a militarised truck. Deployment of 18 NASAMS fire units to defend Norwegian airbases began two years ago.

Raytheon and the US Army shared the cost of building a HUMRAAM engineering development model, which mounts five AMRAAM radar-guided missiles. The AMRAAM launcher is designed to be interchangeable with the PMS firing assembly.

The HUMRAAM is also called the Complementary Low Altitude Weapon System because it is designed to work with the shorter-range Avenger system. The AMRAAM provides a new capability, however, since it has four times the range of the 5km (3 miles)-range heat-seeking Stinger missile.

The USMC has established a requirement for the medium-range missile, but funding has yet to be earmarked for the purchase of up to 95 units. As envisioned, some Avenger PMS systems would be converted into the HUMRAAM configuration.

The USMC has set aside a small amount of money for further test and evaluation of the weapon during fiscal year 2000. It hopes to achieve initial operational capability in 2002 and full operational capability two years later.

The USMC successfully tested the weapon a year ago, and the US Army is testing the system at Fort Bliss, Texas, this month. The air defence weapon has successfully intercepted an MQM-107 drone at about 15km. The US Army could buy as many as 120 units.

On 5 August, Norway will demonstrate its various ground-based air defence systems at a US Army test range. The demonstration will culminate with a simutaneous firing of four missiles.

HUMRAAM systems integration work would be competed with Raytheon Systems, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Boeing (Avenger PMS prime contractor) possibly submitting bids.

Export of a ground-launched AMRAAM is possible beyond Norway. Australia, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Spain and Slovenia are seen as potential customers.

Source: Flight International