RUSSIAN MISSILE design house Vympel claims it is still two years away from completing flight testing of its upgraded derivative of the R-33 (AA-9 Amos) long-range air-to-air missile for the Mikoyan MiG-31M (Foxhound B).

The significantly upgraded missile - thought to carry the designation R-37 - has been undergoing launch and intercept trials at the Russian air force's Ahktubinsk centre in the south of the country.

According to Vympel, the missile has a "...more powerful warhead, and we are also working on extending the launch range". The R-33 has an engagement range of around 100km, while the R-37 will have a range well in excess of this. The R-33 has a 45kg warhead, while the R-37 will have a 60kg warhead.

Despite the increase in warhead weight, the design bureau says it is confident of reducing the missile's launch weight from 500kg to 450kg. The rocket motor for the two missiles remains the same, with the extended range being gained primarily from the use of ballistic trajectories in the interception of a target aircraft or a cruise missile.

Vympel says that the missile's wing and fin configuration have been adapted to allow six of the weapons to be carried under the MiG-31M. The original Foxhound was a capable of carrying only four R-33s on under-fuselage stations.

The R-37s' four rear fins fold close to their roots, unlike the R-33 where only the two top fins fold. The wing diameter has also been reduced. The all-folding fins on the R-37 prompted some speculation that the missile might also be intended for internal carriage.

Like most programmes in the former Soviet Union, the R-37 has not escaped the effects of a defence budget in free fall. Vympel admits that the project has been slowed by the lack of funding.

What remains uncertain is the kind of guidance with which the R-37 is fitted. It is unclear whether this will be an active, semi-active, or dual mode active/semi-active when it is initially fielded. Vympel is working on "such systems" but it raises the issue of confidence in the active seeker having effectively acquired the target during the final stage of the engagement.

Source: Flight International