This is the first time British F-35Bs have fired ASRAAM missiles whilst operating from an aircraft carrier.

The ‘Advanced Short Range Air to Air Missile’ is a heat seeking air-to-air missile, produced by MBDA UK, that is designed for close-range combat.

The missile is in service in the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force, replacing the AIM-9 Sidewinder.

According to MBDA, ASRAAM is designed to allow the pilot to fire and then turn away before the opposing aircraft can close for a shot.

It flies at well over Mach 3 to ranges in excess of 25 kilometres (16 miles). It retains a 50g manoeuvrability provided by body lift technology coupled with tail control.

HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Carrier Strike Group have arrived in Scotland ahead of a major multinational exercise.

The Royal Navy say that Exercise Strike Warrior will involve more than 20 warships, three submarines and 150 aircraft from 11 nations and is a final test for the Carrier Strike Group ahead of its first operational deployment to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Asia Pacific.

“The exercise, which will run for two weeks, will see the task group pitted against warships from NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1 in waters off north-west Scotland to prove it is capable of undertaking high intensity operations against the most demanding adversaries.

The culmination of Strike Warrior will see the Carrier Strike Group certified ready for deployment, at which point operational command will pass from the Royal Navy’s Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd, to the Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key.”

Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said:

“The new UK Carrier Strike Group is the embodiment of British maritime power, and sits at the heart of a modernised and emboldened Royal Navy. Protected by a ring of advanced destroyers, frigates, helicopters and submarines, and equipped with fifth generation fighters, HMS Queen Elizabeth is able to strike from the sea at a time and place of our choosing; and with our NATO allies at our side, we will be ready to fight and win in the most demanding circumstances. Carrier Strike offers Britain choice and flexibility on the global stage; it reassures our friends and allies and presents a powerful deterrent to would-be adversaries.”

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MarkF
MarkF
1 month ago

Was that a little hint from Lizzie to remind Nicola who “actually” runs the show 😄

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
1 month ago

An interesting read.

Advanced Short Range Air to Air Missile (ASRAAM) History
https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/uk-complex-weapons/advanced-short-range-air-air-missile-asraam/

Rudeboy1
Rudeboy1
1 month ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

TD will be updating that in due course I believe, its still the best write up out there, but the later parts have got a little out of date. The Asraam CSP (Capability Sustainment Programme), which will produce the new Block 6 variant is running late due to some issues with the new seeker head (as reported by the IPA). This is the new build Asraam that will replace all of the existing stocks. The MoD for once realised that relifing would cost as much as new production. Net result is the UK will have the most advanced WVR missile… Read more »

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
1 month ago
Reply to  Rudeboy1

Great info mate. ASRAAM is absolutely deadly.

John N
John N
1 month ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

It’s more than likely the RAAF will cease using ASRAAM by years end when the last Squadron of F/A-18A/B aircraft retire.

Their replacement F-35A, plus F/A-18F and EA-18G, are equipped with AIM-9X.

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  John N

I’m not sure about that. ASRAAM’s has a much better range and proven over the shoulder capability. The Sidewinder is really a knife-fighting missile much like Iris-T. ASRAAM is more in keeping with the concept of operations (CONOPS) of how F35 will be operating. Having to use Sidewinder means that it has to get much closer to the target to fire on it. Whilst ASRAAM is more in keeping with how it will likely be operating, much like a Ninja fighting from the shadows, out of harms way.

John N
John N
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Regardless of the merits of one missile vs the other missile, I’ve seen no reporting here in the Australian Defence media that ASRAAM will be integrated on to RAAF F-35A aircraft.

All images, photo and video, that I’ve seen have only shown RAAF F-35A aircraft carrying AIM-9X, and of course Super Hornet and Growler too.

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  John N

If that’s the case, then it’s a shame and I’m a bit confused on how the RAAF will be using their F35As. Are they getting Meteor or sticking with AMRAAM? If sticking with AMRAAM, then again they have to get that much closer to a target before they can fire on it. It seems they are following USAF doctrine rather than RAF/FAA where maintaining the separation distance is key.

John N
John N
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

I seriously doubt we’ll be procuring Meteor. The RAAF has US approval for approx 450 AIM-120D, the most recent AMRAAM, to be used by the three combat types currently in service.

And I wouldn’t be surprised that when the upcoming AIM-260 enters service the RAAF will have access to it too.

DP
DP
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Interesting reference you make to different doctrines here which, based on historical events, makes me wonder if the RAF/FAA and the ASRAAM/Meteor combination have both stand-off and close-in (knife-fight) capability covered in equal measure? As I understand it, in Vietnam, the initial doctrine was to ‘stand off’ and let Sparrow take out the NVA Migs at distance, before they got too close, but this apparently changed after the Pentagon intervened and insisted on visual identification of suspected foe (after friendly fire incidents) …. prepared to be corrected there (appreciate missile tech was also somewhat unreliable too). So, does the UK… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  DP

To put it in the modern context. With the F35’s radar and optic capabilities, positive identification can be made at much further distances. Therefore, in a scenario such as near the Syrian border. A F35 does not need to get within 5 miles to make a positive id, it can do it from 10, 15 or 20 depending on the weather. The F35B is not a true “dogfighter” in the same sense as a F16 or Typhoon is. However, it can still hold its own. The helmet mounted sight (HMS) and very high off-boresight capability of ASRAAM means the aircraft… Read more »

DP
DP
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Thanks DaveyB, I dare say we see it all the time, procurement decisions based on politics, money (back-handers dare I say) and affordability. If I were a politician (and I’m not) I wouldn’t want to ask our armed forces to go into battle without the best kit at their disposal, sounds like we have the best available combination in F35, ASRAAM and METEOR.

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  DP

Hi DP, the RAF/FAA are playing to the aircrafts strengths, i.e. being incredibly low observable but using its very long detection range. With the idea of engaging an enemy aircraft first, before they can get in to their missile engagement range. Both Meteor’s significantly longer range and much higher percent kill in beyond visual range and ASRAAM’s higher range in within visual range gives the F35 a very unfair advantage. Definitely more so than the AMRAAM and Sidewinder combination.

Andrew Deacon
Andrew Deacon
1 month ago
Reply to  John N

I think it comes down purely to integration costs , when Australia bought the hornet neither 9x or Asraam were integrated and so the Raaf just chose the best missile, but the super hornet came ready to go with 9x as does the f35a , and although Asraam is integrated on the f35b it isn’t qualified on the f35a (although I assume the job is effectively half done there’s a huge queue of weapons in front of it , and as it stands the raaf would have to pay for it)

Rudeboy1
Rudeboy1
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Deacon

Adding ASRAAM to F-35A is easy. Just a software update and it becomes available. The F-35A also has the same wing as F-35B so drop tests would not be required. F-35C would need additional flight trials.

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  Rudeboy1

All F35s have the same mission and weapon support software loaded. So technically any F35 could use and fire any other Nations weapons so long as they’ve been integrated with the aircraft. The issue is that the pilot won’t know the weapon’s firing parameters or envelop.

Rudeboy1
Rudeboy1
1 month ago
Reply to  John N

I think they will retain the ASRAAM in their war stocks as it is compatible with their F-35A by default (once integrated to the F-35B its available for other F-35 users via software update). They’ve also not bought a spectacular number of AIM-9X (under 400), which isn’t a large stockpile for a fleet of 100 combat aircraft, the Aussies aren’t one of the European nations who have tiny stockpiles…, and their legacy Sidewinder’s are due retirement. Their c200 ASRAAM will have a fair bit of life in them (probably to 2030ish) as they were purchased later than the RAF missiles,… Read more »

TrevorH
TrevorH
1 month ago

The missile is on a pilon, therefore not stealth. Can it be loaded internally?

Ron5
Ron5
1 month ago
Reply to  TrevorH

Internal carry inhibits lock on before launch.

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  TrevorH

Yes, both ASRAAM and Sidewinder can be carried internally, with targeting data fed to them before launch. They won’t be locked on to the target, but will be directed towards it. After they are launched from the bay, they will then lock on to the target, this is called: “lock on after launch (LOAL)”. Technically, Sidewinder should be able to be fired over the shoulder at a target behind the aircraft, but only ASRAAM along with IRIS-T has proven to do this in trials as far as I know. The Russian AA-11 has shown that it can lock on to… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by DaveyB
Andrew Deacon
Andrew Deacon
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

How can they be used internally when they are fired off a rail ? There was talk of fitting a rail to the inside of the weapons bay door but this didn’t materialise. The f22 uses separate bays to get round this but the f35 doesn’t have these. Neither Asraam or sidewinder can be drop launched like AMRAAM or Meteor as far as I know.

GlynH
GlynH
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Deacon

I was just about to pose the same question. Was wondering this myself. I don’t recall ever seeing aim-9x or asraam mounted internally.

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Deacon

Lockheed Martin and BAe developed an adaptor rail that fits on the bay door “AMRAAM” rail. This was to use either the Sidewinder or ASRAAM. However, both the USAF and RAF have decided not to go down that route as both AMRRAM and Meteor can be used within visual range at relatively close targets.

Rudeboy1
Rudeboy1
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Deacon

They can’t. Trials have never taken place for drop or ejector launch of ASRAAM. It was supposed to be internally carried but the UK dropped that requirement from the Block III enhancements at the same time as Storm Shadow and Brimstone were removed.

It’s rail launched so is external carry only, and is only cleared on the outer wing pylod (as indeed is 9X). However, the pylon is a LO pylon and Asraam Block 6 (like 9X Block II) is treated to reduce its RCS. In practice it would only increase an F-35’s RCS marginally.

John
John
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

It struck me that Jaguar carried sidewinders over wing and Lightning carried drop tanks in similar location. Would an over wing pylon be an option for AAMs as this would surely be more stealthy for a high flying F35b

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  John

Realistically they will only provide a stealthy option to ground based radar. An airborne radar will have no issues seeing the missile or pylon. Aerodynamically speaking, you can quite easily use the top section of a wing for ordinance. There will be an issue of how the wave travels down the wing and is disrupted by the vertical facing pylon. But it should be no different to how wing fences were used. You can only really use powered ordinance that can accelerate forwards past the wing. Guided bombs etc will be an issue as they will either fall behind the… Read more »

john
john
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

thanks – I was thinking only small AAM missiles, but very thorough answer.
You seem very clued up so another question – Could an empty pylon swivel 90% to lie flush with the wing after disposal of ordinance? Would this be advantageous?

DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  john

Yes you could make it swing. But the aperture that it swings in to will be constantly open during flight if the pylons in use. This will screw up the aerodynamics. Unless you find a controllable way to fill or close off the aperture in flight and then open it to allow the pylon to fill it, it’s a no go I’m afraid.

Meirion X
Meirion X
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Could not a pylon splitter be designed for the internal bomb rails? This would allow up to 3 missiles in each internal bay, and a total of up to 6 internal missiles for a mission including the inside door missiles. Then 2 internals could be ASRAAM’s, and 4 AMRAAM’s. So if a F-35B is not carrying bombs, it could carry 4 slimmer missiles instead?

Last edited 1 month ago by Meirion X
DaveyB
DaveyB
1 month ago
Reply to  Meirion X

Lockheed Martin have developed the sidekick rail adapter, this allows the F35A and C to carry 3 AMRAAMs per bay instead of 2. The F35B has a shallower bay and this apparently preclude it from using sidekick. According to some information, in beast mode the F35A and C can carry 12 AMRAAMs and 2 Sidewinders, whilst the F35B can carry 8 AMRAAMS and 2 Sidewinders (Pretty sure that should be 10. The F35B’s bay is the same width and length as the A and C versions, it just is not as deep. The aircraft is supposed to carry 4 spear… Read more »

Andrew Deacon
Andrew Deacon
1 month ago
Reply to  TrevorH

See my reply to Davey b below ? This is not possible as far as I’m aware due to Asraam being rail launched not dropped.

Rob N
Rob N
1 month ago

The ASRAAM is not just short range as some reports put it at medium range. It has the same body as Sea Ceptor. It is a nice stealthy option for the UK F35. Once we add Meteor to F35 we will have a great CSG defence system.

Rudeboy1
Rudeboy1
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob N

In air to air missiles we’re in a fantastic place today and tomorrow.

Right now we’ve got the best WVR missile on earth, ASRAAM, and the best BVR missile on earth, Meteor, in addition we’ve got AMRAAM C-5 which will be replaced by AMRAAM D in 2022.

By 2025 we’ll have access to ASRAAM CSP (Block 6), Meteor JNAAM and AMRAAM D. All of which are the best, 2 of which are clearly the best air to air missiles on earth (CSP and JNAAM).

We’ve honestly never had it this good…

David
David
1 month ago

Great discussion about the differences between missiles.

What I’ve missed is the one about tactics of USMC and Brit F35Bs if the missile operating tactics are different.

Will USMC adopt our missile?

GlynH
GlynH
1 month ago

Worth noting (amidst the debate on ASRAAM and its rail’s stealthiness) that all F-35s are currently flying with peace-time radar strobes (the small lumps atop & aside and under fuselage). These light the aircraft up like an A380, permitting civilian air traffic tracking and completely obfuscating the aircraft’s actual stealthy profile. In war, those strobes can be removed then few are gonna detect it, fewer track it 🙂