MBDA has started deliveries of the Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) for the forthcoming integration onto the UK’s F-35B.
The Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile is an infrared homing air-to-air missile (what most call “heat seeking”). It’s currently in service in the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force, replacing the AIM-9 Sidewinder.
ASRAAM will be the first UK missile to arm the F-35 and its integration within the F-35 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the programme will give the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy’s F-35s a highly capable, passive, Within Visual Range air-to-air capability.
The missile is designed to outrange and outrun any other infrared homing missile in service, allowing the pilot to fire and then turn away long before the opposing aircraft can close for a shot. It flies at over Mach 3 to ranges as great as 50 km.
The project started as a British-German collaboration in the 1980’s. Germany however left the program and the UK proceeded on their own, the missile was introduced into RAF service in 1998. On the 8th of July 2014 India & the UK signed a deal to procure 384 ASRAAM from MBDA to replace the ageing Matra Magic R550.
British Defence Minister Philip Dunne said:
“The upcoming work to integrate the MBDA Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile onto the F-35 Lightning aircraft will provide a state of the art weapon for both our RAF and Royal Navy pilots.
The integration of this missile also demonstrates the success of the UK Defence industry’s contribution to the wider F-35 programme. Around 15 per cent in value of every F-35 is being built here in the UK and the work is invaluable to British industry, supporting thousands of jobs across the UK.”
“These test missiles will be used during 2016 for a series of flight trials and air-launched firings that are a key step towards the Initial Operating Capability of the aircraft by the UK. The trials will include environmental data gathering, safe separation from the aircraft, weapon integration with the F-35’s on-board systems, and lastly, weapon firing trials involving the engagement of targets. These integration activities will take place at both the Naval Air Station Patuxent River and Edwards Air Force base in the USA.”
Britain is to purchase 138 F-35B aircraft.