MBDA has received a contract worth over £300 million from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) that ensures the Royal Air Force remains equipped with the highly capable infra-red guided air-to-air missile, ASRAAM (Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile). The contract covers the supply of new missiles to refresh the existing inventory of ASRAAM. Value for money is ensured through the re-use of components from other MBDA products such as the Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM).
The missiles will be produced at MBDA’s new Bolton manufacturing and assembly site that will be commissioned in mid-2016. The engineering activities are being carried out at MBDA sites in Stevenage and Bristol. This programme and associated workload around domestic and export programmes using the core CAMM system, will sustain 400 jobs across the MBDA sites and at a number of other UK suppliers. The sustainment of these production facilities also ensures that ASRAAM remains available for overseas customers and future exports.
Dave Armstrong, Executive Group Director Technical and Managing Director UK of MBDA said, «I strongly welcome this decision. This contract will deliver value to the MoD and keep the Royal Air Force equipped with an air defence capability that provides operational advantage wherever it flies. It illustrates the importance of the joint MoD and MBDA approach to delivering world leading complex weapons capability and will ensure that essential and unique UK skills, technologies and facilities, such as our new £30 million state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Bolton, are sustained for the future. Finally, the RAF’s commitment to this capability will also enhance future export success and we look forward to extending the joint government and industry approach to securing further ASRAAM customers».
Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile
ASRAAM is the most modern air-to-air missile designed to dominate the Within Visual Range (WVR) combat mission. The concept behind ASRAAM is to give the pilot the ability to engage the enemy, fire and get away without risking himself or his aircraft in a dogfight. ASRAAM’s unique capabilities enable it to defeat all short-range missiles, existing or planned, in close-in combat.
The missile system performance is attributed to a revolutionary design concept and state-of-the-art technology providing fast reaction time from button press to end game performance and giving ASRAAM the highest speed of any short-range missile.
ASRAAM’s high speed is achieved by means of a combination of low drag and rocket motor size. By using a 6.5-inch/166-mm diameter motor, compared with other missiles, which use a 5-inch/127-mm motor, ASRAAM has more propellant and can maintain a high speed throughout its flight time.
Designed to out manoeuvre target aircraft in Within Visual Range engagements and to allow launch at high off-boresight angles during such engagements; ASRAAM is a highly agile missile. The exceptional manoeuvrability is provided by a sophisticated control system using innovative body lift technology coupled with tail control.
ASRAAM provides the pilot with the ability to effectively engage targets from gun range to near Beyond Visual Range (BVR). The pilot can identify the threat passively and cue the missile using a Helmet Mounted Display (HMD), Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST) or radar, or it can be cued using third party targeting. The missile imaging infrared seeker allows ASRAAM to fly out to the target passively.
ASRAAM’s maximum range is uncontested, and no other short-range air-to-air missile comes near to this capability, providing the ability to passively home beyond the limits of visual range and well into the realm traditionally thought of as Beyond Visual Range.
ASRAAM can be employed in 3 ways:
- For normal engagements of targets in the forward hemisphere, the «lock before launch» capability is used.
- Engagement of targets beyond the seeker acquisition range is made possible using the Lock On After Launch (LOAL) capability with target data provided by the aircraft sensors or a third party.
- For close-in combat, the aircraft sensors can give target positional data to the missile beyond the seeker off-boresight limits of +/- 90 degrees. This gives the pilot the additional ability to fire an «over-the-shoulder» shot using the Lock On After Launch capability of the missile. In this scenario, the pilot can locate targets behind the aircraft using, for example, the Helmet Mounted Display or third party targeting. In this case, the missile will launch and fly onto the vector provided by the aircraft, and the seeker will acquire the target, engage and destroy it.
ASRAAM is in service with the Royal Air Force as its Within Visual Range Dominance weapon. The weapon is also in operational service with the Royal Australian Air Force on its F/A-18 Hornet.
Already fully integrated with proven reliability on Typhoon, Tornado and F/A-18, ASRAAM is also being integrated onto the F-35 Lightning II.
Proven capability demonstrated by firings from a range of aircraft, including: F-16, F/A-18, Tornado F3, Tornado GR4 and Typhoon aircraft.
|Weight||194 lbs/88 kg|
|Length||9.5 feet/2.9 m|
|Diameter||6.5 inch/166 mm|
|Speed||Over Mach 3|
|Range||In excess of 15.5 miles/25 km|