In establishing a partnership with the U.S. Army, the Air-to-Air Missiles Program office, PMA-259 is supporting an unorthodox, yet successful way to launch an air-to-air missile from the ground.
PMA-259’s test team arrived in China Lake, California last week to support an Army launch demonstration where an AIM-9X interceptor was employed against a UAS flying in a pattern. This test showed mission capability against one of the Army’s threats (a UAS).
This followed the initial test last fall which determined the feasibility for a tube designed to launch a missile from the ground and evaluated possible effects such as fly-out of the missile or contact with the tube itself for the Army’s new Multi-Mission Launcher (MML) supporting their Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) increment II.
The MML, a re-purposed vehicle already in the Army’s inventory, will be utilized to deploy a missile such as the AIM-9X from the ground to defend against threats such as a UAS and/or enemy cruise missiles. Testing was aimed at reducing the risk associated with an individual MML tube.
“The AIM-9X is primarily an air-to-air missile, but it has potential latent capability, and we’re using it here in a surface-to-air capacity. Additionally, this is the first time we’ve ever tried to launch it out of a tube,” said Lt. Cmdr. Robert Betts, AIM-9X Block II Integrated Product Team lead. “The Army needed to prove that the tube is reusable and that it could withstand the missile fly-out; making sure the missile didn’t act as a blowtorch, cutting the tube in half on the way out.”
The first test was part of the technology maturation risk reduction (TMRR) phase of the acquisition process which is expected to continue for approximately 27 months, during which time PMA-259 will remain involved by providing the AIM-9X interceptors in order to conduct the test events. The AIM-9X is being utilized as the result of a trade study evaluation where it was found to be the best fit for the Army’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and cruise missile threats.
The intent last week was to engage and lock onto the UAS, then launch and demonstrate kill effectiveness and was successful. Further down the road, in 2016, a full engineering demonstration will be conducted with two fully-integrated MMLs engaged against UAVs and cruise missiles to evaluate the network performance of the whole concept.
“The AIM-9X continues to bring unparalleled capability to the fleet warfighter,” said Capt. Jim Stoneman, PMA-259 program manager. “This initiative is a first step in highlighting the role of the AIM-9X as a multipurpose weapon of choice in future conflicts.”
The Army’s continued success with the ground-launched AIM-9X could translate to a “win-win” for the U.S. military as it meets the Army’s requirement and reduces missile per-unit costs.
Source / Author: NAVAIR