16 septembre 2019 |
Raytheon has unveiled an internally funded program to develop a new air-to-air missile called Peregrine that combines the reach of the medium-range AIM-120 and the maneuverability of the short-range AIM-9X, but in a smaller form factor to increase the magazine depth of tactical aircraft.
The unveiling of a Peregrine mockup on Sept. 16 at the Air Force Association’s annual National Convention in Washington comes just three months after U.S. Air Force officials confirmed the ongoing development of the Lockheed Martin AIM-260, which is intended to replace the AIM-120 with a longer-range missile of the same length.
The Peregrine missile is being pitched to U.S. and international customers that want AIM-120 performance in a smaller package to double missile loads in the internal weapon bays of stealth fighters or triple the magazine depth on the external weapon stations of nonstealth aircraft, says Mark Noyes, vice president of business development and strategy for Raytheon Missile Systems.
“What we see it as is a complement to our [AIM-120] Amraam and AIM-9X,” Noyes says
Raytheon’s internal development project follows the introduction of multiple weapons boasting longer range than the nearly three-decade-old AIM-120 design. In addition to the MBDA Meteor, the PL-15 is being developed by China and the Vympel K-77M has been ordered by the Russian government.
The Peregrine also fits into a new category typified by the 2013 unveiling of Lockheed Martin’s Cuda concept, which offered the Air Force a missile with AIM-120-like range—or slightly better—in a package half the size and weight. The Cuda received support from an Air Force Research Laboratory project called Small Advanced Capabilities Missile.
Raytheon lists the Peregrine with a length of 6 ft. (1.8 m) and a total weight of about 150 lb. (68 kg), or roughly half the length and mass of the 12-ft., 335-lb. AIM-120. Although Peregrine shares a common stature with Lockheed’s Cuda concept, there are distinct differences. Lockheed designed the Cuda as a hit-to-kill weapon, but the Peregrine destroys the target with a blast-fragmentation warhead.
The missile is guided to the target with a “multimode autonomous seeker,” says Noyes, but he declined to elaborate. A multimode guidance system places the Peregrine in a different category than the radar-guided AIM-120 and infrared homing AIM-9X. It could more closely reflect the multimode guidance system installed in the Raytheon/Rafael Stunner surface-to-air missile, which combines radar and infrared sensors into a dolphin nose-shaped radome.
A “new, high-performance propulsion section” will accelerate the Peregrine to supersonic speed to achieve potentially slightly better range than the AIM-120, but Noyes declined to describe the specific type of propulsion technology selected for the new missile. Several options are available to modern missile designers. The Stunner uses a multipulse rocket motor, while the MBDA powers the Meteor missile with a ramjet-augmented rocket. Missile developers also have been experimenting with new propellant technologies, including exotic gels.
Even at a range equivalent to that of the AIM-120, the Peregrine should provide similar endgame maneuverability as the super agile AIM-9X, Noyes says.
“It will go supersonic and that’s attributable to that new lightweight airframe and high-performance modular control system,” he says. “That permits it [to] go and do incredible maneuvers, especially at the endgame where it’s needed most.”
How long Raytheon has been developing the Peregrine is not clear. In a blow to Raytheon’s hopes to deliver the successor of the AIM-120, the Air Force awarded the AIM-160 development contract to Lockheed in 2017. Raytheon filed a trademark application for a new guided missile called Peregrine on Aug. 14, 2018. The company is testing components and is “seeing tremendous progress,” Noyes adds.
“We are making a commitment to mature this so our service customers will resonate with its capabilities and demonstrated performance,” he says.