A US Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter fired the longest known air-to-air “kill” shot to date in a recent test, the service said Wednesday.
The fighter fired an AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) at a BQ-167 target drone and scored a “kill” from the farthest distance ever recorded during testing at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in March, the 53rd Wing said in a statement.
In March, an F-15C Eagle based at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida launched an AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) at a subscale BQM-167 target drone over the Eglin Test and Training Range, according to an official Air Force statement. The missile shot was a joint exercise involving the 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron and the 83d Fighter Weapons Squadron.
The AIM-120 AMRAAM first debuted in the 1980s as a replacement for the AIM-7 Sparrow missile. The AMRAAM is one of the first air-to-air missiles with its own radar in the nose, which allows the missile to guide itself to its target. The Sparrow, by comparison, required the fighter launching the missile to keep its radar locked onto the target. Many American and Allied fighter aircraft are armed with the one-two punch of short-range AIM-9X Sidewinder and long-range AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles.
The AMRAAM has steadily improved over the decades. Unlike the Sidewinder and other missiles, the Air Force never gave the AMRAAM an official—read: cooler—name. Informally, it’s known as the “Slammer.” According to USAF sources, a modification of the AIM-120D AMRAAM missile is known to be capable of covering a distance of 100 miles (about 161 km) to a target per The Aviationist.
The BQM-167 “Skeeter” is a subscale target drone designed to replicate enemy aircraft during live missile exercises. The Skeeter is powered by a MicroTurbo Tri 60-5+ turbine engine, has a top speed of Mach .92 (705 miles per hour), and reaches a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet. The drone can turn up to 9Gs while evading other aircraft and missiles, and can even pop its own chaff and flares in an attempt to distract incoming threats.
The U.S. military, as it gears up to deter China and Russia’s large conventional forces, is attempting to extend the useful range of all weapons, from howitzers to air-to-air missiles. The goal is to deliver firepower at longer ranges than the enemy can. Theoretically, a force that out-sticks its opponent can land blows without fear of being struck back, while the side with the shorter-range weapons can’t do the same without exposing themselves to enemy fire.
The Air Force says the missile test was in response to a request to explore “long-range kill chain” capabilities. A “kill chain” consists of the sensors, communications, and weapons that work together to target enemy forces.
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