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PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2021 14:13 pm 
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While the self-defence missile, intended for short-range engagements, has not disappeared, the issue of long-range air-to-air missiles has never been so important. This is because engaging at a safe distance is no longer the only priority: the offensive virtues of air-to-air missiles are being rediscovered. The new Chinese concepts, in particular, envisage "cleaning up" the Taiwanese sky at long range before engaging other means.

In fact, China has made great efforts in the air-to-air domain in recent years, leaving behind a strategy of means based, in the 1980s and 1990s, on the replication/sinisation of foreign missiles (PL-11/Aspide) or off-the-shelf purchases (AA-10 Alamo and AA-12 Adder). For the BVR (Beyond visual range) segment, the PL-12 entered service in the second half of the 2000s and is said to have a range of around 70 km in optimal conditions. It is exported under the designation SD-10. Since then, China has been moving towards VLRAAMs (Very long range air-to-air missiles). The PL-15 will enter service in 2019 and its range will be around 185 km. It was notably observed in the cargo bay of the J-20s (four missiles per bay) operating at the Zhuhai Air Show.

Above all, the attention of observers is focused on a device for the moment qualified as "PL-21" and observed under a J-16. Very long, it would be hypersonic - where most long-range BVR missiles are supersonic - and its range would be around 300 km, or even more depending on firing configurations. The IISS also mentions a version of the missile powered by a ramjet, with an even longer range. While these missiles are all equipped with active radar guidance - with an AESA radar for the most recent - the hypothesis of a capacity to target advanced detection devices by means of passive sensors is also mentioned. If this capability were to be proven, it would be particularly problematic: very long-range engagement, which is the main comparative advantage of Western aircraft, depends structurally on advanced detection. Without AWACS, the F-35 is only of relative use.

To this neutralization of the air force's comparative advantage, we must add that stand-off combat has its own virtues. Engaging Japanese or Taiwanese aircraft at more than 200 km would put Chinese aircraft out of range of SAM (surface-to-air missile) batteries and opposing fighters. With the skies "cleared" and air superiority acquired, offensive air operations could then be undertaken, while China's air-to-air potential would be preserved. Of course, this tactical system presupposes that China's advanced air detection capabilities are also preserved. The long range of the missiles can only be exploited if a target has first been detected...

United States and Russia: VLRAAM as a requirement

American capabilities have been limited to the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile since the early 1990s. However, the latter has evolved, to the point that a test in mid-April 2021 resulted in a record, with the longest range shot made by an American missile. The range of this shot against a BQM-167 drone over the Gulf of Mexico was not revealed, but the previous record was a shot of the AIM-54 Phoenix against a BQM-34 target drone in 1973, at 203 km. The US Air Force also intends to develop new capabilities as part of its NGAD (New Generation Air Dominance) program. Although we do not know exactly what this program covers, it does not only include a combat aircraft. In this case, the AIM-260 Joint advanced tactical missile (JATM) has been under development since at least 2017. Its existence was revealed in 2019 with a view to an IOC (Initial operational capability) in the US Air Force and US Navy in 2022. In practice, this missile, whose design has been entrusted to Lockheed Martin, will eventually replace the AIM-120. Little information has been released about it, except that it will be long-range and equipped with an active radar. Another system, the LREW (Long-range engagement weapon) has been under development by Raytheon since 2015. Called Peregrine, it is a missile with a range comparable to that of the AIM-120, but with half the size - doubling the number of missiles carried on an F-35 or F-22. The missile would also have, for the first time, a multi-mode seeker combining a radar and possibly an infrared imager. On the other hand, it would still be rocket-powered, not ramjet-powered.

The first images published concerning the LREW, in 2017, showed a missile with two stages, and therefore with a booster. The aim is to circumvent the limitations of the AIM-120 - and most air-to-air missiles - whose booster burns up the on-board powder quickly: the impulse allows it to reach Mach 4 quickly, but the craft then exploits the momentum gained and sees its energy degraded, especially at the limit of its range, when it is likely to have to maneuver to hit its target. A two-stage missile offers a longer combined burn time, as well as a new impulse at a tactically more opportune moment. However, such a solution could pose a problem... a big one. In this case, it is to be able to put them on the F-35 and F-22. But not all options are closed. The first images of the F-15EX showed the aircraft equipped with no less than 16 AIM-120s.


Russia has been interested in VLRAAMs since the 1980s, beyond the R-33 (AA-9 Amos) fitted to the MiG-31 and the R-37M (AA-13 Arrow) - the latter having shot down a target from 300 km away in 1993. The development of the Novator K-100 in the very late 1980s is another sign of Soviet work, with the missile being credited with the ability to target AWACS. However, it is not in operational service, but Novator is continuing its work to equip the Su-57 and Su-35 with it. Moscow is also continuing to develop its capabilities. In 2020, a video was published briefly showing an AA-13 missile being fired from an S-35SM.

At the same time, the AA-12 Adder/R-77 family is undergoing new developments. Although its development began in the 1980s, it was not until the early 2000s that it entered service, with a range then estimated at 110 km for the R-77-1 equipping the Russian VKS. The R-77PD, equipped with a ramjet, did not enter service, but the K-77M, powered by a dual-thrust engine, should equip the Su-57, as should the K-77ME, equipped with a ramjet. These last two versions, longer than their predecessors, will receive an active AESA radar. Their range is unknown, but could be well over 200 km.

Europe ahead of the game

If most of the powers are clearly engaged in a race for the VLRAAM, Europe has a head start. Behind the Meteor programme was the observation that air superiority was the prerequisite for any freedom of action, in the air and, by extension, on the ground. Now operational in the air forces that commissioned it (France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy and Sweden), it is officially credited with a range of "more than 100 km", but a reading of the Indian press shows that the missile is well over 160 km. Above all, its propulsion changes the game, with an energy regulation that allows a really sustained flight and much more energy in the terminal phase.

This is especially the case since the Meteor has a two-way data link, another feature that many missiles in the segment do not have. An air-to-air missile launched over long distances will fly towards the presumed position of its target before its active radar takes over for the final attack. However, the greater the distance, the more likely the target is to escape by taking a completely opposite course - if it has detected the launch, which it will increasingly be able to do. With a data link, once the missile is launched, the launching device can provide information to alter the trajectory without wasting fuel. Coupled with ramjet propulsion, the Meteor has a no-escape zone of more than 60 km from its target, an unbeatable performance for the moment. It is all the more so since the Meteor's radar can provide information to the launcher aircraft via the data link.

Translated from https://www.areion24.news/2021/08/10/nouvelle-donne-pour-les-missiles-air-air/

PostPosted: Mon Oct 04, 2021 05:57 am 
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We already posted about this dimwit. Go back to pumping the neighbor's dog.

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