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Medium-range air-to-air missile


The AIM-120 AMRAAM is one of the most powerful air-to-air missiles

Country of origin United States
Entered service 1991
Missile length 3.66 m
Missile diameter 0.18 m
Fin span 0.53 m
Missile launch weight 150.75 kg
Warhead weight 22.7 kg
Warhead type HE blast-fragmentation
Range of fire up to 75 km
Guidance active radar homing


   The AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) is one of the most modern, powerful, and widely used air-to-air missiles in the entire world. After it entered limited service in 1991, this missile has been exported to about 35 countries around the world, where it has certainly been proven with over 3 900 test shots and 10 combat victories.

   By the 1980s, the US deemed its current stock of air-to-air missiles, particularly the medium-range AIM-7 Sparrow, were obsolete, or at least not as capable as the latest Soviet missiles of the time. While the Sparrow was effective, with about 60 kills, it was not effective enough. In particular, it had one crushing fault—it was not fire-and-forget, meaning that the pilot was forced to remain on the scene and in danger until the missile reached its target. So, development of the AIM-120 AMRAAM began, along with European development of a short-range missile, resulting in the ASRAAM. In 1991, the AMRAAM entered limited service in the US Air Force. Two years later, it was fully operational there as well as the US Navy, while other countries started to show considerable interest.

   Many of the AMRAAM’s advantages come from its guidance system. It uses active radar homing to find its targets. Thus, the AMRAAM carries its own radar, allowing it to be fully independent of its launcher. The AMRAAM is advanced because it can be fired at targets beyond visual range during all weather conditions, day or night.

   The AMRAAM is fitted with a large and powerful 22.7 kg High Explosive (HE) blast-fragmentation warhead. Although smaller than that of the AIM-7 Sparrow, it is still quite effective, as it is easily able to destroy or critically damage almost all fighter aircraft and even large transport planes. A proximity fuse detonates the warhead.

   The AIM-120 possesses high maneuverability and speed for a medium-range air-to-air missile, due to its powerful engine and light weight. Its WPU-6/B rocket motor can propel the AMRAAM to the startling speed of Mach 4 (4 900 km/h), which is capable of easily overtaking even the fastest enemy aircraft. The AMRAAM also has high maneuverability. This missile combines its incredible speed and maneuverability with long range—up to 75 kilometers on the basic version, as opposed to the AIM-7 Sparrow’s maximum of 50 km.

   The improved AIM-120C AMRAAM can be deployed in the F-22, which carries its weapons internally. Therefore, it is extremely likely that the AMRAAM possesses lock on after launch ability, which allows the missile to be carried internally. Major advantages of this include the fact that the target will probably not be aware that it is being targeted until after the missile is already in the air, giving the target far less time to prepare; and the ability to be fired at targets behind the aircraft.

   The AMRAAM’s most significant fault is that it is prone to engine malfunction in cold weather. Due to this problem, Canada withdrew their order, and Finland placed theirs on hold.

   The AIM-120 is used on a wide variety of aircraft including the Sea Harrier, AV-8B Harrier II, F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-22 Raptor, F-16 Fighting Falcon, KF-16, F-35 Lightning II, Northrop F-5S/T, F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon, Panavia Tornado ADV, Saab JAS 39 Gripen, and P-8 Poseidon.

   The AMRAAM has been widely exported and is in service with around 35 countries including the United States, Jordan, Kuwait, South Korea, Israel, Italy, Poland, Bahrain, Belgium, Pakistan, Taiwan, Morocco, Malaysia, UAE, Denmark, Germany, Singapore, Czech Republic, Oman, Switzerland, Chile, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Turkey, Norway, Netherlands, and Hungary. In addition, Indonesia and Finland are considering buying.

   The AMRAAM has been reasonably successful in the combats in which it has been deployed and has gained about 10 combat victories.

   The AMRAAM missile costs approximately US $1.1 million.




   AIM-120A: basic version of the AMRAAM.

   AIM-120B: slightly improved model with new guidance technology.

   AIM-120C: introduced in 1996, the AIM-120C has a number of improvements over its predecessors, including greater range (105 km) and better homing, although at the cost of a slightly smaller warhead. Outwardly, the AIM-120C is different due to its clipped wings and fins, which allow it to be carried in the F-22 Raptor’s internal weapon bays.

   AIM-120D: this variant incorporates still greater range (about 160 km), better guidance, and a higher kill probability. As of 2016, the AIM-120D is still not fully operational.

   FMRAAM (Future Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile): a ramjet-powered AIM-120. So far, the FMRAAM is still just a concept and there have been no known prototypes.

   SLAMRAAM (Surfaced Launched AMRAAM): a surface-launched version of the AMRAAM marketed by Raytheon. The system can be based on the HMMWV, which will carry five missiles. The Humvee version of the SLAMRAAM has been successfully tested but has received no orders so far. However, the SLAMRAAM missile itself has been used in the NASAMS (see below).

   AMRAAM-ER (AMRAAM-Extended Range): an improved surface-launched missile that uses the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) rocket motor for increased range.

   NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System): the first successful surface version of the AIM-120 AMRAAM. So far, it is in service with Oman, Spain, Norway, and the United States.


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Video of the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile











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