Country of origin
Missile launch weight
Range of fire
up to 75 km
active radar homing
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
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
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
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 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
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
AV-8B Harrier II,
F-15E Strike Eagle,
F-16 Fighting Falcon,
F-35 Lightning II,
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet,
Panavia Tornado ADV,
Saab JAS 39 Gripen, and
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.
basic version of the AMRAAM.
AIM-120B: slightly improved model with new guidance
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
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
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.
Article by The Tiger
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Video of the AIM-120
AMRAAM air-to-air missile