Air Weapons: Layers

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February 25, 2009: The (UAE) United Arab Emirates is buying 224 AMRAAM radar guided air-to-air missiles. The UAE wants the latest, C7, version, which contains electronics that can better deal with jamming and deception. These missiles will cost about a million dollars each. The UAE will use them on its F-16E fighters (the most advanced air-superiority version of the F-16).

AMRAAM entered service in 1992, more than 30 years after the first radar guided air-to-air missile (the AIM-7) came into use. Vietnam provided ample evidence that AIM-7 wasn't really ready for prime time. Too many things could go wrong. Several versions later, the AIM-7 got another combat test during the 1991 Gulf War. While 88 AIM 7s were launched, only 28 percent scored a hit. The AIM 9 Sidewinder did worse, with 97 fired and only 12.6 percent making contact. That said, most of these hits could not have been obtained with cannon, especially when the AIM 7 was used against a target that was trying to get away. AMRAAM was designed to fix all the reliability and ease-of-use problems that cursed the AIM-7. But AMRAAM has only had a few opportunities to be used in combat, although 77 percent of the 13 launched have hit something.

UAE has also ordered nine U.S. Patriot air defense batteries, plus 288 PAC-3 anti-missile missiles, and 216 PAC-2 anti-aircraft/anti-missile missiles. All this will cost the UAE about $9 billion. The Patriot PAC 2 missiles cost about $3.3 million each and have a range of 70 kilometers. The Patriot launchers also fire the smaller (in diameter) PAC 3 anti-missile missiles. A Patriot launcher can hold sixteen PAC 3 missiles, versus four PAC 2s. A PAC 2 missile weighs about a ton, a PAC 3 weighs about a third of that. The PAC 3 has a shorter range, of about 20 kilometers.

The F-16s and Patriot give the UAE a layered defense against any air attack from Iran. The Patriot PAC-2 missiles give some protection from Iranian ballistic missiles.

 


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