Air Weapons: Sidewinder Takes Down Ballistic Missiles


December 8, 2007: The U.S. Department of Defense has developed seekers for AIM-9X (Sidewinder) and AIM-120 (AMRAAM) air-to-air missiles that enable ballistic missiles to be shot down. This happens when the missiles are in their "boost" (moving skyward) phase. Moreover, the seekers were transmitting their images via a NCADE (Net-Centric Airborne Defense Element) communications system. NCADE links aircraft and UAVs, equipped with air-to-air missiles, into a network of sensors, looking for ballistic missile launch. Second count, so the system would have to promptly alert any aircraft near enough to launch a missile, and get that missile moving in the direction of the rapidly climbing ballistic missile.

Equipping aircraft with NCADE missiles would provide another layer of anti-missile protection. It will be several years before NCADE completes testing, then a decision must be made as to whether it's worthwhile putting into service. In several recent wars, the U.S. has had air superiority, but the enemy still had some hidden ballistic missiles that could be fired. This would be the case with Iran and North Korea.

The AIM-9X has a max range of about 18 kilometers, while the AIM-120 is about a hundred kilometers. The NCADE version of the AMRAAM is equipped with a heat seeking guidance system from the Sidewinder, and a rocket booster (making it a two stage missile) so that it can hit ballistic missiles that have moved to a high altitude.


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