Procurement: AMRAAM Envy

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March 30, 2016: Indonesia is buying 36 American AIM-120C7 radar guided air-to-air missiles. Indonesia has 13 F-16s and another dozen on order so more missiles are required. AMRAAM weighs 172 kg (335 pounds), is 3.7 meters (12 feet) long, and 178mm (7 inches) in diameter. AMRAAM has a max range of 70 kilometers. These missiles cost about a million dollars each. They are complex mechanical, electronic, and chemical systems and each of them, on average, suffers a component failure every 1,500 hours.

AMRAAM entered service in 1992, more than 30 years after the first radar guided air-to-air missile (the AIM-7 Sparrow) appeared. The C7 version entered service in 2003. AMRAAM was designed to fix all the reliability and ease-of-use problems that cursed the earlier AIM-7. But AMRAAM has only had a few opportunities to be used in combat but over half of those launched have hit something.

The latest model, AIM-120D entered service in 2008 and has longer range, greater accuracy, and resistance to countermeasures. So far AMRAAMs have spent nearly 2 million hours hanging from the wings of jet fighters in flight. Some 2,500 AMRAAMs have been fired, mostly in training or testing operations. That’s about a quarter of those produced.

AMRAAM replaced Sparrow (AIM-7P), which is still in service. Many countries prefer the older Sparrow which is cheaper and is now more capable and reliable than the earlier versions. This missile weighs 230 kg (510 pounds), is 200mm (7.9 inches) in diameter, and 3.7 meters (12 feet) long. Max range is 50 kilometers and it is mainly used as a surface-to-air missile. Sparrow costs less than half as much as an AMRAAM. Over 50,000 Sparrows, of all types, have been built and over 20 percent of those are still in service. Indonesia opted for AMRAAM because most of its neighbors (Singapore, Malaysia and Australia) have it.

 


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