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AIR-TO-AIR, Jordan

Date Posted: 01-Nov-1999

Jane's Missiles and Rockets

Ramjet BVRAAM used in Gulf War combat

Under a "black" programme the US Department of Defense has developed a ramjetpowered
beyondvisual range airtoair missile (BVRAAM). The weapon was deployed to the Gulf in 199091
for use by a single USAF F15 squadron, Jane's Missiles & Rockets has been told. It was used in
combat, downing at least one Iraqi aircraft whose destruction was officially credited to another
type of missile.
US interest in airbreathing airtoair missiles dates back around two decades. Even before the
basic rocketpowered AMRAAM had entered service, the US DoD was investigating alternative
powerplants. The development of a ducted rocket motor was begun under the PE 63313F
'Advanced Missile Subsystem Demonstration' programme.
At that time, AMRAAM was a Hughes programme, and the company was given a $16.9 million Air
contract to develop and test a ducted rocket powerplant, and to deliver flighttest hardware. The
new motor was seen as likely to double the range of a 300lb class missile. The USAF planned to
flight test this powerplant by 1990.
An article by Nick Cook in our sister publication Jane's Defence Weekly reports that the weapon
used in the Gulf was based on the Raytheon AIM120 AMRAAM mediumrange missile, and was
"relatively crude, with boxlike external has supposedly been refined since under a
number of technologyfeeder programmes."
In theory there is no reason why a technologydemonstration missile such as the Hughes ramjet
powered AMRAAM could not have been deployed for limited testing. In most flighttest
programmes involving small missiles, the space reserved for a warhead is used to accommodate a
telemetry package of similar form and weight, so test rounds could have been converted to war
stocks by replacing the telemetry package with a live warhead.
However the degree of envelope and stores clearance needed to conduct launches in the relatively
benign conditions of a test range fall far short of those needed for combat use. Integration and
clearance of a new missile takes time, and can cost tens of millions of dollars, says one missile
manufacturer, and no airtoair weapon is more complex or difficult to integrate than a medium
range missile incorporating radar guidance and an aircrafttomissile datalink.

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Although the description of the ramjetpowered weapon used in the Gulf could match the late
1980s configuration devised by Hughes, the timescale of Hughes project was probably too late to
allow 1990 deployment in a combat role. The missile is more likely to have been the result of
some other programme which had completed the aircraft integration process, and whose missile
had completed enough test launches to be considered reliable enough for combat use.
The concept of applying airbreathing propulsion to an AMRAAMclass weapon was also
investigated in the late 1980s and early 1990s under two USAF "black" programmes codenamed
"Have Dash 1" and "Have Dash 2". Intended to develop the technology for lowdrag stealthy airto
air weapons for use on nextgeneration fighters such as the F22, Have Dash used some Sparrow
and AMRAAM components. It is reported to have used a flattened body shape intended to offer
lower drag when carried conformally, and a higher degree of body lift when in free flight. Initial
flight trials were carried out using AIM7 Sparrow rocket motors, and it is not known whether the
planned airbreathing powerplant was ever flown.
The reported configuration and timescale of the 'Have Dash' programmes make these an unlikely
candidate for the Gulfwar weapon, but there have been reports of a third "black" airtoair missile
programme, a ramjetpowered weapon developed by Lockheed.
The most intriguing aspect of the deployment of a ramjetpowered BVRAAM to the Gulf War is the
likely reason. With the rocketpowered AMRAAM potentially available, why risk compromising a
higher performance "black" weapon? The most likely answer must be that somewhere in the
anticipated spectrum of Iraqi targets were platforms which would have to be engaged at the
earliest possible moment after detection, or while they were heading away from the combat zone.
Obvious candidates in the first category could have been Iraq reconnaissance aircraft attempting
to locate the Allied forces deploying south of the Iraqi and Kuwaiti borders prior to the start of the
ground campaign, or aircraft suspected of attempting to deliver a weapon of mass destruction.
An Iraqi IL76based earlywarning radar aircraft attempting to avoid being engaged could have
been example of a highpriority retreating target, as could any fixed or rotarywing aircraft known
to be carrying senior Iraqi commanders.
The approximate time at which the new missile was fielded in the Gulf remains unknown, so it's
possible that another potential 'retreating' target was Iraqi aircraft trying to leave the country. As
the Allied campaign to target Iraqi aircraft deployed in hardened aircraft shelters, wadis, and even
at roadsides developed, intelligence sources became aware that a move to the safety of another
country was likely, though Jordan was initially seen as the likely destination.
A ramjetpowered missile could also have had an Fpole advantage under some combat conditions
over threats such as MIG25PDs flying 'shoot & scoot' tactics with R40TD missiles, and the risk
that MIG 31s might have been in Iraqi service.

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The news that a ramjetpowered missile was used during the Gulf War will be of particular interest
in the UK, since it could influence the Royal Air Force's choice of a nextgeneration BVRAAM to
replace AMRAAM. The Meteor team lead by Matra BAe Dynamics is offering the ramjetpowered
Meteor missile, while the rival Raytheon team is offering the rocketpowered ERAAMplus and the
option to move at some later stage to a more advanced powerplant such as a ramjet.
Since the Gulf War, US interest in ramjetpowered airtoair missiles has continued, yet these
developments have scarcely been mentioned in the public debate over the rival BVRAAM
In 1996 the USAF started a fiveyear Air Superiority Missile Technology (ASMT) programme
intended to demonstrate seeker, warhead, motor and control systems for future airtoair missiles.
AAM applications. Under this programme Atlantic Research Corporation (ARC) and Alliant
Techsystems have developed an AMRAAMsized variable flow ducted rocket motor that can
provide variable thrust throughout the flight, and has a nozzleless solid boost motor integrated
into the ramjet.
In the following year, McDonnell Douglas announced it received a fiveyear, $22 million contract
under the ASMT programme in June to develop develop and demonstrate an advanced flight
control system that will allow a single missile to perform both closein and beyondvisualrange air
toair missions.
"The dualrange capability of the missile results from a hybrid combination of flight control and
propulsion technologies for both short and longer range missiles," explained Larry Perlmutter,
McDonnell Douglas' programme manager for the ASMT at the time the contract was awarded
"These technologies provide a dramatic increase in missile agility, enabling intercepts in the rear
hemisphere of the launch aircraft, along with enhanced range and speed performance in the
forward hemisphere of the aircraft."
The new flight control system would used technology developed by McDonnell Douglas under the
earlier Alternate Control Technology programme. It would combine small (reducedspan) tailfins
and side thrusting reaction jets integrated into the aft section of the main rocket motor. The jets
would bleed hot propulsive gas from the rocket motor, and be used when high levels of agility
were required to engage a threat. The technique would be tested on the AMRAAM airframe, and
the programme would include the launch of four controlled test vehicles.
In May 1997 Raytheon was awarded a USAF contract for 36 months of study work on the
Advanced Airbreathing DualRange Missile. This work is probably linked to the USAF's WPNS002
proposed Dual Range AirtoAir Missile (DRAAM) study intended to investigate the feasibility of
combining the performance of the AIM120 and the short range AIM9 Sidewinder into a single
design which could be a followon the current preplanned performance improved (P3I) version of
AMRAAM. A weapon of this type would have increased minimum and maximum kinematic ranges
at all aspects of the launch platform, the ability to detect, track, and guide to future threats, and a

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'first shot' opportunity over threat aircraft which would increasing survivability and exchange
This 1997 photograph shows a mockup of an AIM120 airframe fitted with an Atlantic Research
variable flow ducted rocket motor. Interest in weapons of this type may have been boosted by the
secret use of a ramjetpowered BVRAAM during the Gulf War. (USAF)

This 1997 photograph shows...


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