Raytheon has started the development of an extended range (ER) variant of the combat-proven AIM-120 advanced medium range air to air missile (AMRAAM).

The missile is dubbed AMRAAM-ER, the missile. It is specifically designed for ground-based air defence, and is expected to enable intercepts at longer range and higher altitudes.

Raytheon Air Warfare Systems vice-president Mike Jarrett said: "With AMRAAM-ER, Raytheon is rewriting the book on ground-based air defence.

"The new missile will be even faster and more manoeuvrable than the current AMRAAM.

"By leveraging many existing AMRAAM components, Raytheon can deliver AMRAAM-ER quickly and affordably with very low risk."

It is planned that the missile will undergo flight testing before the end of the year. It would be integrated into the national advanced surface-to-air missile system (NASAMS), which is claimed to be the most commonly used short and medium-range air defence system in the Nato.

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems business Integrated Air and Missile Defence vice-president Ralph Acaba said: "Combined with the NASAMS launcher, AMRAAM-ER will provide a new level of protection to customers.

"With AMRAAM-ER, Raytheon is rewriting the book on ground-based air defence."

"NASAMS is one of the most easily manned, trained, and maintained systems in the world."

The AIM-120 is powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor. It is a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile designed for all-weather, day-and-night operations, and represents the US Military’s standard air intercept missile carried on tactical fighter aircraft.

The AMRAA has demonstrated operational flexibility in both air-to-air and surface-launch engagement scenarios. It also serves the baseline missile for the NASAMS long range air-defence system.

A total of 36 countries worldwide have purchased the missile. It is currently integrated on the F-16, F-15, F/A-18, F-22, Typhoon, Gripen, Tornado, Harrier and F-4 fighters, while installation is underway on the F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

The NASAMS is a distributed and networked medium-to-long range air-defence system designed to defend high-value civilian and military assets on the ground against air threats.

The system is currently deployed in the US National Capital Region, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, and an undisclosed country, and is also in production for Oman.

Image: The AMRAAM-ER missile is scheduled to be integrated into the NASAMS launcher. Photo: courtesy of Raytheon Company.