The US Air Force's (USAF) 33rd Fighter Wing has fired the first AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM) from an operational F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft.
The air-to-air missile firing was conducted as part of a weapons system evaluation at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, US.
During testing, the AMRAAMs were loaded into four separate aircraft and the three primary missiles were shot successfully, therefore not requiring additional missile fires, the USAF stated.
The AIM-120 is an all-weather, beyond-visual-range, air-to-air munition that features active radar with an inertial reference unit.
The missile's microcomputer system makes it less dependent upon the fire-control system of the aircraft.
The active radar guides the missile to intercept the target, thereby allowing the pilot to aim and fire several missiles simultaneously at multiple targets.
By carrying air-to-air missiles, the F-35 becomes a more versatile option for combatant commanders and increases the likeliness of mission success, the USAF stated.
33rd Operation Support Squadron chief of standards and evaluation major Mark Schnell said: “It is important that we have different tools available to us in the cockpit.
“Having an array of tools for the array of targets we will face is going to help us be more lethal while minimising collateral concerns.”
The aircraft is able to carry air-to-air munitions and air-to-ground weapons at the same time, in addition to its GAU-22 25mm Gatling Gun.
Image: An F-35A assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing takes off at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson.