The US Department of Defense (DoD) awarded Raytheon Missiles and Defense a $236.7m modification contract to manufacture 571 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder missiles with supplementary equipment.

The US Navy, Air Force and foreign military sales (FMS) customers will acquire the products by August 2026.

The modification comes as part of Raytheon’s Lot 23 production for the military services.

Sidewinder’s attributes

The DoD issued the contract as part of the US Navy-led joint programme with the US Air Force. Under this programme, Raytheon provides for both miltiary services and 31 FMS partners.

The AIM-9X Sidewinder is a multi-purpose missile for air-to-air engagements, surface-attack and surface-launch missions.

The advanced infrared-tracking, short-range missile is proven in several theatres around the world.

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The latest Block II variant is equipped with updated electronics, including a lock-on-after-launch capability that uses a new weapon datalink to support beyond visual range engagements.

Falling out of favour?

According to GlobalData intelligence, global spending on Raytheon’s missile will grow from $1m to $2.9m between 2023-2032, which would register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 87.76%.

Despite the Sidewinder’s promising growth rate, observers will take note of the enduring legacy of the Sidewinder and the rising popularity of the German Iris-T model.

As Europe mobilises its air defence systems in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the continent is integrating new missile systems, such as the Iris-T surface-to-air medium-range launched (SLM) system provided by Diehel Defense.

The Iris-T SLM’s forerunning air-to-air short-range missile, the Iris-T SLS, fielded in the German Air Force in 2005, gives Raytheon a run for its money as it was designed to replace the Sidewinder.

While the Sidewinder and the Iris-T SLM have different purposes, we can still expect the latter to outpace the former significantly. GlobalData tells us that global spending on the Iris-T SLM will increase from $28.2m to $112.5m between 2022 and 2024.