The US Department of Defense (DoD) plans to increase the production of its AIM-9X Sidewinder stock to 2,500 missiles in support of the US Air Force, Navy, Army, and Foreign Military partners.

Modifying its contract with Raytheon, an RTX subsidiary, the DoD announced on 29 September that it will add scope to provide additional non-recurring tools, equipment and associated labour to increase production capacity.

This decision comes just after Raytheon won another modification worth $236.7m to manufacture 571 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder missiles with supplementary equipment.

Raytheon’s Sidewinder is a multi-purpose missile for air-to-air engagements, but users can adapt the missile for surface-attack and surface-launch missions.

The advanced infrared-tracking, short-range missile is proven in several theatres around the world, and Raytheon supplies the missile to more than 24 countries worldwide. The company supplies the missiles to Nato member countries and other US-allied nations.

The latest AIM-9X 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.

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AIM-9X can be integrated with a wide range of aircraft, including E/A-18G, F/A-18C/D, F-15, F-15C, F/A-18E/F, F-15E, F-16, F-22 and F-35 models. The missile is also compatible with the NASAM, LAU-7 and LAU-12X series launchers.

Pressure on US to sustain Ukraine military aid

Military donations to Ukraine are waning as a handful of European countries – Poland, Sweden and lately Slovakia after Robert Fico, a populist politician, gained support in the national election last week – and no longer pledges support to the war-torn nation on Nato’s eastern flank.

This puts more pressure on the US – the leader of the monthly Ukraine Defense Contact Group – to sustain military aid to Ukraine. There is also more pressure from the fact that the US narrowly avoided a prospective government shutdown, as Congress recently approved a 71-page continuing resolution to fund the US Government until mid-November, which explicitly excludes any further military assistance to Ukraine.

However, in June, the DoD started supplying 43 AIM-9X missiles to Ukraine, under a $250m contract that may be considered an escalation against Russia in the broader geopolitical climate. Should the Biden administration recover from the current political unrest by year’s end, then additional Sidewinders will certainly be on the table as the war enters its second winter season.