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Hughes AIM-120 AMRAAM

DAYTON, Ohio - The AIM-120 AMRAAM on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The AIM-120 AMRAAM on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile is an all-weather "fire-and-forget" weapon designed to replace the AIM-7 Sparrow. The higher speed, greater range and improved maneuverability of AMRAAM have greatly increased its operational effectiveness over the Sparrow.

The joint Air Force-Navy AMRAAM program began with a 1975 study which recommended that future aerial threats be engaged at 3-40 miles of range. In 1981 Hughes was awarded a full-scale development contract for the new medium range missile after a competitive "fly-off" against Raytheon. The AIM-120 underwent a rigorous eight-year test program and was operational in 1991.

The AMRAAM weighs 340 pounds and uses an advanced solid-fuel rocket motor to achieve a speed of Mach 4 and a range in excess of 30 miles. In long-range engagements, AMRAAM heads for the target using inertial guidance and receives updated target information via data link from the launch aircraft. It transitions to a self-guiding terminal mode when the target is within range of its own monopulse radar set. The AIM-120 also has a "home-on-jam" guidance mode to counter electronic jamming. With its sophisticated avionics, high closing speed and excellent end-game maneuverability, chances of escape from AMRAAM are minimal. Upon intercept an active-radar proximity fuze detonates the 40-pound high-explosive warhead to destroy the target. At closer ranges AMRAAM guides itself all the way using its own radar, freeing the launch aircraft to engage other targets.

A small number of AMRAAMs were carried by F-15 aircraft during Operation Desert Storm, though none were used. The AIM-120 was redeployed to the Persian Gulf in 1992 for use on F-15 and F-16 fighters. In December 1992 an F-16 pilot fired the first AMRAAM in actual combat, shooting down a MiG-25 Foxbat during a confrontation over southern Iraq.

The AIM-120A on display was restored and donated by the Hughes Aircraft Co. and was received by the museum in April 1993.

Click here to return to the Cold War Gallery.

Mask Policy:
In accordance with the updated guidance released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense (DoD) and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will require all visitors to wear face masks indoors effective July 30, 2021 until further notice.

Visitors ages three and up will be required to wear masks while indoors at the museum. This policy applies to all visitors, staff and volunteers regardless of vaccination status. Visitors may wear their own masks or a free paper mask will be provided. Cloth masks will also be available for purchase in the Museum Store.
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