A USAF F-35A Lightning II based at Edwards AFB, California, conducted the first live-fire launch of a guided air-to-air missile for the aircraft type on October 30th, 2013.
The AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) was fired from an F-35A (AF-6) conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) variant fighter operating with the F-35 Integrated Test Facility at Edwards. It was launched over a military test range off the California coast.
Test pilot, USAF captain Logan Lamping, released the AIM-120 radar-seeking missile from the F-35’s internal weapons bay against an aerial drone target in restricted military sea test range airspace. Test data and observers confirmed the F-35 identified and targeted the drone with its mission systems sensors, passed the target “track” information to the missile, and launched the AIM-120 from the aircraft to engage the target drone. After launch, the missile successfully acquired the target and followed an intercept flight profile. Moments before the missile was about to destroy the target, a self-destruct signal was sent to the AIM-120 in order to preserve the aerial drone for use in future tests.
The AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) is a radar-guided air-to-air missile and is the U.S. military’s standard air intercept missile carried on tactical fighter aircraft. The AIM-120 is a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) capable of all-weather, day-and-night operations, and is powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor.
The F-35’s fire control system programs the missile’s internal guidance unit and provides mid-course updates from the aircraft via a data link to guide the AMRAAM toward its target. The AMRAAM’s control section controls the missile in flight using four movable tail fins. As soon as the target is within range, the AMRAAM activates its active radar seeker for autonomous terminal homing.
The F-35A air-to-air missile test occurred the day after an F-35B variant demonstrated a successful air-to-ground weapons test of a 500-pound Guided Bomb Unit-12 (GBU-12) Paveway II laser-guided bomb over a test range at Edwards Air Force Base on October 29th.