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ASRAAM Missile shown here installed in the weapons bay of an F-35 model. Photo: MBDA

Typical weapons configuration of an F-35B carrying Storm Shadow cruise weapon and Meteor beyond visual range missiles on external hard points and ASRAAM missiles, carried internally. Artist concept: MBDA.

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Australian ASRAAM Demonstrate Full Sphere Capability

The Air Combat Group (ACG) of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) recently demonstrated the capability of an F/A-18 fighter aircraft 'over the shoulder', engaging targets chasing it from behind, employing Advanced short-range air-to-air missile (ASRAAM) in a rarely used 'Lock On After Launch' engagement mode. In this mode of operation, the missile's seeker receives the target's general location prior to launch, but actual target acquisition, and 'lock on' is performed autonomously by the missile, without pilot intervention.

This engagement simulated a "chase down" situation by an enemy fighter and successfully demonstrated the potential for an all-round self protection capability with the ASRAAM. The missile was fired at a target located behind the wing-line of the ‘shooter’ aircraft, flying at low level and typical fighter speed, at a target located behind the fighter at a range in excess of 5km. The result was a direct hit on the target. This capability is inherent on all platforms that provide pre-launch 'over the shoulder' designation information such as F/A-18, Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 JSF. Read more...

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RAAF F/A-18s flying in formation, carrying two ASRAAM, two AMRAAM and a Litening targeting pod. Photo: Australian Defence Organization.
Unlike missiles equipped with radio datalink to facilitate lock on after launch functionality, ASRAAM performs LOAL capability by predicting where the target could be as its seeker enters search mode after launch. Given the missile's high angle of attack capability and seeker's 90 degrees off-boresight angle, ASRAAM is free to engage any target in the front or rear hemisphere immediately after being launched. Employing a 'silent' LOAL mode enables ASRAAM to be used with stealth fighters such as the F-35 even under full stealth mode. In this mode of operation the missile can receive target cues from InfraRed Search and Track (IRST) or helmet sighting systems. The seeker can also receive target cues from external sources, such as oter aircraft in the formation or AWACS. LOAL capability is also essential for the F-35 as in most configurations, missiles are carried and released from within the weapon's bay, where their seekers cannot establish 'Lock On Before Launch' (LOBL) like contemporary short range interceptors.

ASRAAM entered service with the Royal Air Force in 2002, and deployed on Tornado, Typhoon, and shortly F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The missile has been fielded with the RAAF F/A-18s since 2004. MBDA claims the ASRAAM has the largest rocket motor and range for its class (Short range AAMs) and is recommending using the missile in combination with the Meteor, providing optimal coverage with minimum overlap between the two missiles.