AIM-155 Advanced Air-to-Air Missile (AAAM)


The AIM-155 Advanced Air-to-Air Missile (AAAM) was a programme to develop a successor to the Hughes AIM-54 Phoenix. The US Naval Weapons Center began a two to three year technology validation programme in early 1982, with simulations, intended to lead to hardware tests, including trials with complete guided missiles. The AIM-155 should have been much smaller and would have less airframe impact than the AIM-54 without giving up performance. The range should have been 270 km, the speed Mach four, the diameter 229 mm and the warhead would have a weight of 13.6 to 22.7 kg. The AIM-155 would have been lighter than the AIM-54, which has a weight of 446 kg (AIM-54A) or 465 kg (AIM-54C), so the intended weight was 300 kg. The AIM-155 was intended for (improved variants of) the Grumman F-14 Tomcat of the US Navy. The F-14 would have been able to land back on an aircraft carrier while it carried eight AAAMs rather than four AIM-54s at present.

The US Congress wanted that this US Navy programme became a combined US Navy and US Air Force (USAF) programme, but the official USAF position was that the service had no requirement for an extended-range air-to-air missile, so it was confining its role to that of monitoring the programme. If a requirement would emerge, the AIM-155 would be purchased and could have armed the McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle and the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22A Raptor. The AIM-155 would have had a much better capability against stealth aircraft than the AIM-120 AMRAAM. This very promissing programme was cancelled in 1992.


The development of the AIM-155 started in 1988 with the award of contracts to two industrial teams, General Dynamics with Westinghouse and Hughes with Raytheon and McDonnell Douglas. The two teams have taken different technical approaches for the development of the AIM-155.

General Dynamics/Westinghouse

General Dynamics and Westinghouse proposed a missile with a multiple-pulse solid rocket motor and a dual semi-active radar/electro-optical (EO) guidance system. This proposal used a small missile in a powered launch tube to increase reliability and a wing-mounted targeting pod with a radar fore and aft of the pod, so that the launch aircraft did not have to fly in the direction of the target. The pod would have a weight of 340 kg and the dimensions of the pod would have been 406 mm x 3,607 mm. Shortly after the launch, the wings extended and after a few seconds the launch tube fell away. The AIM-155 used mid-course guidance, just like the AIM-120 AMRAAM, and in the neighbourhood of the target, the radar became active. If the target would use ECM, the AIM-155 would target on the ECM signals. There was also an infra-red (IR) seeker in case the guidance would fail. The use of all known kinds of targeting systems would make the AIM-155 invincible. The AIM-155 could also have been carried by small (V/STOL) multi-purpose aircraft. This design was based on the Advanced Missile System (AMS), a proposed weapon which General Dynamics studied for a decade. The weight would have been 172 kg and the dimensions 140 mm x 3,658 mm.

Hughes/Raytheon/McDonnell Douglas

The development of the AIM-155 began with an in-house development of Raytheon, called Advanced Intercept Air-to-Air Missile (AIAAM), and revealed in the form of a one-third scale model at the US Navy League 1982 Convention. The AIAAM had an aircraft configuration, with one set of wings and tail controls for twist-and-steer manoeuvring. An inclined supersonic inlet under the belly feeded an advanced ramjet of a hybird propulsion system. One possible propulsion contracter was CSD, who also provided a hybird (rocket/ramjet) propulsion system for the Firebolt. CSD also provided the integral ramjet for the Vought Supersonic Tactical Missile (STM), a long-range research missile for the US Navy, and ducted rockets for other missiles. The AIAAM had thus a wide choice of propulsion systems, and it was hoped to lead the way to the air-to-air member of the planned new family of air-breathing supersonic missiles offering enormously enhanced range and sustained high power of manoeuvre.

A consortium of Hughes, Raytheon and McDonnell Douglas proposed a missile powered by a hybird propulsion system consisting of a ramjet and a solid rocket booster. This form of propulsion would provide a slower acceleration than the rocker propulsion system of General Dynamics and Westinghouse, but the benefit would come at ranges beyond two-thirds of the maximum range when the ramjet powered missile would have been faster. The AIM-155 used mid-course guidance, just like the AIM-120 AMRAAM, and in the neighbourhood of the target a dual-mode active radar/infra-red (IR) guidance system would have been used. The length would have been 3,658 mm.


Ruud Deurenberg, 17 September 1998

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