They still call it the AMRAAM missile, but inside, it’s worlds different from previous versions. The latest variant, known as F3R for “form, fit, function refresh,” includes new software, newer, faster processors and 15 upgraded circuit cards in the guidance section.
“It’s like the first Porsche 911 to what we have today. Same name, fundamentally different car,” said Jon Norman, a retired U.S. Air Force major general who now heads air power requirements and capabilities at Raytheon, an RTX business. “The software unleashes all the core capacity of that weapon. We can process everything faster. We can do our countermeasures faster. We’ve greatly enhanced the range.”
Now, for example, the missile can deploy against targets well beyond the pilot’s visual range. That kind of capability opens up options for commanders, Norman said – specifically in coalition scenarios, with allied forces distributed over great distances against common adversaries.
To Norman, it’s all a new way of validating an old idea: Many successful surface missions begin in the air.
“It goes all the way back to the establishment of the Air Force as an independent service. What they showed was, unless you control the air, you run a huge risk of losing on the surface. They don’t have the freedom to operate, the freedom to attack,” he said. “If we can prevent, through air dominance, those threats from holding them at risk, that gives them greater capability.”