by Kenji Thuloweit
412th Test Wing Public Affairs
5/6/2015 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The
411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force successfully
test fired two guided AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles this year as part of
the latest phase in getting the Raptor closer to using the missile
The AIM-9X is an advanced infrared missile and the newest of the
Sidewinder family of short-range air-to-air missiles carried on a wide
range of fighter jets.
The first guided launch of the AIM-9X from an F-22 Raptor was Feb. 26 by
Maj. Christopher Guarente, 411 FLTS assistant director of operations
and F-22 test pilot. The missile successfully shot down a BQM-34 drone.
The second guided firing was conducted April 29 by Maj. Patrick
Killingsworth, targeting a BQM-74 drone. Both shots were taken over the
nearby China Lake test range.
"The second shot was done in a much more stressing flight regime, doing
things that only the Raptor can do while employing the AIM-9X," said
Jeremy Cookson, F-22 Weapons Integration lead engineer.
These two guided test shots mark the beginning of the integration phase
of the F-22 CTF's AIM-9X program. The CTF completed the carriage phase,
and the separations phase is ongoing with 17 successful releases. These
phases ensure the F-22 can carry and shoot the missile through the
extremes of the flight envelope.
"Once you can fly the AIM-9X, once you can have it safely come off the
aircraft, then it's time to make sure it can hit its target. We are
currently integrating the electronics, having the missile talk to the
aircraft and the aircraft telling the missile where to go," Cookson
The AIM-9X has a digital guidance system and infrared signal processing
that results in enhanced acquisition ranges, greatly improved infrared
counter-countermeasures capability, and extremely high off-boresight
(the angle off of the nose of the aircraft) engagement zones for
unprecedented first shot, first kill air-to-air performance.
The AIM-9X has the same warhead and a slightly modified rocket motor as
previous versions of the missile. Changes also include fixed forward
fins and smaller rear control fins.
"The 9X will give the pilot the capability to launch this missile from
any condition he can find himself in," said Guarente. "The aircraft will
be able to employ the 9X at high angles of attack and high look angles,
which will allow the pilot freedom to maneuver as necessary to achieve
the first shot and kill without being limited by the missile's launch
capability. We are expecting that the 9X will be cleared for launch in
flight conditions no other aircraft can even achieve, bringing the
full-maneuvering capabilities of the F-22 to bear."
According to the Air Force, the F-22 cannot be matched by any known or
projected fighter aircraft. With its stealth, advanced flight controls,
thrust vectoring and high thrust-to-weight ratio and integrated
avionics, the Raptor has the capability to outmaneuver all current and
projected aircraft along with being able to kill enemies without being
Currently, operational F-22s carry the AIM-9M. The AIM-9X will make the F-22 even more lethal.
"The 9X will bring an increased capability in all aspects as compared to
the 9M," said Guarente. "The 9X is a longer range, more maneuverable
missile and can be launched from a much, much larger flight envelope
than the 9M. This will finally give the F-22 a missile that can be
employed at the extreme flight conditions that the F-22 is capable of
operating and often does operate."
The F-22 CTF has helped develop the modified launch rail as well as the
basic software for integration of the AIM-9X into the aircraft avionic
"The AIM-9X will be fielded with the next aircraft software drop and
requires hardware modifications to the launch rail. Further capability
enhancements are expected in the follow-on software drop," added
Cookson said fielding the AIM-9X on the F-22 has been a process,
beginning around 2008 when the Air Force decided to have the Raptor
carry the advanced missile. Through the hard work of the F-22 CTF,
getting the AIM-9X out to the warfighter is closer to reality.
"There have been a lot of findings and challenges along the way and
the whole team has done a phenomenal job getting us to where we are
today. AIM-9X is long overdue on the F-22, but it is going to be a
tremendous capability for the Air Force and that's due to the hard work
this team's doing."