Air Defense: September 4, 2003

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The U.S. Army has moved ahead to join Norway, Spain and the U.S. Marine Corps in using the U.S. Air Force AMRAAM air-to-air missile for a ground based air defense system. Norway was the first to do this ten years ago, and had their first NASAMS battalion in use by 1995. This system fired the AMRAMM missiles from a six missile container. The ground based AMRAAM has a range of 30 kilometers (it's radar can see out 50-70 kilometers), and can hit targets as high as 65,000 feet. The U.S. Army tested ground based AMRAAM in 1995, but did not push forward to build and use a system. The marines did stay interested, and developed a system, called CLAWS, that had five AMRAMM mounted on a launcher carried by a hummer. AMRAAM missiles only weight 345 pounds each, so this approach works. What makes the AMRAMM so effective as a SAM is the capabilities of its guidance system (which is about two thirds of the $400,000 missiles cost.) Testing also revealed that AMRAAM could be used to shoot down cruise missiles. This is what got the U.S. Army interested. The marine system will replace current HAWK missiles, while the army system (which will be similar, if not identical, to the marine system) will complement Patriot missiles and Stinger shoulder launched SAMs. The army program, called HUMRAAM, has been stalled (or at least in stop and go mode) since the late 1990s. Several other countries are also looking at buying NASAMS.

 


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