Air Weapons: The Swiss Don't Want To Miss


December 30, 2010:  Switzerland has ordered 150 American AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. Many nations have bought them recently (Chile, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco and Jordan). While the U.S. is supplying Middle Eastern allies with these high end missiles mainly to help contain Iran, some nations, like Chile and Switzerland, merely want to upgrade their armed forces. AMRAAM is considered the most effective, and battle proven, long range air-to-air missile available.

AMRAAM entered service in 1992, more than 30 years after the first radar guided air-to-air missile (the AIM-7) entered service. Vietnam provided ample evidence that AIM-7 wasn't really ready for prime time. Too many things could go wrong. Several versions later, the AIM-7 got another combat test during the 1991 Gulf War. While 88 AIM 7s were launched, only 28 percent scored a hit. The AIM 9 Sidewinder did worse, with 97 fired and only 12.6 percent making contact. That said, most of these hits could not have been obtained with cannon, especially when the AIM 7 was used against a target that was trying to get away.

AMRAAM was designed to fix all the reliability and ease-of-use problems that cursed the AIM-7. But AMRAAM has only had a few opportunities to be used in combat, although 77 percent of the 13 launched have hit something. The 340 pound AMRAAM isn't much bigger that the 200 pound, heat seeking, AIM-9 Sidewinder, but has a much longer (70 kilometers versus 18) range. AMRAAMs cost about $1.1 million each, although the export price is often about double that, to include training, upgrades, and maintenance support.





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