Advanced US short-range AAMS for the 1970s - AIM-82, AIM-95 Agile, CLAW

TomS said:
sferrin said:
Pretty sure with Talos it was either/or not both. The nukes were beam riders with the conventional Talos being SARH.

I think it actually was both -- most descriptions of conventional Talos talk about the SARH terminal guidance coming on late in the engagement, with beam riding being used to put the missile close enough to the target for terminal guidance. That's how Talos could do things like attack from above, if the operator steered it over the target before going to terminal homing. For example:

Edit: OK, even better description here:

Very interesting reading. The beam-riding phase used some very neat tricks to keep the missile from snaking around as much as it might.

Yep, that's easily the best Talos source on the net.
PaulMM (Overscan) said:
Bill Gunston had no actual hard facts on Red Dean / Red Hebe when writing the book and was merely extrapolating from e.g. US missile designs. If you didn't know Red Dean was "engineering archaeology" even in the 50s you might wonder why its range was so pitiful.

That explains things. I remember browsing Forbat's book some time before buying it (and before getting my hands on BSP4) and thinking what? A thousand-pound missile with only a four mile range? That scathing review quoted in BSP4 - "Still in the piston era" - says it all. As perhaps does a picture of Folland's early effort on the wingtips of a Meteor.
That’s interesting, I'd thought Talos used a primitive command guidance for its mid course mode. It sure does illustrate the problems of this in any case, with a completely separate fighter sized beam riding radar being required, and a massive ramjet to ensure it looses no speed throughout the flight.

F-4J Phantom II BuNo 153812, Agile missiles, China Lake, 05 October 1971.

Official U.S. Navy photo.


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PaulMM (Overscan) said:
The USAF studied another missile called CLAW (Close Range Attack Weapon), a "low cost weapon about quarter of the weight of Agile".

The CLAW (Concept of a Lightweight Agile Weapon), derived from the AIM-82 project for the F-15, which was abandoned in favor of AIM-95, was represented by the "Concept SS-2A."

Originally, the project called for groups of 4 missiles hanging from the rails of the AIM-9 (up to 16). As soon as the target came within range and angle limits shown in the VTAS HMS, automatic launching of these missiles would occur. The off-boresight capability was 50° and the range was 3.2 km.
I'm not sure I like this "automatic launching" business, unless that's qualified with "designated and enabled by the pilot, with the computer only making the final decision based on target entry to reliable kill parameters".
SpudmanWP said:
For beam guidance to work, the beam can only move as fast as the missile is capable of moving. If you move the laser too quickly the missile will lose track of it. This means that not only will the fighter have to track the enemy, but also his own missile. He will also need to be able to project the laser all around the aircraft unless he is willing to fly straight at the enemy.

Then there is the issue of only being able to fire one missile at a time (unless he has multiple laser projectors).

It's just not feasible or practical.

Really excellent points. Although I do wonder if the move towards DIRCM, 360 degree optical tracking/rangefinding, and more powerful lasers for use as direct energy weapons at shorter ranges could eventually change this someday?
March 14, 1973
Testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee


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Continued testimony:


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Paul ,or anyone, have you been able to glean any new info or insight from the documents. I know a lot was deleted.
Soviet weapons development had courage and we had/have financial concerns. Probably a better system than AA-11/helmet sight and at least 5 yrs ahead.
Its possible to fill in a lot of the blanks with interpretation after the event, its still pretty interesting as a general overview.

The cost estimate of only 1.2 times AIM-9L is interesting, and the fact the rocket engine was similar to AIM-7F in thrust and duration is also interesting. Given some additional aerodynamic surfaces for control after engine burnout, it could have had potential as a BVR IR missile.
I will try to dig up more testimony. Maybe we on this site can actually put a history to this project as opposed to short articles here and there and rumors.

AIM-95 Agile Missile
Since we have been talking about the AIM-82 and AIM-95, here is some additional info from Ron Hinkel via Mark Nankivil on how the AIM-9L took over the AIM-82/95 role:

AIM-9L Background #1 - Way Back

In following the recent postings about Sidewinders, and the Aim-9L in particular, it is time I share what I know on how that came about. What I know and think about this subject comes from my assignment as Air Weapons Officer at Naval Weapons Station, China Lake from the fall of 1973 to summer 1976. Air weapons included Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground. Naturally, Sidewinder projects fell under air-to-air, so I can tell you today that I was there when it was being decided as to what the off-boresight limit and other parameters were to be developed in that missile. IMHO, as good as the -9L was, we, the Navy, gave up too much all-aspect air-to-air weapons capability to accommodate the USAF's lack of success. I'll let you judge later.

Recall the environment of the times; early 70's. Navy performance with F-8s and F-4's getting some Mig kills. AF frustrations with guys in the saddle only to have their Sidewinders go stupid or miss when they should have hit. This was the era of Pirate and the others teaching Navy tactics to them and the start of Top Gun. Now comes a big thrust by USAF brass to stop the embarrassment. Their arguments were that they needed a better Sidewinder, bought so many more missiles than the Navy, and for that they should be given a larger say as to what the next version would be. So they threw money at the project and DoD accepted, even giving them project Management control. The PM at China Lake for the AIM-9L was a LTCOL USAF. I know because I got to shoot one of the development missiles that did not kill the target. The recorded data showed the missile launch to be right in the designed test parameters, but that a circuit failed some where in the weapon system. Obviously, that flaw was fixed as your reported good results in the fleet show.

AIM-9L Background #2 - The Off-Boresight Battle

ACEVAL/AIMVAL Did any of you participate in this 1974-75 Air Farce forced "flyoff to determine what off-boresight capability the next joint missle should have?" In my duty as Air Weapons Officer, I was the Navy operational tech rep to the initial planning and evaluation with NAVWEPSCEN China Lake as the technical folks. China Lake and I were pushing for the 45 degree capability already proven available to our satisfaction and originally planned for the -9L by the Navy. The AF whose mentality at the time, if you recall, was based upon an F-4 with a gun pod, of course, disputed this. That, of course, turned it into a real fighter that could stay with the Migs. What they really wanted was an AIM-9B with minimal off-boresight, but one that worked. So the flyoff went on and the result was a compromise. I think that the AIM-9L off-boresight was set at one half of the 45 degrees and a head on capability was also required. That also had some effect on lowering the off-boresight angle because it was perceived that you had to be closer to head on for the missile performance to catch the guy if he turned away at launch. That does make sense, but I say perceived in that I don't recall if there was any real engineering quality data gathered during these flights to support the operational portion of this decision. Help us if you know something different out there. Technically, you have to remember that all Sidewinders, including the -9L, were fin controlled. That reduced all Sidewinder turning ability two ways. The missile had to go forward for a while to pick up speed before it could turn and the size of the fins were limited because the missile had to fit on the aircraft.

AIM-9L Background #3 - The Problem of Off-Boresight Capability

The issue of off-boresight capability was not, IMHO, fully understood completely by even the good guy Navy operators in the ACEVAL/AIMVAL decision loop. Frustrated as we were at China Lake at the time that was somewhat understandable because the whole thing was a humongous political football. And, its awful hard to see how really close the technology is to what you want without having at least some of the system in your hands trying it operationally. Then, having to fight for it in a David and Goliath scenario. They were in a tough position. Eventually, Navy Washington showed us all the real decision. They wanted the Air Force's money, so we were all told to sit down and shut up which we did. It has become even more understandable from your comments about the uncertainty and flux in training, tactics, Top Gun, etc. going on in the fleet.

The problem with off-boresight capability is that it goes against the grain of our training, our weapons to date, and our inherent instinct to best the other guy. We need to show him we are superior to him by getting behind him in the perfect firing so that he can't get away and blasting him out of the sky. Funny, when you think about it. How gallant is slipping up behind some unawares guy just motoring back to base and letting him have it. Not necessarily superior because it was Smiling Jack and he had the performance aircraft to kick your ass, if he had seen you. Further, I don't recall hearing any WWII ace say something like, "I got 123 kills, really 140, but I don't count those where the guy obviously didn't see me."

Yes, those individual kills win battles, especially a lot of them. But wars are won by attrition. That is reducing the number of enemy aircraft faster than he does yours. If I recall correctly, top gun was created in order to improve the kill ratio of Navy F-8s and F-4s to third world Migs. It is particularly important when one side or both have a fixed or limited supply of assets to draw from. IMHO, in the case of an aircraft carrier, a lot faster. What off-boresight capability gives you is a lesser need both air space and aircraft performance wise to be in the position to achieve your kills and very much less exposure to your being in position to be killed.

AIM-9L Background #4 - The Off-Boresight Capability we could Have Had (Agile)

I turned up at China Lake Naval Weapons Center as the newly appointed Air Weapons Officer and Agile Project Pilot in October 1973. The AIM-95 Agile was an air-to-air missile being developed as an advanced replacement for the AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile. The Navy intended it for the F-14. The US Air Force was developing the AIM-82 missile to equip the F-15 Eagle at the same time. Since both missiles were more or less identical in their role, it was decided to abandon the AIM-82 in favor of the Agile.

The Agile was equipped with a sophisticated, high tech (at the time), Gallium-arsenide infrared band seeker by Hughes. The seeker head had a large off-boresight capability (0 to +/- 165 degrees practical) lock-on capability. The pilot targeted it by using a Helmet Mounted Sight (HMS). A solid-state missile rocket engine was used to provide the go power. Control was achieved by thrust vectoring giving it superior turning capability over the Sidewinder. This combination of greatly improved IR sensor, large off-boresight acquisition and thrust vectoring control would allow Agile to be fired at targets which were not directly ahead•thus making it far easier to achieve a firing position. Did it ever,

I must have flown 20 or 30 test flights with the Agile seeker on F-4s. It was amazing in its ability to detect targets and lock on and track the target aircraft to all angles. Hughes did a fantastic job. The helmet mounted sight to acquire targets worked beautifully. I could climb, dive, stay level, roll inverted, zoom climb or dive, keep my speed up approaching the target or slow to simulate 1 vs. 1 turning and that seeker would lock on as soon as I put the sight on it and pressed the button. What made it even more outstanding was its ability to discriminate the target with a high sun caused hot white cloud background? I easily acquired the target aircraft at off-boresight angles of 0 to about 170 degrees. Now don't restrict your visualization of this to the plane of the wings. You have the whole half cone above you, and you could look down; essentially, wherever you could look you could acquire and shoot a launch and leave Agile. The easier acquisitions occurred when you didn't have to stretch your neck to make them; like between 30 degrees off the nose to about 135 degrees. Tactics, oh yeah! How about this idea? You are about to enter a many on many situation in deuce formation. You both keep the speed up or accelerate, if necessary. You pull up through the fur ball shoot two on the way up. Pull over the top, and shoot two on the way down and run like hell. Eight kills without not much chance of your getting hit. I mean it was going to be that good, I think.

The official line is: The AIM-95A was developed to a point where flight tests were carried out including test firing at China Lake (Not true, to my knowledge) and inclusion in the ACEVAL/AIMVAL Joint Test & Evaluation conducted with both the F-14 and F-15 at Nellis AFB in 1975-78. AIMVAL analysis results indicating limited utility of higher high boresight capability and high cost resulted in opinion that it was no longer regarded as affordable and the project was cancelled in 1975. Instead both the Air Force and Navy developed an improved version of the Sidewinder for use. Although this was intended to be an interim solution, in fact the AIM-9 continues in service today.

The Soviet Union did embark on development of an advanced high boresight SRM with thrust vectoring and subsequently fielded the AA-11/R-73 Archer on the MiG-29 in 1985. NATO learned about their performance due to the German reunification and efforts began to match or exceed the R-73's performance with the IRIS-T, AIM-9X and MICA IR programs.

Author's Note: "If these used thrust vectoring it was Agile again. If not, how could they compete?"

Ron Hinkel
2 August 2015”
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Information on AIM-82. Apparently TRW licenced the Taildog AAM design from Hawker Siddeley Aviation for submission.

AlM-82A Missile Proposals for USAF F-15 Fighter Readied

Proposals for the Air Force’s AIM-82A short-range missile, intended as a dogfight weapon for the McDonnell Douglas F—15 air superiority fighter, are due at Wright-Patterson AFB Mar. 9. At least six companies are expected to submit bids, although a dozen organizations received proposal requests for AIM-82A system definition phase studies last month (AW&ST Feb. 9. p. 13).

Two or more companies are to get USAF awards Apr. 9 for two-and-a-half-month studies. USAF is attempting to ready for presentation to the Office of the Secretary of Defense by Aug. 15 a complete AIM-82A development plan. including names of two contractors prepared to move into a competitive development phase on a fixed-price basis. The attempt appears to be aimed at proving that USAF is ready to proceed with a firm program encompassing well-understood missile technology.

Meanwhile, Navy’s development efforts and experiments relating to its Agile, dogfight missile for the Grumman F-l4 air superiority fighter are to be completed in September, before an anticipated decision on the future of these weapons by Deputy Defense Secretary David Packard.

Air Force and Navy short-range missile requirements are very similar, although there are significant differences. Both weapons are intended for close aerial combat at ranges as short as 1,000 yards, demanding maneuverability and resistance to heavy loads. The Navy weapon is to be larger and heavier to achieve greater maximum ranges and will fly different trajectories than the AIM-82A.

Some efforts probably will be made to combine separate service requirements into a single missile or at least to demand use of common technology. Potential USAF contractors on the AIM-82A were asked to consider the effects of meeting Navy dogfight requirements on the design of the USAF short range missile. The Air Force is expected to show that the Navy Agile timetable would not be compatible with the F-15 initial operational capability date.

The Navy wants an infrared guided missile, while USAF has left guidance of the weapon open, suggesting that either infrared homing or another form of electro-optical homing. like television guidance. would be suitable. Both services require their dogfight missiles to be usable from any attack angle, in sharp contrast with earlier air-to-air infrared missiles, such as Sidewinder or Falcon. These latter two require that the weapon home on infrared energy emitted from an aircraft engine’s exhaust pipe.

Air Force is conducting an evaluation at Holloman AFB of missile seekers as a baseline for AIM-82A guidance seekers. Infrared seekers separately developed by General Dynamics/Pomona and Philco-Ford, and television seekers developed by Bendix, Hughes Aircraft and North American Rockwell, are to be tested by June. All five companies were invited to bid on the AIM-82A missile. The Navy’s infrared Agile seeker is being developed by Hughes Aircraft.

Most unusual design expected to be proposed to USAF for the AIM-82A will be a TRW Systems concept, derived from the Hawker Siddeley Taildog missile technology, recently licensed from Hawker Siddeley Dynamics. This, weapon uses thrust vector rather than aerodynamic control common in western air-to-air missiles. It is essentially a wingless weapon, having only small stabilization fins at the rear, which permit it to be stored and fired from a tube and to make sharp angular maneuvers using tabs.

Twelve companies which received AIM-82A proposal requests were General Dynamics, North American Rockwell, Raytheon, Philco-Ford, Hughes Aircraft, TRW, Bendix, Martin, Grumman Aerospace, McDonnell Douglas, Lear Siegler and Fairchild Hiller.

Aviation Week 2nd March 1970
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Bruno Anthony said:
March 14, 1973
Testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee

Very interesting and thanks Bruno Anthony!
This testimony only reiterates to me what a tragic mistake it was for both the USAF and USN (and I dare say NATO) that the both services once again went down the wasteful and costly path of competing against themselves, at the cost of both programs being cancelled, and regardless of the Aim-9L's improved capability, the USAF/USN and NATO could have preceded the Soviet AA-11/R-73 Archer capability, instead of initiating panic-reactionary programs like IRIS-T, AIM-9X and MICA IR.
Hats off to the Soviet's effort and resolute in developing and operationally fielding the AA-11/R-73 Archer :-[

Quick Turn System Sought For Navy Dogfight Missile

Los Angeles—Navy is conducting extensive studies of propulsive steering and control techniques that will enable its proposed Dogfight air—to-air missile to veer sharply in pursuit of maneuvering aerial targets. The Dogfight missile is expected to be introduced on a version of the Grumman F-14 air superiority fighter. Under the Quick Turn program, Navy is exploring various thrust vectoring techniques which would permit a short-range missile to execute at least a 15 deg. turn, the first 10 deg. of this in less than 0.3 sec. The missile is intended for use in close air combat where it might be required to turn through larger turn angles in shorter periods than any existing air defense weapon.

Results of the Quick Turn effort are likely to be shared by the Air Force, which has a requirement for a somewhat similar Dogfight or short-range missile (SRM) for its projected F-15 air superiority fighter. Like the infrared-guided Sidewinder or Falcon missiles they would supplant, the two Dogfight missiles would home in on the infrared energy emitted in the target's engine exhausts.

Several propulsion contractors. including Thiokol Chemical Corp., Lockheed Propulsion Co. and McDonnell Douglas, are examining propulsive steering concepts, including vectored thrust and jet interaction schemes, as part of the Quick Turn effort. Techniques of warm and hot gas control for roll stabilization of an airborne vehicle also are to be explored, possibly by Hercules, Inc., and Philco-Ford Corp.

These thrusting techniques are to be added to the propulsion package on a special flight-test vehicle which will be built as a test bed for Quick Turn. The Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, Calif., which is responsible for advanced control techniques for air-to-air missiles, is expected to seek an airframe contractor to design and build the vehicle soon. Support and subsystem work on the Navy Dogfight missile has been conducted by several Navy centers. The Naval Weapons Center’s Corona Laboratories are handling the fuzing task, while China Lake has responsibility for propulsion and the warhead. Booz—Allen Applied Research, Inc., has been operating as an analytical consultant for the Navy in connection with Dogfight. Hughes Aircraft Co. is developing a homing seeker for the weapon.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is expected to issue late this month proposal requests for its short-range missile (SRM), the ZAIM-82A, after postponing the start of these baseline systems design studies since last summer. Two or three parallel efforts are anticipated to define SRM for application on the F-15. The Air Force and Navy Dogfight weapon developments may move closer as pressure mounts within the Defense Dept. for the two services to make greater use of common technology for the two air-to-air weapons, which have essentially similar missions.

Aviation Week & Space Technology April 21, 1969
Goodbye AIM-82.

USAF Cancels AIM-82A Missile

Air Force has canceled planned development of the AIM-82A short-range dogfight missile for the McDonnell Douglas F-15 air-superiority fighter for reasons of economy. It will adopt. instead, an advanced version of the Navy’s AIM-9H Sidewinder planned for that service’s Grumman F—14 superiority fighter. But. USAF may have saved sufficient money to insure survival of other important F-15 equipment, including the multi-mode radar, which was under close financial scrutiny by a special USAF committee.

Estimated cost of developing the missile had risen to $209.8 million, according to testimony of Gen. James Ferguson before the House subcommittee on appropriations this spring. USAF had requested $37.2 million in Fiscal 1971 for continued work on the weapon: Concept formulation studies of AIM- 82A were completed in the summer by General Dynamics/Pomona, Hughes Aircraft and Philco—Ford. A decision was pending by Deputy Defense Secretary David Packard on whether to proceed with AIM—82A, the Navy’s proposed Agile short-range missile, or some interim missile, such as the Navy Super Sidewinder, for both the F-15 and FM.

The Agile missile, which will be continued as a backup program for the so-called Super Sidewinder, meets or betters USAF short-range missile requirements. But it is larger, heavier and has a bigger warhead than AIM-82A and would necessitate some aircraft cockpit modifications if it were to be adopted for the F-15. Its initial operational capability date is two to three years beyond that of AIM-82A. Agile is in very early development with seeker and propulsion studies under contract with industry from the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, Calif, which exercises responsibility for the weapon.

Meanwhile, flyoff tests between competitive multi-mode radars for the F—15 were completed in St. Louis Aug. 31. More than 100 flights of the Hughes Aircraft and Westinghouse radars were conducted in two McDonnell RB-66s. A selection between the two radars for
the F-15 is expected in early October. The two avionics companies were working under separate $11 million USAF contracts.
USAF seriously considered various ways of reducing F-lS radar capability including the options of seeking a rangeonly sensor or substituting an existing production radar, such as the Westinghouse APQ-12O aboard the F-4. But the multi—mode radar appears to have rated a high chance of survival.

The planned radar has a detection range of about 40 naut. mi., and lock on range of about 15 mi. It has variable pulse repetition frequency, ranging from low to high, for different modes. This variable pulse repetition frequency complicates an enemy‘s task of jamming the radar. The per shipset price of the radar is believed to be about $300,000.

Air Force review committee also has identified several major subsystems scheduled for the F—15 that could be removed by making engineering changes in the McDonnell F—15 contract if required for economies. These include:
  • Target identification sensor electro-optical, an electro-optical device for permitting pilot to make positive visual identification at ranges in excess of normal visual range (AWST June 22, p. 158). as a solution to identification, friend or foe problem. Northrop is developing such devices, designated ASX-1, for the F—4E.
  • Infrared tail warning device for alerting the pilot to missile and aircraft threats behind the aircraft.
  • Tactical electronic warfare system now in planning stage.
AWST Sep 7 1970.


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unfortunately are not more video materials about such an interesting piece of history

note the burning time of motor!
the total impulse Agile is 13608 Kg*s, for example, the R-60 missile have only 2549 Kg*s


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Do we happen to know why the agile missile failed?
Claims that the missile stagnated after haveing a really good start but doesn't really explain why despite the huge increases in budget.
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Do we happen to know why the agile missile failed?
Claims that the missile stagnated after haveing a really good start but doesn't really explain why despite the huge increases in budget.
It worked well but was expensive and it was judged AIM-9L would be adequate for the job, with more importance being attached to staying out of the dogfight and getting an improved medium range missile (AIM-120) and BVR target identification.
Do we happen to know why the agile missile failed?
Claims that the missile stagnated after haveing a really good start but doesn't really explain why despite the huge increases in budget.
It worked well but was expensive and it was judged AIM-9L would be adequate for the job, with more importance being attached to staying out of the dogfight and getting an improved medium range missile (AIM-120) and BVR target identification.
I mean it only got more expensive because of technical difficulties found somewhere between 1970 and 75, before then it was running fine, that was what I was really wondering.

Also this was the period of the fighter mafia ascendcy so I doubt bvr had anything to do with it, probably a lot more to do with the agile being seen as "unnecessarily complex" compared to the aim-9L, like how the f-15 was seen as "unnecessarily complex" compared to the yf-16.
It worked well but was expensive and it was judged AIM-9L would be adequate for the job

Apparently the Soviet missile designers never believed that it was cancelled but instead was turned into a black-programme so they went and developed their own version - the AA-11 Archer.
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Also this was the period of the fighter mafia ascendcy so I doubt bvr had anything to do with it, probably a lot more to do with the agile being seen as "unnecessarily complex" compared to the aim-9L, like how the f-15 was seen as "unnecessarily complex" compared to the yf-16.

The Fighter Mafia was only one strand of thought in the Air Force. There were high-technology fetishists as well as Luddites. A missile like Agile could be by the F-15 lobby as threatening the F-15 by reducing its unique advantages over, say, the existing F-4 in close combat, plus the cost of procuring it could threaten F-15 procurement. The Lightweight Fighter faction would have probably viewed Agile as excessively complicated, sure, but they weren't making policy across the board.

The Air Force (somewhat reluctantly) signed up to the Navy AIM-9L (originally "AIM-9H PIP") and kicked the requirement down the road.
Navy Spurs Industry Missile Role Service plans to bring contractors into development projects at earlier stage;
Agile program example of new approach
By Clarence A. Robinson, Jr.

Washington—Navy expects to bring industry experience into missile development programs earlier than it previously has with contractors playing a greater role in advanced development. But technology management of missile programs is likely to remain flexible within the Navy, depending on the type of guidance and propulsion employed with a specific weapon.

In general, the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, Calif., will assume more responsibility in managing technical development. The Navy/Hughes Agile AIM-95 air-to-air dogfight missile development program is an example. Baseline configuration of the thrust-vector-controlled Agile, to be used in feasibility demonstration tests, is scheduled for determination in a May 9 program review by the Defense Dept.

The Navy is developing Agile under a new service-contractor team concept that brings industry into the program in the early stages of development. The concept is expected by the Navy to have a major impact on reducing the weapon’s cost in production.

Working with the Navy while Agile is still in advanced development will provide Hughes with transitioning experience that translates later into production expertise. Instead of turning the program over to a contractor selected during engineering development, the Navy will gradually phase the contractor into taking over the program lead during engineering development.

The point at which technical expertise is transferred from the naval laboratory to the contractor is critical to weapons development, and Navy officials expect to bring industry in early in program development. The reasons the contractor is being brought into advanced development of the Agile missile are to take advantage of Hughes’ production experience early enough to prevent costly changes in production and because of the company’s guidance expertise.

Contracting authority will remain at China Lake through Agile prototyping, with the project management office in Naval Air Systems Command here reviewing all facets of development prior to the issuing of requests for proposal to industry.

Hughes will assume authority for Agile late in engineering development, Navy officials said, but it is not certain what relationship Hughes will have with the propellant contractor, Thiokol. The motor may be procured directly from Thiokol and furnished by the Navy to Hughes. The integration authority for Hughes has not been decided, but it is likely Hughes will have that responsibility, Navy officials added.

Navy and Defense officials cite development of the McDonnell Douglas Harpoon anti-ship missile as an example of a well-managed missile program. They said there are similarities between Harpoon and Agile in management techniques.

The basic difference in the two programs, however, is the role played by the China Lake facility, although the Naval Weapons Center is beginning to play an increased role in the Harpoon program now that it is in the later stages of development.

Navy officials said the reason China Lake’s role in technical management has not been the same for Harpoon as for Agile is that the facility has little past experience in developing radar-guided weapons like Harpoon.

A number of missile systems have been totally developed by the weapons center, and the amount of contractor services varies from program to program—from almost none to extensive work with a contractor. Sidewinder, Walleye and Shrike are examples of laboratory development at China Lake with participation later by industry.

[stuff about Harpoon snipped]

Hughes is participating with Naval Air Systems Command and the technical manager at China Lake in identifying tradeoffs with Agile that will ultimately determine the missile’s design. Agile development began at China Lake in the late 1960s so it was natural that the center would manage the program technically, Navy officials said.

China Lake prepares a one-year plan for Agile development, which is detailed and includes test objectives and funding.

[More Harpoon stuff snipped]

Hughes now is working on the final guidance system configuration for Agile, based on the Navy’s conceptual design of the seeker. The missile is designed to make sharp, high-g turns and has a greater seeker tracking angle than present missiles. It is designed to allow Navy aircraft a first shot capability in aerial combat.

Thiokol Corp. is developing the propulsion system for Agile under a contract with the Navy, and the company is likely to continue under separate contracts with the service rather than becoming a subcontractor for Hughes. Thiokol now has a $2.8-million contract for propulsion development. Hughes is operating now under a $5—million contract and expects additional research and development contracts totaling approximately $50 million.

The Navy also has developed a winged version of Agile as a low-level effort backup system and for technology development. But officials emphasized that no problems have been encountered with the Wingless thrust-vector-controlled version of the missile.

The Agile system permits pilots to shoot at targets out of the direct line of sight, since the missile’s thrust vector control is designed for launch against targets off the longitudinal axis of the launch platform. Other options, including mechanical controls, also are being studied, but the thrust—vector system is the leading candidate for fighter-to-fighter engagements.

Agile suitability for use on attack aircraft, as well, is being examined, and early results indicate that it possesses a significant capability as a self-protection weapon for close-air-support aircraft. This could permit attack aircraft to defend themselves without having to jettison their bomb load and abort the primary mission. Use of Agile on attack aircraft could permit elimination or reduction of combat air patrols now required to protect attack aircraft against a fighter threat.

Navy officials are involved in extensive analysis of data gathered from simulated flights with the missile, from ground propulsion tests of the weapon’s thrust-vector controls and mock combat air maneuvering.

Flight Tests

The Defense Dept. has delayed moving the missile into engineering development until after hardware prototypes, which are nearly completed, can be flight tested to better define the requirement. The service is seeking to optimize the data already gathered to establish combat maneuvering parameters for the missile. This will influence the final configuration and cost performance trade-offs as development

Simulator tests have been conducted-in the LTV Aerospace air combat maneuvering simulator in Dallas. In ground maneuvers at the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, Calif., the missile has been programed to perform various combat maneuvers to test aerodynamics during propulsion.

Two Navy operational test and evaluation squadrons—one attack squadron, VX-5, at China Lake, and a fighter squadron, VX-4, at Pt. Mugu—are seeking to determine the tactics and missile characteristics early in the development cycle for comparison with other data already gathered from the various sources.

The service plans to conduct an initial operational test and evaluation of the missile early in the development program. Captive flights with the missile’s seeker are scheduled in a variety of combat maneuvering scenarios with a Navy McDonnell Douglas F-4J to ascertain how much aircraft maneuvering is required when launching the dogfight missile against targets. These tests will determine some design-to-cost tradeoffs.

The missile has been fired over 1.5 million times in flight simulation and a computer has been used to determine trajectory with thrust vector control.

Data from mock aerial combat have been quantified by the Navy to design the Agile missile. This effort was aimed at improving the capability of an aircraft armed with Agile to get off the first shot, Navy officials said.

In the aerial maneuvering, results were summarized for the F-4 against a simulated Soviet MiG-21. The data show the missile’s off-boresight seeker coverage is influential in the mean time from beginning of a dogfight for the friendly aircraft to launch the first missile.

The data include fights typical of projected aerial combat in the enemy airspace starting with the MiG at the nose, beam and tail of the F-4 in equal distribution. The F-4 was at a disadvantage two thirds of the time, Navy officials said. But the time into the dogfight for the first firing opportunity decreases with an increase in the seeker’s off-boresight capability. The program review for Agile scheduled for May is to determine the performance capability required for the missile and to narrow selection of missile subsystems, as well as the final feasibility design for Agile.

Later, Navy officials said, Agile hardware, subsystems and detail engineering will be selected with a look at each option for design-to-cost alternatives. The Navy gained approval for $18 million in Fiscal 1974 and is requesting $20 million for development in Fiscal 1975. The service expects a Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council decision on engineering development in Fiscal 1976.

Other Seekers

In addition to the infrared seeker for the dogfight role, Agile also has been tested with an electro-optical system, and the Navy has long-range plans to test a radio frequency seeker for use of the missile in the defense suppression role.

A new warhead, using annular blast fragmentation, is in development at China Lake for use with the Agile Missile. The warhead concept is not peculiar to the missile, but greatly improves lethality. The thrust vector nozzle is mounted aft in the Agile on a gimbal. The propellant package is located forward in the missile and the exhaust is ducted through the missile’s body to the nozzle. The nozzle is hydraulically controlled and is pointed for missile trajectory. Fins are mounted just forward of the nozzle on a body ring and serve to stabilize the weapon at launch. Once the missile is up to speed, the fins are not required for control.

The Agile weighs slightly more than the AIM-9L Sidewinder missile, which is also in development, but the Navy has a weight reduction project in progress as part of the program.

Agile is being evaluated for cost effectiveness in four versions:
  • Thrust-vector-controlled version to offer the best performance technology will allow.
  • Performance-limited version that makes large compromises to reduce cost.
  • Trade-off version that makes the most cost-effective approach.
  • Aerodynamic-controlled version that meets most of the performance goals, but which has some technological risk and less growth potential.

After advanced development, the Navy plans full-scale development in three phases:
  • Engineering development. About 30 missiles are planned.
  • Prototype phase. About 70 missiles will be built for demonstration, initial operational evaluation and technical evaluation.
  • Pilot production. Approximately 100 units will be manufactured using production funds for operational evaluation and aircraft system tests.

Thrust-vector-controlled configuration of Navy's AIM-95 Agile air-to-air missile is fired from a test stand at China Lake, Calif. in a programed launch with the missile flying a given trajectory for investigation of aerodynamics and controls during maneuvering.

Six programed launches have been conducted with this version of Agile. The warhead space is not employed for that purpose during the tests.
AWST, March 18, 1974
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