AIM-174 Very Long Range AAM (SM-6)

Thing is, roles shifted, even before the F-14 retired. AEGIS ships are the main fleet air defense assets, and now have missiles with enough range to cover a large chunk of the Outer Air Battle area. We should not expect a version of "Dance of the Vampires" with China throwing multi-regimental Badger raids at a USN carrier task force. (If China was thinking that way, they'd have fielded a Backfire-alike capability, probably.)
To be fair, the roles shifted because the threat from Soviet Naval Aviation disappeared along with the Soviet Union. As you said, the primary threat was no longer multi-regiment bomber raids, but was missile armed speedboats, shore fired AshMs, and anti ship ballistic missiles. Threats for which a surface based defense built around AEGIS was better suited for.

But there has always been a concern that either Russia or China would reconstitute a heavy anti ship strike ability that our current AAMs were ill suited to handle. Be that in the form of a rebuilt Backfire force, or built around something like the Khinzal launched from the MiG-31. Being able to take out that kind of threat, whether it's built around Tu-22s or MiGs, is a very high priority for the Navy. At the very least, by being able to eliminate airborne threats via long range AAMs, it let's the destroyers in the strike group focus on things like AShBMs, drones, etc. It just adds another layer of air defense in an era where it looks increasingly likely that great power conflict is firmly back on the table.
 
Although it would be a beast to carry I'm wondering if the USAF should look an air-launched AIM-161D SM-3 Block II from an F-15's centreline station, Why? Well since an SM-3 Block IA was used 16 years in 2008 to shoot-down the defunct from launch USA-193 (A radar recon sat) it seems to me that the Block II version would make a good ASAT.
 
Although it would be a beast to carry I'm wondering if the USAF should look an air-launched AIM-161D SM-3 Block II from an F-15's centreline station, Why? Well since an SM-3 Block IA was used 16 years in 2008 to shoot-down the defunct from launch USA-193 (A radar recon sat) it seems to me that the Block II version would make a good ASAT.
The Block IA did it from the surface. Did not use an aircraft.
 
Do we know if SM-6 has meaningful terminal attack maneuvering? If not, this would help limit the use case for a >$3,5mm round to high value aerial targets, no?
 
Sorry but you can't shoot down (at least reliably) ballistic and hypersonic missiles with fighter-borne radars even if they're AESA-based.

Also, I reckon the Superbug can only carry 4 of these, which wouldn't be substantial in a Pacific fight, bear in mind that these are also way more expensive than regular AMRAAMs and the Navy only has a limited stock of these anyway.

The intention here is to clearly shoot down the PLA's intel aircraft but they're better off adding an anti-radiation seeker and a booster to the AMRAAM for this specific role.

Edit: Also, all of China's AEW aircraft have AESA Radars which are also LPIR; so I have no idea how the seeker would perform in such an environment.
It can maybe launch with four but can it trap with four plus the centerline IRST/gas bag
 
In the RAND monograph Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth, Cliff et al. (2011) assesses the growth of China's PLAAF and provides recommendations on what actions the United States should take in response. One option briefly explored is for a large aircraft such as the Rockwell B-1 Lancer capable of carrying a large number (e.g. 20 or more) of extremely long-range (e.g. 200 nautical miles) air-to-air missiles based on existing airframes such as the Standard SM-2ER / RIM-67 (p. 240).

The problem is that the authors failed to account for the dimensional differences between the the B-1's weapons bays and the proposed missiles. As shown below, the B-1's three weapons bays each have a length of 180 inches or 15 feet. By removing the moveable bulkhead, the forward two weapons bays could be combined into a larger weapons bay of 375 inches or 31.25 feet.
View attachment 733909

Depending on the variant, the Standard missile family has a length of 21.5 feet with the Mark 72 booster or 15.5 feet without the Mark 72 booster. Thus, the B-1 could only internally carry eight Standard missiles with or without the Mark 72 booster if the forward two weapons bays were combined into one. The B-1 could also possibly carry an additional six to twelve Standard missiles using the six external hardpoints.

The B-1 Lancer carrying and firing eight AIM-174 Standard ERAMs internally plus six to twelve additional AIM-174s externally would be an impressive sight.

REFERENCE: Cliff, R. et al. (2011). Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth: Chinese Air Force Employment Concepts in the 21st Century. RAND Corporation. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG915.pdf
I feel as though this would be the most sensible application of giving a bomber the 'missile truck' role... the B-21, while stealthy, lacks the speed to quickly reposition and escape from engagements.
 
Regarding the weight of the AIM-174, TWZ has higher resolution images in their article. If you zoom in, you can see the weight is stenciled right under the C/G marking: 1890 +/- 14 lbs.
I looked up pics on TWZ, but didn't find any with good enough resolution to read the numbers. Can you point me to it?
 
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But there has always been a concern that either Russia or China would reconstitute a heavy anti ship strike ability that our current AAMs were ill suited to handle. Be that in the form of a rebuilt Backfire force, or built around something like the Khinzal launched from the MiG-31. Being able to take out that kind of threat, whether it's built around Tu-22s or MiGs, is a very high priority for the Navy. At the very least, by being able to eliminate airborne threats via long range AAMs, it let's the destroyers in the strike group focus on things like AShBMs, drones, etc. It just adds another layer of air defense in an era where it looks increasingly likely that great power conflict is firmly back on the table.
Probably much better to fly out AIM-260-armed fighters a significant distance from the Carrier with MQ-25 tanker support to conduct outer air battle against mass air-breathing threats like the Backfire, Mig-31K or H-6, air-launched SM-6 isn't isn't really something that can be carried in the numbers required to seriously whittle down those threats,.very much only intended to deal with assets available in limited number operating in depth, like Tankers and AWACS.
 
Probably much better to fly out AIM-260-armed fighters a significant distance from the Carrier with MQ-25 tanker support to conduct outer air battle against mass air-breathing threats like the Backfire, Mig-31K or H-6, air-launched SM-6 isn't isn't really something that can be carried in the numbers required to seriously whittle down those threats,.very much only intended to deal with assets available in limited number operating in depth, like Tankers and AWACS.
Certainly less bulky.

But the plans in the 1980s involved Tomcats packing 4x Phoenix. And it's looking like Super Bugs can carry 4x SM6 with 2 or 3 fuel tanks.
 
It can maybe launch with four but can it trap with four plus the centerline IRST/gas bag
It should, 4x Harpoon (and much heavier than that)+tank is normal.
I would rather be worried about what it'll do to bug's transsonic and supersonic performance.
Flankers are in a better situation here, moderately heavy a2a loads are basic for them.
 
If we're looking at an F-15 could one carry up to 5 or 6 SM-6s?
Might be able to carry 6 or 7. 1 under each wing, maybe 2 on each CFT, and either one more on the centerline pylon or the Legion IRST pod.

And the CFT is questionable, I'm not sure if there's enough space between the forward and aft rails to fit the 15.5' missile. So it may only be a max of 4 or 5, one under each wing, one on each CFT, and one on the centerline if you give up the Legion pod.
 
Probably much better to fly out AIM-260-armed fighters a significant distance from the Carrier with MQ-25 tanker support to conduct outer air battle against mass air-breathing threats like the Backfire, Mig-31K or H-6, air-launched SM-6 isn't isn't really something that can be carried in the numbers required to seriously whittle down those threats,.very much only intended to deal with assets available in limited number operating in depth, like Tankers and AWACS.
Assuming each Bug can carry 4xAIM-174s, then the 3 squadrons in each Air Wing can put the exact same number of 174s as the 2 Tomcat squadrons could put up when armed with their max loadout of 6xAIM-54s. More if the Tomcats launched with only 4 Phoenix per bird.

To me though, the main thing is what this says about the Navy's cooperative engagement plans. The Super Hornet radar can't see anything at the -174's max range. Hell, it can barely see far enough to maximize the AMRAAM. So to make this missile be worthwhile, the Navy is going to need the Lightning to get in close to any inbound enemy formations, and light them up. Then pass the targeting data back to the Hornets for them to launch. I would be very interested to see how the Navy plans to do that. Because they have options. Have the Lightnings engage with with their own AIM-120s first, then guide the -174s? Or reverse it? It'll be interesting to see how they war game it out.
 
Assuming each Bug can carry 4xAIM-174s, then the 3 squadrons in each Air Wing can put the exact same number of 174s as the 2 Tomcat squadrons could put up when armed with their max loadout of 6xAIM-54s. More if the Tomcats launched with only 4 Phoenix per bird.

To me though, the main thing is what this says about the Navy's cooperative engagement plans. The Super Hornet radar can't see anything at the -174's max range. Hell, it can barely see far enough to maximize the AMRAAM. So to make this missile be worthwhile, the Navy is going to need the Lightning to get in close to any inbound enemy formations, and light them up. Then pass the targeting data back to the Hornets for them to launch. I would be very interested to see how the Navy plans to do that. Because they have options. Have the Lightnings engage with with their own AIM-120s first, then guide the -174s? Or reverse it? It'll be interesting to see how they war game it out.
They also have E-2Ds and Aegis that can spot targets.
 
Assuming each Bug can carry 4xAIM-174s, then the 3 squadrons in each Air Wing can put the exact same number of 174s as the 2 Tomcat squadrons could put up when armed with their max loadout of 6xAIM-54s. More if the Tomcats launched with only 4 Phoenix per bird.

To me though, the main thing is what this says about the Navy's cooperative engagement plans. The Super Hornet radar can't see anything at the -174's max range. Hell, it can barely see far enough to maximize the AMRAAM. So to make this missile be worthwhile, the Navy is going to need the Lightning to get in close to any inbound enemy formations, and light them up. Then pass the targeting data back to the Hornets for them to launch. I would be very interested to see how the Navy plans to do that. Because they have options. Have the Lightnings engage with with their own AIM-120s first, then guide the -174s? Or reverse it? It'll be interesting to see how they war game it out.
Surely the GaN version could see much further than AMRAAM range, certainly against larger targets?

They also have E-2Ds and Aegis that can spot targets.
And there's that space-based tracking layer with 'FOO-Fighters'.
 
Surely the GaN version could see much further than AMRAAM range, certainly against larger targets?
Publicly available sources say that the AN/APG-79 has a range of 80 miles (150km). Early AIM-120s had a maximum range of about 65nm. The -120D has a maximum range of 97nm. (Again, those are the publicly available figures).
 
Publicly available sources say that the AN/APG-79 has a range of 80 miles (150km). Early AIM-120s had a maximum range of about 65nm. The -120D has a maximum range of 97nm. (Again, those are the publicly available figures).
80 miles against what type of target? An A380? An FPV drone?
 
It should, 4x Harpoon (and much heavier than that)+tank is normal.
I would rather be worried about what it'll do to bug's transsonic and supersonic performance.
Flankers are in a better situation here, moderately heavy a2a loads are basic for them.
Agreed. Four -174Bs and the centerline IRSTank is a load. That Bug is going to need a hell of a running start to lob those missiles as fast as possible.
 
Publicly available sources say that the AN/APG-79 has a range of 80 miles (150km). Early AIM-120s had a maximum range of about 65nm. The -120D has a maximum range of 97nm. (Again, those are the publicly available figures).
That may be correct for the V(1) against a 1m^2 target according to sources, but you can multiply that by ~2 for GaN, because it's ~16x the power.
 
It should, 4x Harpoon (and much heavier than that)+tank is normal.
I would rather be worried about what it'll do to bug's transsonic and supersonic performance.
Flankers are in a better situation here, moderately heavy a2a loads are basic for them.

I really don't think so. Do you have a pic/video showing a Hornet landing on a carrier with even a single Harpoon? The heaviest single store carried on landing I could find is a 1000 lbs JDAM.
So my guess is the AIM-174 is too heavy. Which is an interesting challenge for the USN... the F-14 could at least bring back 2 AIM-54 iirc.
 
Agreed. Four -174Bs and the centerline IRSTank is a load. That Bug is going to need a hell of a running start to lob those missiles as fast as possible.
In a scenario where you have to fire off those missiles at hostile targets I think it would be worth dropping the tank so you can accelerate faster, which is one of the reasons why I question the wisdom of the whole IRSTank concept.

I'm a bit surprised how the SM-6 (without booster) seems to weigh so much more than the current SM-2MR.
 
I really don't think so. Do you have a pic/video showing a Hornet landing on a carrier with even a single Harpoon? The heaviest single store carried on landing I could find is a 1000 lbs JDAM.
So my guess is the AIM-174 is too heavy. Which is an interesting challenge for the USN... the F-14 could at least bring back 2 AIM-54 iirc.

The maximum bring back weight of the Super Hornet is 9900 lbs (F/A-18E) or 9000 lbs (F/A-18F) according to Boeing.


As for the F-14 Tomcat, the figure is also 9000 lbs. And yes it could (marginally) trap with six AIM-54 (at 1000 lbs apiece). Interestingly, the maximum bring back capability of the proposed Tomcat 21 was to be upped to 16,000 lbs thanks to the new leading edge flaps and trailing edges.

 
Although it would be a beast to carry I'm wondering if the USAF should look an air-launched AIM-161D SM-3 Block II from an F-15's centreline station, Why? Well since an SM-3 Block IA was used 16 years in 2008 to shoot-down the defunct from launch USA-193 (A radar recon sat) it seems to me that the Block II version would make a good ASAT.
The Block IA did it from the surface. Did not use an aircraft.
I know that.



True but an air-launched SM-3 Block II would be able to reach satellites with significantly higher orbits than a spy-sat.
So can GBI.
True but there are far fewer GBI missiles available and they cost a lot more than SM-3 plus they're fixed to one geographic location due to being launched from silos.
This has little to do with the topic of this forum thread, but here are two articles I have read in the past about the potential anti-satellite capabilities of both the RIM-161 SM-3 and the Ground-Based Interceptor:

Wright, D. and Grego, L. (2002, December 9). Anti-Satellite Capabilities of Planned US Missile Defense Systems. Disarmament Diplomacy. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/2005121...pabilities-of-us-missile-defense-systems.html

Grego, L. (2011). The Anti-Satellite Capability of the Phased Adaptive Approach Missile Defense System. Federation of American Scientists Public Interest Report. Retrieved from https://pubs.fas.org/pir/2011winter/2011Winter-Anti-Satellite.pdf
 
The maximum bring back weight of the Super Hornet is 9900 lbs (F/A-18E) or 9000 lbs (F/A-18F) according to Boeing.

Yes, as has been stated before. But the question is what is the heaviest single store that can be brought back?
Again, I have never seen anything heavier than 1000 lbs. No 2000 lbs bombs, no Harpoons or anything like it. Quite a few shots of Hornets taking off with 2000 lbs bombs on the other hand.
 
Sorry but you can't shoot down (at least reliably) ballistic and hypersonic missiles with fighter-borne radars even if they're AESA-based.

Also, I reckon the Superbug can only carry 4 of these, which wouldn't be substantial in a Pacific fight, bear in mind that these are also way more expensive than regular AMRAAMs and the Navy only has a limited stock of these anyway.

The intention here is to clearly shoot down the PLA's intel aircraft but they're better off adding an anti-radiation seeker and a booster to the AMRAAM for this specific role.

Edit: Also, all of China's AEW aircraft have AESA Radars which are also LPIR; so I have no idea how the seeker would perform in such an environment.

This seems primarily a weapon against large, unmanueverable targets like AEW, MPA, bombers, tankers, and HALE UAVs. I suspect it will be perfectly effective in that role. It seems to be an off shelf analog to the PL-20/21 weapon seen on J-11s, which has similar dimensions and even smaller control surfaces. Against a multi engine aircraft, both should be perfectly effective. And neither types should be needed in particularly large numbers to achieve an effect.

IMO the main advantage of the SM-6 platform is that there is basically no development cost, just F-18 integration costs, and also likely economies of scale with producing the AAM with the SAM version. Most of the missile should have common components. It is also possible it might serve as an anti shipping missile, at least in the future.

ETA: I would also say that cost is probably not an issue, particularly if you can largely avoid development costs and can share most of an existing production line. SM-6 is a $4 million dollar missile, but AIM-120 is over a million itself. And if you drop the Mk72 booster, I suspect you save a million per missile. As a specialized anti aircraft weapon against high value targets, several million dollars with almost zero development costs and a hot production line servicing the USN, USMC, and US Army seems like a no brainer.
 
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I thought the point was to get all the Bugs, Legacy and Super alike, using the same radar? It's a logistics thing, only needing one school for radar techs.



Because it's on the order of 2500lbs without the booster?

I think closer to 1500 lbs / 700kg, sans mk72, unless you have a source with a different number.

EDIT: apparently the SM-6 in general and the "Air Launched Configuration" in partiular are significantly heavier than this, though still well under a mk84.
 
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Yes, as has been stated before. But the question is what is the heaviest single store that can be brought back?
Again, I have never seen anything heavier than 1000 lbs. No 2000 lbs bombs, no Harpoons or anything like it. Quite a few shots of Hornets taking off with 2000 lbs bombs on the other hand.

This probably has less to do with the store weight and more to do with how it is fixed to the aircraft. I have been lead to believe that rail launched weapons are much more of a liability in arrested landings. I cannot speak to what weapons are practical bring back weapons.
 

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