Tucson, Arizona-based Raytheon Co., Missile Systems on July 1 was awarded a US$291.8 million contract to supply 660 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder air-to-air missiles to the U.S. military, as well as — for the first time — Taiwan and Norway.

According to industry analysts, the AIM-9X Block II is the U.S.’ “most advanced short range air-air missile, capable of using its datalink, thrust vectoring maneuverability, and advanced imaging infrared seeker to hit targets behind the launching fighter.”

Such a missile, Defense Industry Daily added, “would have made ‘Top Gun’ a very short movie.”

According to Raytheon, the Block II variant “adds a redesigned fuse and a digital ignition safety device that enhances ground handling and in-flight safety.” The Block II, which obtained initial operational capability in 2014 and entered full production in September 2015, “also features updated electronics that enable significant enhancements, including lock-on-after-launch capability using a new weapon datalink to support beyond visual range engagements.”

The U.S. Air Force, which began equipping the F-22 Raptor with the missiles in March this year, states that the AIM-9X Block II also has enhanced infrared counter-countermeasures capability.

Raytheon adds that unlike previous versions of the AIM-9, the AIM-9X Block II has air-to-ground capability thanks to software upgrades.

The AIM-9X can also be used as part of a short-range ground-to-air defense system against drones, enemy aircraft and incoming cruise missiles. In 2015, the U.S. Army and Raytheon test-fired a Block II variant from a ground launcher to intercept a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying at a 1,500 m altitude. A recent report by RAND Corp on Taiwan’s air defense options stated that “the combination of a short-range interceptor, such as a ground-launched AIM-9X […] and a longer-range ground-launched AIM-120 [could make] for a formidable defense” when used in combination with the long-range Patriot and Tien Kung III air defense systems.

As part of the announced deal, Taiwan will procure 40 AIM-9X Block II missiles, 40 Block II Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM) and 23 All Up Round Containers (AURC). Completion of the contract is scheduled for March 2019.

The AIM-9X Block II missiles will be fitted onto Taiwan's F-16s, which are currently undergoing mid-life upgrades.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White