WASHINGTON --- When an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet took down a Syrian Sukhoi Su-22 in June — the U.S. military’s first air-to-air kill in nearly 20 years — it launched an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile, a mainstay of the Navy and Air Force’s weapons inventory since it came online in the early 1990s.
But after decades of continued production, the AMRAAM is facing obsolescence problems, and Raytheon, its manufacturer, has fallen behind on a technology refresh due to problems developing an integrated circuit.
The AMRAAM’s obsolescence upgrade, called Form, Fit, Function Refresh (F3R), affects 15 circuit cards that comprise about half of the missile’s guidance section, according to Air Force documents obtained by Defense News. The key component at fault for the delays is the application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), a processor that will be used to execute the missile’s software, the Air Force confirmed in response to emailed questions.
The Air Force and Navy are hopeful that Raytheon can resolve design issues connected to ASIC, which has required more troubleshooting than expected to meet objectives. However, both services have cut their planned buy for fiscal year 2018 by hundreds of missiles, and a key test has been delayed by more than a year.
Raytheon is responsible for designing ASIC, which will eventually be fabricated by one of the company’s suppliers. No other alternatives for this component exist, the Air Force said. (end of excerpt)
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