Russia’s AGAT Research Institute is unveiling a new seeker that could become an industry standard in the air-to-air and surface-to-air missile industry. Designated the 9B-1103M-150, the model is a more advanced and compact version of the active RH seeker fitted to the Vympel RVV-AE medium-range air-to-air missile–the Russian equivalent of the Raytheon AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM).
Since air-to-air missiles became the primary fighter aircraft weapon, manufacturers have produced them in size categories with dimensions and endurance based on their firing and range/engagement envelopes. As such, components made for one size or type of missile usually could not work on another. Several technological developments have now changed that, allowing AGAT to develop the 9B-1103M-150 model of its long-standing active radar homing seeker, on display here for the first time ever here at Le Bourget.
“In the air-to-air missile world of today we have infrared [IR] homing missiles which are operating at beyond visual range [BVR], something not possible several years ago and was strictly the territory of a radar homing [RH] missile,” explained AGAT general designers Dr. Josef Akopyan. “The reason is that at longer ranges an IR seeker can take out a target and sometimes be less susceptible to jamming than a RH seeker is. In a similar vein, we now find that there are scenarios when it makes sense to employ an active RH missile at shorter ranges, but on a smaller missile body, so that we retain the maneuverability of the smaller, short-range IR missile–but with the accuracy of an active RH medium-range missile. The two classes of missiles–IR and RH–have now essentially crossed over into each other’s engagement envelopes.”
Designers had previously identified a need to place an active homing seeker on their R-73 (AA-11) missile airframe. But the missing piece of the design for this shorter-range RH missile was a scaled-down version of the same AGAT active RH seeker fitted to the Vympel RVV-AE (AA-12). Akopyan’s design team has taken the standard 200-mm-diameter seeker of the RVV-AE and developed a 150-mm seeker that will fit the R-73 airframe.
“Even though we reduced the overall dimensions of the seeker, it retains all of the operational performance of the larger version used in the RVV-AE. It employs an all-digital signal processing system, which has allowed us to improve its range performance, immunity to jamming, and its overall tactical combat performance,” Akopyan told Aviation International News.
AGAT designers also remark about how much today’s open architecture technology has made a difference in their ability to scale up or scale down the size of a seeker. “Our seekers now are like a set of matryoshki,” said one AGAT representative, referring to the famous Russian dolls. “We have a 350 millimeter [13.8-inch] seeker in addition to the 200- millimeter and the new 150-millimeter model. They are all the same basic design, but as we move up in diameter we add larger antennas, which provide for more range."