Raytheon lifted the lid on its new Peregrine medium-range, air-to-air missile during the Air Force Association’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference at National Harbor, Maryland. The new weapon employs a similar configuration to the SM-2 Standard fleet defense missile, with long strakes amidships and cruciform tailfins aft. Raytheon released minimal details about the new weapon, but did say that it was, “half the size and cost of today's air-to-air missiles,” while delivering greater range and effect. With a length of about 6 ft (1.8-m) and a weight of 150-lb (68-kg), the missile is about half the size of the 12-ft (3.7-m), 335-lb (152-kg) AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile).
No cost figures were given, but Raytheon insisted that—by using military off-the-shelf components, additive manufacturing, and readily available materials—it can offer an affordable solution for countering current and emerging airborne threats. The Peregrine’s compact dimensions, relatively low cost, speed, and maneuverability may make it well-suited for engaging drones or cruise missiles, as well as manned aircraft. The company said that the weapon will be low-risk and will be rapidly produced, though no details were released as to when the weapon might be available for testing or service entry.
Dr. Thomas Bussing, vice president of Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems, said, “With its advanced sensor, guidance and propulsion systems packed into a much smaller airframe, this new weapon represents a significant leap forward in air-to-air missile development.”
Mark Noyes, business development executive for Raytheon’s air warfare systems explained that the company had “taken the technologies from the AIM-120 AMRAAM, and the AIM-9X Sidewinder and combined them into the Peregrine.”
The Peregrine, which is now in development, offers potentially slightly better range than the AIM-120 but is faster and more maneuverable than legacy medium-range, air-to-air missiles such as the AMRAAM, thanks to what Raytheon coyly described as a “new, high-performance propulsion section.”
Noyes refused to give a detailed range figure for the Peregrine, but did say that, “it can do everything from short-range to beyond-visual-range to beyond-medium-range.” Peregrine combines this long-range performance with the maneuverability of the AIM-9X Sidewinder, thanks to thrust-vectoring. Neither was any detail offered about the blast fragmentation warhead or about the “sophisticated, miniaturized guidance system” and tri-mode seeker, which is able to detect and track targets at any time of day and in any weather conditions.
Raytheon has developed the Peregrine missile using mostly internal research and development funds, and not in response to any formal or stated U.S. military service requirement or program. The company said that it has developed the Peregrine missile to strengthen the capabilities of current fighter aircraft, and to complement the AMRAAM and AIM-9X, rather than to replace them.
The small size of the Peregrine (which is similar to that of the GBU-53/B StormBreaker, SDB II Small Diameter Bomb) will permit fifth-generation fighters such as the Lockheed Martin F-35A to double or triple their AAM loadout. “Peregrine will allow U.S. and allied fighter pilots to carry more missiles into battle to maintain air dominance,” Dr. Bussing observed.