Lockheed's AIM-260 To Counter China’s PL-15
Raytheon’s three-decade grip on the U.S. military’s long-range air-to-air missile inventory will soon end. Lockheed Martin won a secret competition in 2017 to develop and field an even longer-range air intercept missile by 2022. U.S. fighter pilots will, at last, have access to a weapon with equivalent range to China’s PL-15, Europe’s MBDA Meteor and Russia’s Vympel R-37M.
The existence of the AIM-260 Joint Air Tactical Missile (JATM) was made public during a June 20 media roundtable in Dayton, Ohio, with Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, the Air Force’s program executive officer for weapons. The AIM-250 shares similar dimensions to the AIM-120 but provides “significantly greater” range.
The AIM-260 is scheduled to begin flight-testing in 2021 and achieve initial operational capability in 2022. It will debut first inside the main weapons bay of the Lockheed F-22 and the Navy’s Boeing F/A-18E/F, then migrate later to the Lockheed F-35.
Currently, the Lockheed F-22 makes up 9% of USAF's fighter fleet while the Boeing F/A - 18E/F makes up more than 77% of the Navy's fighter fleet.