The AIM-260 air-to-air missile is considered a trump card for US fighters before the Chinese air force’s PL-15 air-to-air missile.

According to international media, the latest fighter jets of the US Air Force are continuing to test firing the AIM-260 air-to-air missile. This is the final testing phase for the US to put this type of air-to-air missile into service before the upcoming 2023. AIM-260 is considered the most powerful aviation weapon in the world today, a counterweight to the fifth generation fighters of Russia and China.

The existence of the AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile, or JATM, was initially confirmed in 2019 during an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center industry conference. The missile is being developed by Lockheed Martin and is expected to replace the AIM-120 AMRAAM in the near future. The JATM has a significantly increased range over the AMRAAM, matching or exceeding the capacity of newer versions of China’s PL-15, according to USAF officials. The AIM-260 is capable of destroying targets at a distance of up to 200 km.

The highly classified JATM is thought to combine a multi-mode seeker with a long-burn rocket system that can fit inside the F-22’s weapons compartment. The Navy’s F/A-18E/F and, eventually, the F-35 will be equipped with it. The image also shows a modular, “stacked” propulsion system, implying that the missile may be customized for longer or shorter missions.

The AIM-260 program has been deployed by Lockheed Martin since 2017, in an effort to find a counterweight to the Chinese Air Force’s PL-15 missile. Currently, the US Air Force is using AIM-120 air-to-air missiles – an old weapon, and completely inferior to China’s PL-15. By 2026, the US expects that the number of AIM-260 missiles will gradually surpass AIM-120. Currently, the Chinese Air Force also owns a missile with a range of up to 400 km, called PL-21. Most likely, in the future the US will have to upgrade the AIM-260, to be able to confront this missile of the Chinese air force.


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