U.S. Navy Unveils XAIM-147B Air-to-Air Missile

U.S. Navy Unveils XAIM-147B Air-to-Air Missile Photo Credit: @aeros808 on Instagram

During the biennial Exercise Rim of the Pacific RIMPAC 2024, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet was spotted with the new XAIM-147B long-range air-to-air missile. Instagram user Aeros has shared a photo of the missile that was first spotted in 2021. 

The new missile is based on the SM-6 surface-to-air missile minus the solid fuel rocket booster, as it is air-launched. While there haven’t been any official statements regarding the missile’s specifications, it is likely to have a range close to that of SM-6 as it is air-launched at the first speed. SM-6 can hit targets up to 350 km range, depending on the aspect and mid-course guidance provided. For comparison, AIM-120D AMRAAM has a maximum stated range of 160 km. It also likely inherits the active RF seeker from SM-6.

This marks a significant enhancement in the U.S. Navy’s capabilities, with the return of long-range air-to-air missiles decades after the retirement of the AIM-54 Phoenix air-to-air missile used by the F-14 Tomcat interceptors. In addition to air-to-air use, the missile might also be used against enemy ships, as SM-6 missiles, with their high speed and warhead weight, have a dual-use capability. 

This would provide the F/A-18 fighters with an alternative ASuW weapon with a lower target time than jet-powered cruise missiles. XAIM-147B won’t be the only new missile for F/A-18E/F Super Hornets with the ongoing development of AIM-260 JATM air-to-air missile.