Friday, August 5, 2011

Aerospace Testing International 2011-07

UK Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft are now flying combat missions over Libya equipped with the MBDA Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), after the weapons clearance on the aircraft was accelerated. The move is the first time new equipment has been installed on RAF aircraft as a result of the Libyan conflict and required intense effort by the UK's test and evaluation community. It had been planned that the clearance of the UK-made ASRAAM would take place in July, but the outbreak of hostilities in Libya in March prompted the rapid fielding of the new weapon, according to an announcement by the UK Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organization in May 2011. The ASRAAM replaces the Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder, which had been the standard close-in protection weapon of the RAF Tornado bomber force for more than 20 years. AIM-9Ls were the most current version in use on RAF Tornado GR4s. The new weapon provides a 'greater self-defense capability against four generation threats'. The accelerated introduction to service involved personnel from a variety of organizations, including the DE&S Fast Air Support and Short Range Air Defence project teams; BAE Systems, which is the GR4 design authority; MBDA, the missile's design authority; test experts from QinetiQ; and the RAF's fast jet test and evaluation unit, 41 Squadron.