The AIM-120 'AMRAAM' - History, Design, Performance & Discussion


Here we will go over the history, design, performance of the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. I will only currently cover up to the AIM-120B in detail, but later models will be covered as more information is found… legally.




In 1976, a document entitled “Joint Service Operational Requirements for an Advanced Tactical Air-to-Air Missile” was published. The study, written by Air Force and Navy pilots, maintenance, logistics, and supply officers, discussed the operation problems associated with air-to-air weapons employment during the Vietnam war. It also addressed and identified the requirements for an advanced technology missile to replace the existing and relatively ineffective AIM-7 Sparrow missile.

The document identified six major requirements for the future AMRAAM.

  • Able to guide on a target with a high probability of kill while operating in all weather conditions and electronic countermeasure (ECM) environments.
  • Easy to use and universally adaptable to all front line fighters.
  • Capable of launch-and-leave, thus providing a fighter the opportunity to maneuver against enemy air and ground threats.
  • Lighter than the AIM-7 Sparrow allowing a fighter to carry an increased number of missiles.
  • Easily maintainable with a high degree of reliability.
  • Affordable.

From this initial concept, the joint US Air Force / Navy and NATO project came to life. In December 1981, Hughes Aircraft Co. was awarded the contract for full scale development of the AMRAAM. [1]

More to follow…


I will go over the missile based on configuration to the best of my knowledge using public sources, sources will be noted and usually hyperlinked here, but always at the bottom of the OP.

The AIM-120 can be split into these basic sections
Here, I will describe the AIM-120A.


[P1] Pictured here is the seeker, often this frontal portion is simply referred to as the “antenna”.
The AIM-120 uses an active radar for terminal homing with mid-course updates and inertial guidance. [1]

(2) Inertial Block
[P1] The inertial reference unit (produced by Northrop) is a strapdown, three axis unit. It has gyros and accelerometers to sense missile movement. Steering commands are processed using information from this unit and sent to the tail section for maneuvers. [9]

(3) Radar fuse
[P6] A radar based proximity fuse is used in the early AMRAAM.
Part of the warhead unit, “WDU-33/B”. also in the WDU is the FZU-49/B safe-arm fuse device and the Mk44 Mod1 Booster. [2]

To understand more about how radio-proximity fuses work for fin-stabilized missiles, please reference this document.

(4) Rudder drives
[P5] Controlled by the “Weapons Control Unit” (WCU-11/B) [12]
These are the tail control surfaces used to maneuver the missile.

(5) Command line receiver antenna
[P7] The command line receiver is used when it is necessary to correct the missile’s trajectory in the midrange. The radar equipment antenna is placed under a radio transparent fairing (length 530 mm, diameter at the base 17V mm), made of ceramic reinforced with fiberglass. [14]

(6) Engine
[P3] Hercules WPU-6/B propulsion unit
This is a boost-sustain type motor for the AIM-120A/B models. [12]

(7) Warhead
[P2] WDU-33/B warhead (HE-Frag)
This warhead has approximately 14.66 pounds (6.652kg) of PBX explosive and a fragmentation case. [13]

(8) Block of electronic equipment
These electronics process the information received by the missile and send information to the control unit or warhead / seeker.
Developmental AIM-120A antenna assembly (Hughes Aircraft Company photo)
Below developmental AIM-120A ECU module, EU cardcage, processor board and IMU.

(9) Transmitter and power supply batteries
(See link above for pictures)
According to the DCS forum, and the BMS Falcon missile performance… the early AIM-120 has a battery life of around 80 seconds. This means the missile can only continue to function for roughly 80 seconds before it is unable to guide towards, or engage targets.


Performances of the various types as outlined in public sources will be compiled to the best of my ability into stat-card-esque configuration to ease comparison with other missiles in the game.

AIM-120A AMRAAM air-to-air missile


AIM-120A “Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile”
[4] Mass: 326 pounds
[1] Guidance: ARH+IOG+DL
[4] Signal: CW
[?] Lock range: unknown
[1] Launch range: 40 nautical miles
[1] Maximum speed: 4.0 M
[15] Maximum overload: 35G
[?] Missile guidance time: unknown
[2] Explosive type: PBX
[2] Explosive mass: 14.66 pounds (6.652kg)


Here I will put information being frequently discussed / or what we are looking for in particular regarding possible bug reports and such.

  • Battery lifespan 80s??
  • Seeker range ??



[1] AMRAAM - The Air-to-Air Force Multiplier
[2] Simulation of Impact Induced Detonation of AIM-120
[3] Aviation Week & Space Technology 1986-04-07: Vol 124 Iss 14
[4] Hughes AIM-120 AMRAAM (NATO 16 NATIONS)
[5] Test and Evaluation Trends and Costs or Aircraft one Guided Weapons
[6] Solid Propulsion Enabling Technologies and Milestones
for Navy Air-launched Tactical Missiles

[7] From Bombs to Rockets at McGregor, Texas
[8] AIM-120 AMRAAM - Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile
[10] Hughes/Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM Operations Guide* (eFalcon, sim)
[11] A compiled List Of Modern Weapons Of the U.S.Inventory
[12] Fist of the Fleet Association NEWSLETTER
[13] Yellow Book Rev. 13, 2012
[15] Korean Study referencing TO-34-16C (with permissions)
[16] AIM-120 AMRAAM Archives | Air & Space Forces Magazine
[17] Flight Global over the shoulder AMRAAM
[18] Sandia-Motorola Project
[19] Motorola Encryption on AMRAAM
[20] Motorola processors used in AMRAAM

[P1] Source 9^
[P2] Source 2^
[P3] Source 6^
[P4] Source 8^
[P6] National Air and Space Museum AMRAAM display
[P7] Forum Page


Obviously, work in progress. Will be adding a lot more info in the following week.


I’m going to reply the updated OP until I can actually edit… ridiculous.


You can’t edit? It should be available to everyone one now.

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It was letting me edit it for “X” amount of time, after which it no longer could be edited.

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From my experience, TL1 users can only edit a topic up to a day after making it, so we need to get to TL2 which ever so generously allows us to edit a topic up to 30 days after posting it. It’s an incredibly absurd and stupid change, but we have to live with it now because someone thought it would be a good idea.


Regardless, this is an awful situation. We should be permitted to edit posts for an infinite time after posting from TL1.

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Yeah, even 30 days is too short of a time period because new information will inevitably come up after that time window has closed.


Using the public information from above and just putting the same seeker range as AIM-54A (unknown for AIM-120 rn) I’ve made this “stat card”

I use miles for distance, sooo… no. It’s 16km lock range and 100km distance.

C-5 definitely brings a Boost - Coast Motor btw


The AIM-120C-5 does not use a boost-sustain motor. The propellant and motor specs were leaked by Orbital ATK, hence its use and modeling in DCS being pretty accurate.

May I ask, what is the max radar lock range on the onboard seeker on AIM-120 family? Current AIM-54 Phoenix has radar lock range and max radar lock range. One is dependable on the RCS of aircrafts.

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Oh AIM-120A very high manuvering BVRAAM G limit 35G ?

and since AIM-120B to AIM-120D pull same AIM-120A ?

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The AIM-120 maximum overload is allegedly between 28 and 35G, the actual data is classified and unknown.

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We do not know, we are trying to find out. The AIM-54 is designed specifically not to lock a target until around 10.3 nautical miles as to avoid enemy having enough time to maneuver and dodge the missile.

Do you think developer could add a switch for Phoenixes to target small / medium / large aircraft, so it could go active earlier / later?

This is not something that could be done, the Phoenix was pre-programmed to lock onto targets at around 10.3 nautical miles to target on purpose. It may have been programmable, but it would be done missile-by-missile on the ground.

It’s so hard to answer, I think dev guess maximum overload of AIM-120 but don’t know it higher Super 530D, R-27R/R-27R1 & R-27T/R-27T1 ?