The F-35 Will Soon Have a New Missile to Hunt China's J-20 Stealth Fighter

Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Security,

Stealth vs. stealth?

The F-35 Will Soon Have a New Missile to Hunt China's J-20 Stealth Fighter

Lockheed Martin is developing a new air-dominance missile for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and Navy with significantly greater range than the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) as a counter to China’s new PL-15 weapon, a top U.S. Air Force official says. Dubbed the AIM-260, the Joint Advanced Tactical Missile (JATM) is scheduled to begin flight testing in 2021 and achieve initial operational capability in 2022, said Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, the Air Force’s program executive officer for weapons.

“It has a range greater than AMRAAM, different capabilities onboard to go after that specific [next generation air-dominance] threat set, but certainly longer legs,” he said. “As I bring up JATM production, AMRAAM production is kind of going to start tailing off.”

The weapon is initially planned to fly in the F-22’s main weapons bay and on the Navy’s F/A-18, with the F-35 to follow.

“It is meant to be the next air-to-air air dominance weapon for our air-to-air fighters,” he said.

Genatempo explained that the USAF will buy its last AMRAAMs in fiscal 2026 as JATM ramps up, answering combatant commanders’ needs.

He told Air Force Magazine the service hasn’t settled on how many JATMs it might buy in the outyears or how the program will ramp up.

“The future of what JATM looks like, especially out in that outyear increment, is very, very up in the air right now,” Genatempo said. “As far as lot sizes go, it’s on the order of a couple hundred per lot and I don’t think we have a definite plan.”

He expects JATM could be in production as long as AMRAAM, which was first deployed in 1991.

This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2019.

Image: Flickr

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