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Italian Air Force and Navy F-35s to be armed with AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles.

| Defense News Aerospace 2024

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency on March 15 announced that the State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Italy of AIM-9X Sidewinder Missiles and related equipment for an estimated cost of $90.6 million.
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Italian Air Force and Navy F 35s to be armed AIM 9X Sidewinder missilesItaly plans to order a total of 60 F-35As and 30 F-35Bs (Picture source: Lockheed Martin)

The Government of Italy has requested to buy twenty-eight (28) AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II+ Tactical Missiles; four (4) AIM-9X Block II+ Tactical Guidance Units; eight (8) AIM-9X Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM); and two (2) AIM-9X CATM Guidance Units that will be added to previously implemented cases whose values were under the congressional notification threshold. The original Foreign Military Sales cases, valued at $34.1 million ($24.1 million in MDE) and $17.6 million ($9.7 million in MDE), respectively, included a total of thirty-eight (38) AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II+ Tactical Missiles; three (3) AIM-9X Block II+ Tactical Guidance Units; sixteen (16) AIM-9X CATM; and two (2) AIM-9X CATM Guidance Units. This notification is for a combined total of sixty-six (66) AIM-9X Sidewinder Block II+ Tactical Missiles; seven (7) AIM-9X Block II+ Tactical Guidance Units; twenty-four (24) AIM-9X CATM; and four (4) AIM-9X CATM Guidance Units. Also included are active optical target detectors; containers; personnel training and training equipment; classified and unclassified publications and technical documents; warranties; U.S. Government engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated total cost is $90.6 million.

The principal contractor will be RTX Corporation, located in Arlington, VA. Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Italy. However, periodic travel on a temporary basis will be required on an interim basis for training and technical assistance.

Italian Air Force F 35s to be armed AIM 9X Sidewinder missiles 2AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile (Picture source: RTX/Wikipedia)

 AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile

The AIM-9X Sidewinder is a highly advanced, infrared-guided, short-range air-to-air missile. It represents the latest iteration in the venerable Sidewinder family, known for its reliability and effectiveness in combat. The AIM-9X is designed for high agility and lethality in air combat, featuring significant improvements over its predecessors in terms of tracking, range, and countermeasure resistance.

Key features and capabilities

Advanced Imaging Infrared Seeker: the AIM-9X incorporates an imaging infrared (IIR) seeker that provides highly accurate, all-aspect targeting capabilities. Unlike earlier models that used simpler infrared seekers, the IIR seeker in the AIM-9X can distinguish between target and countermeasures, significantly reducing the chances of deception.

High Off-Boresight capability: one of the hallmark features of the AIM-9X is its high off-boresight capability, allowing pilots to engage targets that are not directly in front of their aircraft. This is facilitated by the use of helmet-mounted cueing systems, enabling pilots to aim and fire at enemy aircraft by simply looking at them, rather than having to maneuver their aircraft into position.

Enhanced maneuverability: the missile is equipped with thrust vectoring controls, giving it exceptional maneuverability. This allows the AIM-9X to engage agile targets and perform high-angle turns that were not possible with earlier Sidewinder versions.

Network-Enabled Weapon (NEW) capability: the AIM-9X Block II variant introduces the Network-Enabled Weapon capability, allowing the missile to receive target updates from the aircraft after launch. This feature enables the missile to engage targets even if they move out of the seeker's field of view after launch, providing a significant tactical advantage.

Operational use and effectiveness

The AIM-9X Sidewinder has been extensively tested and is in operational use by the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and various allied nations. Its compatibility with the F-35 and other modern fighter aircraft makes it a critical component of air dominance strategies. The missile's advanced features ensure that it can engage and defeat current and projected air threats, maintaining air superiority in contested environments.

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