The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy have been quietly working together to develop a new air-to-air missile called the AIM-260 that will replace the venerable AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM.
The two services are worried that the Chinese, in particular, have begun to outrange American fighter jets with their own advanced air-to-air missiles.
The AIM-260 program, also known as the Joint Air Tactical Missile (JATM), has actually been going on for more than two years already, but this is the first time the Air Force or the Navy has publicly discussed it. At present, the only official mention of the project that is publicly available online appears to be a notice about the assistant program manager, an employee of Naval Air Systems Command, winning an award for outstanding logisticians in 2017.
“It is meant to be the next air-to-air air dominance weapon for our air-to-air fighters,” Brigadier General Anthony Genatempo told Air Force Magazine. ”
“It has a range greater than AMRAAM, different capabilities onboard to go after that specific threat set, but certainly longer legs,” Genatempo told Cohen and other reporters. “As I bring up JATM production, AMRAAM production is kind of going to start tailing off.”
The maximum range of the AIM-120 is classified. Experts estimate it could be as great as 100 miles.
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 Air Force officer said that the appearance of the Chinese PL-15, which uses a dual pulse rocket motor, in 2016 was the key factor that drove the Air Force and the Navy to begin the JATM program. Last year, a pair of J-20s flew a particularly notable flight routine at the biennial Zuhai air show with their ventral weapons bays open, showing a full load of four of these missiles.