85th TES F-15C fires first IRST-cued AMRAAM

The US Air Force’s (USAF's) 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, has conducted the first-ever live fire of an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) from an F-15C Eagle using an Infrared Search-and-Track (IRST) system. The achievement was announced by the 53rd Wing on August 10.

The F-15C, using the IRST, carried out the successful shooting of a QF-16 full-scale aerial target on August 5. The Eagle was equipped with Lockheed Martin’s Legion Pod IRST Block 1.5 system. The IRST passive target tracking capability was combined with the APG-63v3 radar to datalink the target location to the AIM-120, explained Major Brian Davis, 85th TES Chief of Air-to-Air Weapons and Tactics. During the test, the sensors in multiple spectrums collaborated for the missile to successfully intercept the target and closed kill chains.

85 TES F-15C with Legion Pod
USAF F-15C Eagle 80-0053 ‘OT’ from the 53rd Wing’s 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at its base at Eglin AFB, Florida, on August 5. The aircraft is fitted with the Lockheed Martin Legion Pod IRST Block 1.5 system on the centreline under-fuselage weapons station, which was used for the first time on an F-15C during a test mission on that day to cue a successful AMRAAM launch against a QF-16 USAF/1st Lt Lindsey Heflin

Davis said: “This successful live missile test is significant because an F-15 equipped with an IRST-cued AIM-120 allows us to achieve detection, tracking, targeting, weapons employment and verification of an intercept without being dependent upon radar energy. It’s also not susceptible to radio frequency jamming or a target’s low observable design.”

The test also coincided with the fielding evaluation of the Legion Pod Block 1.5 IRST, where members of both the 85th TES and Operational Flight Program Combined Test Force collaborated to test the datalink characterization to further develop follow-on tactics. Lt Col Jacob Lindaman said: “This proves the capabilities of the US Department of Defense and US Air Force to lethally target an aircraft outside of the traditional radar electromagnetic spectrum. Pairing that with the ability to also adopt the Legion Pod on any platform sets a precedent for what’s to come.”

Nearly a year ago, the USAF hit two other IRST milestones: the first missile shot of an AIM-9X using the Legion Pod on an F-15C and the first flight of a Legion Pod-equipped F-16. The 53rd Wing provides tactical advantage to the warfighter by testing new, operational capabilities, developing tactics and evaluating fielded capabilities.