US Navy continues AARGM-ER testing on Super Hornet

The US Navy has completed an Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile-Extended Range (AARGM-ER) captive-carry test flight on a Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet carrier-based multi-role fighter.

US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) announced on May 7 that this sortie had successfully taken place on April 22 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland. It added that this test flight was conducted in support of the first live-fire event, which is due to take place later this spring.

AARGM-ER F/A-18F Captive-Carry Flight Test [US Navy]
A Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet - BuNo 165932 ‘SD-122’ (c/n F078), operated by the US Navy's VX-23 ‘Strike’ - flies with an Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range (AARGM-ER) on April 22 during a captive-carry flight test at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. Note the extensive application of black and white photogrammetry markings all over the fuselage and wing pylons to assist in the analysis of images from high-speed cameras used during weapons release tests. US Navy

The aircraft used for the captive-carry test flight was a two-seat F/A-18F – BuNo 165932 ‘SD-122’ (c/n F078) – operated by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) ‘Strike’ at NAS Patuxent River. This flight marked the first time the AARGM-ER weapon demonstrated its ability to communicate with the F/A-18E/F platform. The Separation Test Vehicle (STV) used its hardware and software to facilitate the controlled free-flight.

Capt Mitch Commerford, program manager for the US Navy’s Direct and Time Sensitive Strike program office (PMA-242), said: “Data collected from this testing will support [the] expansion of flight testing with AARGM-ER to the full performance envelope of [the] F/A-18 Super Hornet. This flight represents a significant step in the AARGM-ER engineering and manufacturing development phase.”

During the test, the Super Hornet conducted a series of aerial manoeuvres in order to evaluate the compatibility of the AARGM-ER with the F/A-18. The test points completed during this test event substantiated F/A-18 carriage compatibility with the munition.

The AARGM-ER weapon is being integrated on both the single-seat F/A-18E and two-seat F/A-18F members of the Super Hornet family, as well as on the Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft. It will also be made compatible for integration onto the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter, with the F-35C carrier variant set to supplement the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G in US Navy service going forward.

By making use of the US Navy’s AARGM programme – which is currently in full-rate production – the new AARGM-ER munition, with its new rocket motor and warhead, will provide more advanced detection and engagement capabilities for use against enemy air defence systems.