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Sub anti-aircraft missile passed test

BOSTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Last autumn's test of AIM-9X missile showed the weapon holds promise as an anti-aircraft component of the arsenal carried by U.S. submarines.

Raytheon said Monday that the AIM-9X launched at the McGregor range in New Mexico last November successfully locked onto and destroyed a drone helicopter, raising the possibility that submerged subs could someday shoot down enemy aircraft.

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"The implications of this first phase test are far-reaching," said Raytheon's Dan Smith. "It provides the Navy with a low-cost solution ... in its approach to littoral (coastal) warfare without having to go through a costly and lengthy research and development process."

The AIM missile is currently launched from fighter planes; however the Navy is eyeing it as part of its Joint Battlespace strategy for future operations in shallow coastal waters. Littoral warfare is seen as a likely scenario for the Navy in the 21st Century as opposed to the "blue-water" battles in the open seas that were envisioned during the Cold War.

Raytheon said the AIM would be added to the torpedoes and cruise missiles currently carried aboard submarines and would "enable the submarine force to strike targets with surprise from shallower coastal waters."

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The metamorphosis from air-launched to underwater will involve developing the ability to place the AIM into a waterproof vertical-launch capsule that will get the missile above the surface where its motor will switch on and its guidance system will locate the target.

The recent testing showed that the missile can promptly acquire the target and get itself into a stable flight path toward the unsuspecting aircraft or surface ship victim, Raytheon said.

The launch was carried out from a Chaparral missile launcher against a slow-moving drone. The goal was primarily to observe the capabilities of the upgraded guidance system and target-acquisition software.

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