Do western air forces need to start seriously considering fielding longer-range air-to-air missiles given the growing fighter/missile threat from China?
That is a debate now taking place among military planners which we explore in an Aviation Week & Space Technology article this week (here). Japan is among the countries interested in more air-to-air punch driven by hardware developments in China.
The issue is not straight-forward, though, and there are several points to consider. One of them is rules of engagement for use of such a very-long-range air-to-air missile.
Another question to ponder, of course, is how the need should be addressed. Finding funding for a new program is going to be a challenge in the current fiscal environment, so military buyers may have to look for means short of developing a brand new missile.
But even when thinking about an incremental approach, for instance an upgrade to the AIM-120 Amraam, the path forward is not clear cut. Is adding a ramjet the way to go, or is a multi-pulse motor enough of a bridge, at what should be lower cost and lower risk?
Or maybe we should just bring back the Phoenix missile:
(credit: US Navy)