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ATK Delivers Second AARGM Test Bed Aircraft

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: 02 May, 2008  (Technical Article)
Modified King Air Aircraft Developed for the Italian Air Force is a Key Asset in United States-Italy Cooperative AARGM Development Program
Alliant Techsystems, the U.S. Navy, the Italian Air Force, and Vitrociset S.p.A., have fielded a second Beechcraft King Air test aircraft supporting development and testing of the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM). The test bed aircraft was developed for the Italian Air Force as part of the AARGM System Development and Demonstration (SD&D), a Cooperative Development Program between the U. S. Navy and Italian Air Force. The aircraft and its integrated AARGM guidance section will be delivered to Italy to conduct tests on Italian ranges. Captain Giorgio Dessi, the Italian Air Force representative at the U.S. Navy - Italian Air Force AARGM Program Management Integrated Product Team (PM IPT) flew on the first test flight February 28th from Van Nuys, Cal. celebrating the completion of aircraft modifications.

'This is a great day for the AARGM cooperative development program,' said Capt. Dessi at a ribbon cutting ceremony in the Van Nuys hangar. 'This key asset will serve to optimize AARGM lethality against ground-based air defense targets, and it is another big achievement that demonstrates the successful cooperation in this great program. I look forward to the aircraft's delivery to Italy.'

This second AARGM test aircraft is identical to the first King Air test aircraft which has been operating on U.S. ranges over the past few years. Each aircraft has a modified nose assembly carrying the AARGM guidance section to support airborne testing of the sophisticated sensor suite. AARGM sensors include an advanced digital, anti-radiation homing (ARH) receiver for passive detection, tracking, and location of threat emitter systems and an active millimeter wave (MMW) radar for terminal guidance. The test aircraft carries a wide array of Avionics and data recording equipment. A crew consisting of a pilot and up-to-four test engineers monitor and evaluate system performance real time during airborne test profiles.

'The first Beech King Air flight testing is an essential element of our AARGM test program and has been critical to our program's success to-date,' said Gordon Turner, ATK's Strike Weapons Director. 'As we complete the developmental and operational testing, this second test aircraft will fulfill a critical role in our overall system evaluation and will specifically support sensor characterization against a wide array of air defense targets. This aircraft shall contribute to the program well beyond the development phase by supporting on-going threat file development efforts.'

When the aircraft is delivered to Italy, it will commence testing against threat-representative targets located on an Italian Test Range in Sardinia. Under the AARGM cooperative development, a number of threat representative systems have been developed and deployed to the Sardinia Test Range. The planned testing allows for optimization of sensor performance in various clutter environments and characterization of target signatures to improve the fidelity of the MMW seeker database.

ATK developed the test aircraft in partnership with Vitrociset S.p.A. and the U.S. Navy / Italian Air Force Integrated Test Team, led by the Direct and Time Sensitive Strike Program Office (PMA-242). The team also includes members from the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division - China Lake. The cooperative test program, conducted on ranges in both countries, is symbolic of the spirit of cooperation between the U.S. Navy and the Italian Air Force with the AARGM Program. 'I am very pleased with our continued progress in developing lethal destruction of enemy air defense (DEAD) capability for our U.S. and Italian warfighters,' said navy Capt. Larry Egbert, the Department of Defense program manager Direct and Time Sensitive Strike programs. 'I continue to be exceptionally proud of the achievements of our international government- industry team.'

AARGM is in the final year of a 5-year System Development and Demonstration (SD&D) phase. The program is on track for a Milestone C decision later this fiscal year and entry into Low Rate Initial Production. In addition to these King Air test flights, the program has conducted extensive lab and field testing, multiple F/A-18C/D Captive Carriage tests, seven successful advanced concept technology demonstrations (ACTD) launches, and two direct-hit developmental test firings.

AARGM is a supersonic, air-launched tactical missile that will be integrated on the F/A-18 C/D, F/A-18 E/F, EA-18G and Tornado IDS/ECR aircraft. The missile is also being designed to be compatible with the F-35, EA-6B and U.S. and Allied F-16 aircraft. Its advanced multi-sensor system, including a Millimeter Wave (MMW) terminal seeker, advanced digital Anti-Radiation Homing (ARH) receiver and a GPS/INS, is capable of rapidly engaging traditional and advanced enemy air defense targets as well as non-radar time-sensitive strike targets. The AARGM MMW seeker can operate in concert with the ARH to counter RF shutdown tactics, or in a stand-alone mode to guide to non-emitting time sensitive targets. AARGM is a network-enabled weapon that directly receives tactical intelligence information via an embedded data link and transmits real-time Weapon Impact Assessment (WIA) reports. AARGM, the successor to the U.S. Navy AGM-88 HARM system, is a U.S. and Italian international cooperative major acquisition program with the U.S. Navy as the executive agent.

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