Portuguese Air Force F-16A MLU Fighting Falcon Aircrafts
Portuguese Air Force F-16A MLU Fighting Falcon Aircrafts

Portuguese Air Force Joining AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder Air-to-air Missile Operators Group

The Air-to-Air Missiles Program Office (PMA-259) gained Portugal as its 29th Air Intercept Missile (AIM)-9X International Partner, after Portugal announced it signed and accepted the AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder Air-to-air Missile Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) on September 28. The signed LOA allows PMA-259 to procure 18 AIM-9X Block II missiles on behalf of the Portuguese Air Force to complement Portuguese Air Force’s F-16 fleet. This procurement will be part of the United States Navy’s Lot 23 Production Contract, which will lead to missile delivery in 2026.

The PMA-259 International Programs Team has been working with Portugal representatives since January on this specific LOA effort and has supported an international relationship with Portugal for many years. PMA-259 has provided AIM-9X weapon system information to Portugal, through various Multi-Lateral International Engagements with all five of the F-16 European Participating Air Forces countries: Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway and Portugal. Portugal will receive AIM-9X Block II missiles that will employ the true fifth-generation Block II capabilities of Lock-On-After-Launch, Data Link, and Surface Attack.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon flies near China Lake Naval Air Weapons Center during a successful AIM-9X Block II Short-range air-to-air missile test.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon flies near China Lake Naval Air Weapons Center, California, during a successful AIM-9X test. The aircraft and pilot are from the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (Photo by Tom Reynolds/U.S. Air Force)

The AIM-9 Sidewinder (where “AIM” stands for “Air Intercept Missile”) is a short-range air-to-air missile which entered service with the US Navy in 1956 and subsequently was adopted by the US Air Force in 1964. The AIM-9X entered service in November 2003 and is a substantial upgrade to the Sidewinder family featuring an imaging infrared focal-plane array (FPA) seeker with claimed 90° off-boresight capability, compatibility with helmet-mounted displays such as the new U.S. Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), and a totally new two-axis thrust-vectoring control (TVC) system.

Testing work on the AIM-9X Block II version began in September 2008. The Block II adds lock-on after launch capability with a datalink, so the missile can be launched first and then directed to its target afterwards by an aircraft with the proper equipment for 360-degree engagements, such as the F-35 or the F-22. NAVAIR reported that the missile was exceeding performance requirements in all areas, including lock-on after launch (LOAL). The HHOBS deficiency does not impact any other Block II capabilities, and is planned to be improved upon by a software clean-up build.

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