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The AIM-265 Darkfire is an Osean active radar guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) developed and manufactured by Raytheon Technologies Corporation. It offers a multi-shot capability (Multiple launches against multiple targets), and has the ability to engage highly maneuverable targets, such as jets, small targets such as UAVs, cruise missiles, and in a heavy electronic countermeasures (ECM) environment with a range far in excess of 200 kilometers (108 nmi). Like other active radar-guided air-to-air missiles, pilots use the brevity code 'Fox Three'.

As of 2022 more than 420,000 had been produced for the Osean Air Defense Force (OADF), the Osean Maritime Defense Force (OMDF), and multiple international customers. The Darkfire has been used in several conflicts, achieving total of 1200 air-to-air kills.

A solid-fueled ramjet motor allows the missile to cruise at a speed of over Mach 5 ad provides the missile with thrust and mid-course acceleration to target intercept. A two-way datalink enables the launch aircraft to provide mid-course target updates or retargeting if required, including data from off-board third parties. The datalink is capable of transmitting missile information such as functional and kinematic status, information about multiple targets, and notification of target acquisition by the seeker. According to Raytheon, Meteor has three to six times the kinetic performance of current air-to-air missiles of its type. In addition to this, the missile is also equipped with both proximity and impact fuses to maximise destructive effects and reliability.

History[]

Requirement[]

By the 1990s, the reliability of the AIM-120 AMRAAM had improved so much from the dismal days of the Valkan and Belkan War that it accounted for the largest number of aerial targets destroyed. But while the OADF had passed on the Phoenix and its own similar AIM-47 Falcon/Lockheed YF-12 to optimize dogfight performance, it still needed a long-range multiple-launch fire-and-forget capability for the F-15 and F-16. The Darkfire would need to be fitted on fighters as small as the F-16, and fit in the same spaces that were designed to fit the AMRAAM on the F-15 Eagle. The OMDF needed the Darkfire to be carried on the F-22N Sea Raptor and F-35 Lightning II and wanted capability for two to be carried on a launcher that normally carried one to two AMRAAMs to allow for more air-to-ground weapons. Finally, the Darkfire along with the AIM-260 JATM and the AMRAAM became one of the primary air-to-air weapons of the new Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and X-02 Wyvern, which needed to place all of its weapons into internal weapons bays in order to help achieve an extremely low radar cross-section.

Deployment[]

These are only the notable kills of the Darkfire, the Darkfire served in many operations and conflicts, but cannot list all of them.

Circum-Pacific War[]

The Darkfire was first used in the Circum-Pacific War is on September 29, 2010, when an OADF Lockheed Martin F-16V Fighting Falcon shot down a Yuktobanian MiG-21 as it violated the southern no-fly zone. The second kill of the Darkfire is on October 5th, when a Yuktobanian MiG-29 was shot down by an OADF F-16C.

On November 19th, the OADF 128th Tactical Fighter Squadron 'Raptor', shot down two Ofnir Squadron's Su-35 Super Flankers and damaged one Su-35. Two days later, on November 21st, six OADF Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors from the 96th Fighter Squadron shot down two Belkan Sukhoi Su-27s violating northern Osea airspace. This proved the Darkfire's better ability to shoot down highly maneuverable targets than the AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-54 Phoenix.

The Darkfire continues to serve in the war, with 109 kills with mainly MiG-29s and Su-27s .

Continental War[]

On August 25, 2003, an ISAF Air Force F-16V shot down two Erusean Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s as the ISAF fighter was nearing the airspace of Stonehenge. Later the F-16 successfully returned to base without being intercepted.

The Darkfire was also used by the ISAF Air Force in Operation Early Bird, when an ISAF F-16 fired two Darkfires at a Yellow Squadron Sukhoi Su-37 and one hit was scored, although the ISAF retreats shortly after. Four days later on Operation Rough Seas, ISAF F-16Vs and F-22 Raptors shot down 12 Su-35 Super Flankers and two Grumman F-14 Tomcats with Darkfires.

Emmeria-Estovakia War[]

The Darkfire was first used by the REAF was in August 30, 2015, when Estovakia launched a full scale invasion on Emmeria's capital, Gracemeria. Darkfires were launched from Republic of Emmeria Air Force's F-16Vs and F-22As. The Darkfire shot down 12 C-17A Globemaster IIIs, two B-52 Stratofortress and 19 Sukhoi Su-33s. Later during the operation, an F-22 Raptor fired three Darkfires at a Strigon Su-33, and managed to land two hits on 1st Lieutenant Aleksei Cheshenko's aircraft. The Su-33 suffers heavy damage of its wings and engines, it later landed safely at the P-1112 Aigaion.

During the Bombing of Vitoze, Darkfires were fired by REAF F-16Vs and F/A-18Fs. Thanks to the local ESM support, all Estovakia's bombers were shot down and the destruction of Khesed forces was prevented. The missiles shot down six B-52s, 14 F-4E Phantom IIs, four Mirage 2000-5s and two F/A-18F Super Hornets.

Guidance system overview[]

The AIM-265 Darkfire has two-stage guidance when fired from long range.

Interception course stage

The aircraft passes data to the missile just before launch, giving it information about the location of the target aircraft from the launch point, including its direction and speed. This information is generally obtained using the launching aircraft's radar, although it could come from an InfraRed Search and Track system (IRST), from another fighter aircraft via a data link, or from an AWACS aircraft. Using its built-in inertial navigation system (INS), the missile uses the information provided to it pre-launch to fly on an interception course toward the target

After launch, if the firing aircraft or surrogate continues to track the target, periodic updates, e.g. changes in the target's direction and speed, are sent from the launch aircraft to the missile, allowing the missile to adjust its course, so that it is able to close to a self-homing distance where it will be close enough to "catch" the target aircraft in the basket (The missile's radar field of view in which it will be able to lock onto the target aircraft, unassisted by the launch aircraft).

Terminal stage and impact

Once the missile closes to self-homing distance, it turns on its active radar seeker and searches for the target aircraft. If the target is in or near the expected location, the missile will find it and guide itself to the target from this point. If the missile is fired at short range, within visual range (WVR) or the near BVR, it can use its active seeker just after launch to guide it to intercept.

Boresight Visual Mode

Apart from the radar-slaved mode, the Darkfire has a free guidance mode, called "Visual". This mode is host-aircraft radar guidance-free—the missile just fires and locks onto the first thing it sees. This mode can be used for defensive shots, i.e. when the enemy has numerical superiority.

Variants and upgrades[]

Air-to-Air variants[]

There are five main variants of the AIM-265, with the main operator is the Osean Air Defense Force (OADF) and all variants are available for export. The AIM-265A is no longer in production and shares the enlarged wings and fins with the successor AIM-265B. The AIM-265C has smaller "clipped" aerosurfaces to enable internal carriage on F-22 Raptors.

The AIM-265C deliveries began in 1996, and now it is the most produced and most used variant. The C-variant has been steadily upgraded since it was introduced. The AIM-265C-4 contained an improved fuze (Target Detection Device) compared to its predecessor. The AIM-265C-7 development began in 1998 and included improvements in homing and greater range (Actual amount of improvement unspecified). It was successfully tested in 2003 and is currently being produced for both domestic and foreign customers. It helped the OMDF replace the F-14 Tomcats with F/D-14 Tomcat IIs and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets – the AIM-54 Phoenix is being replaced by the extreme long-range AIM-265D. The lighter weight of the enhanced Darkfire enables F/A-18E/F pilots greater bring-back weight upon carrier landings.

The AIM-265D is an upgraded version of the Darkfire with improvements in almost all areas, including 69% greater range (than the already-extended range AIM-265C-7) and better guidance over its entire flight envelope yielding an improved kill probability (Pk). Raytheon began testing the D model on August 5, 2006, the company reported that an AIM-265D launched from an F/A-18E Super Hornet passed within lethal distance of a QF-4 target drone at the White Sands Missile Range. The range of the AIM-265D is around 369km (230 miles).

The AIM-265D (Formerly known as AIM-265C-87) is a development of the AIM-265C with a two-way data link, more accurate navigation using a GPS-enhanced IMU, an expanded no-escape envelope, and improved HOBS (High off-boresight) capability. The AIM-1265D max speed is Mach 6 and AIM-265D is a joint OADF/OMDF project, and is currently in the testing phase. The OMDF was scheduled to field it from 2011, and AIM-265D will be carried by all carrier groups by 2023. The Royal Australian Air Force requested 450 AIM-120D missiles, which would make it the first foreign operator of the missile. The procurement, approved by the US Government in April 2016, will cost $1.1 billion and will be integrated for use on the F-16V Fighting Falcon, F/C-16 Fighting Falcon II, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, E/F-18 Hornet II, EA-18G Growler, F/A-18X Black Wasp, F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II.

Specifications (AIM-265C Darkfire)[]

Mass: 191kg (420lb)

Length: 3.65 m (12ft 0 in)

Diameter: 18cm (7.08 in)

Warhead: High explosive blast-fragmentation

Detonation mechanism: Proximity/Impact fuze

Engine: Ramjet

Operational range: Maximum range: 369km (200 nmi); No Escape Zone: 72km (39 nmi)

Maximum speed: Mach 6

Cruise speed: Mach 5.2

Guidance system: Inertial guidance, mid-course update via datalink, terminal active radar homing

Launch platforms: Lockheed Martin F-16V Fighting Falcon, Boeing Henderson F/C-16 Fighting Falcon II, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, E/F-18 Hornet II, Boeing EA-18G Growler, Lockheed Martin F/A-18X Black Wasp, Saab JAS 39 Gripen, Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, X-02 Wyvern, X-02S Strike Wyvern

See also[]

Comparable missiles

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