Working in cooperation with the USAF Tactical Missile Technical Coordinating Group (TMTCG) at Warner Robins AFB, TCA has developed a modification kit that will allow the F-5 aircraft to carry the latest AIM-9M versions of the Sidewinder that are actively supported by the USAF/USN.
When the F-5 was originally developed, it was designed to be capable of carrying 2 AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles on wing-tip mounted launcher rails. The Sidewinder missiles that were in service during this time period were the AIM-9B/E/J/P. In order to shoot down an aircraft with these versions of the Sidewinder, the missile seeker needed to be positioned so that it received the highest poossible heat signature from the target. This meant that the launching aircraft needed to be maneuvered to the rear aspect of the target in order for the seeker to lock onto the hot engines exhaust of the target aircraft. In the years following the development of the F-5, the Sidewinder missile has gone through several design improvements that have dramatically increased its lethality. Most notably, the current versions of the Sidewinder have seekers that are so sensitive that they can detect and tract an aircraft’s heat signature even when looking at the target from the frontal aspect (i.e. head-on). The current in-service versions of the Sidewinder are the AIM-9L/M.
Logistics support for the older B/E/J/P versions of the Sidewinder missiles is becoming difficult since they are no longer in the US inventory. Furthermore, many F-5 operators now also have either the F-16 or the F/A-18 in their inventory. Both of these aircraft carry the latest AIM-9M versions of the Sidewinder. Due to the lack of reliable logistics support for the older missiles and due to the improved combat effectiveness of the later missiles, many F-5 operators have requested USAF support to modify their F-5 aircraft to be capable of carrying the same versions of the Sidewinder that are carried on their F-16 or F/A-18 aircraft.
New-design LAU-100(M) and LAU-101(M) Launcher Rails:
The key components of the Tiger Century AIM-9L/M modification kit for the F-5 are the new launcher rails. New wingtip launcher rails (based on the original LAU-100/101) have been designed by TCA that incorporate all design changes required for full AIM-9L/M compatibility. These new launcher rails are designated LAU-100(M)/101(M).
- The nose-fairing cavity is enlarged to provide sufficient volume for the larger AIM-9L/M umbilical. The AIM-9L/M umbilical uses a 34-pin connector versus the 19-pin connector that is used on the AIM-9B/E/J/P series. This larger connector requires more space in the forward nose fairing of the launcher rail.
- New spring-loaded canard retainers (with aerodynamic fairings) are added to the forward portion of the launcher rail. These retainers are required to hold the free-floating AIM-9L/M canards in a fixed position during captive carriage.
- An new-design umbilical retention hook is added in the nose fairing to accommodate the larger 34-pin connector required for the AIM-9L/M. The new umbilical retention hooks that are used in the LAU-100(M)/101(M) launchers have two positions: one for the AIM-9L/M and one for the AIM-9 J/P.
- The rail snubbers of the standard LAU-100/101 have been re-designed to be compatible with the AIM-9L/M.
Quad Missile Carriage Modification Kits for the F-5:
Most fighter aircraft today are capable of carrying four (4) to six (6) AIM-9L/M missiles. The F-5 aircraft is an exception to this rule in that it is only certified to carry two (2) Sidewinders on the wing-tip stations. Operational analysis studies have shown that the combination of the high lethality of four (4) AIM-9L/M missiles with the agility and performance of the F-5 provides a substantial enhancement to the combat capability of the overall weapon system. Working in conjunction with the USAF Tactical Missile Technical Coordinating Group, TCA has developed a Quad Missile Carriage System (QMCS) modification kit that will allow the F-5 aircraft to carry four (4) AIM-9L/M Sidewinders.
The main impediment to adding two additional AIM-9 missiles to the F-5 in the past has been the unacceptable performance penalties that would result if these additional missiles were carried on the existing heavyweight, high-drag MAU-50 outboard pylons of the F-5. To counter this problem, TCA provides a new, low-drag, lightweight pylon (LDP) for the outboard station of the F-5 that is ideally matched to the characteristics of the AIM-9L/M.