They’re all fired up.

U.S. Air Force F-22 pilots said they’re excited the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jets are now armed with the new AIM-9X sidewinder missile.

Already on the F-15, F-16, F/A-18 and other fighter and attack aircraft since the 2000s, the AIM-9X was integrated in the Raptor fleet only last year.

The 9X Block 1 version of the dual-use, infrared missile is “a dramatic leap within visual range missile capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Daniel, an F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. recently interviewed a few pilots and a maintainer at the base, who spoke on the condition that their last names not be used due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

The new AIM-9X is part of the incremental 3.2 upgrade to the aircraft. (The AIM-9 missile pictured above, as noted by the blue stripe, is an inert dummy.)

The F-22, a twin-engine fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp., carries a total of eight missiles, including six Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAMs, and two sidewinders. Both types of weapons are made by Raytheon Co.

“With the AIM-9M ‘Mike’ we kind of went out there going, ‘We have six missiles,’” Daniel joked, referring to the increased effort required to make the weapon effective in modern combat operations. “With AIM-9X, we step out the door going, ‘We got eight missiles on the jet.’

“It’s literally that big [of] a difference … night and day different,” he said, adding, the AIM-9M was “literally a 50-year-old missile on the Air Force’s newest fighter.”

The 9X can be used in air-to-air or surface-to-air strikes.

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