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The AIM-7 "Sparrow"

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The AIM-7 Sparrow is a radar-guided, air-to-air missile with a high-explosive warhead. The versatile Sparrow has all-weather, all-altitude operational capability and can attack high-performance aircraft and missiles from any direction. The AIM/RIM-7 series is a semi active, air-to-air, boost-glide missile, designed to be either rail or ejection launched. Semi active, continuous wave, homing radar, and hydraulically-operated control surfaces direct and stabilize the missile on a proportional navigational course to the target. Propulsion for the missile is provided by a solid propellant rocket motor.

It is a widely deployed missile used by U.S. and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces. In the Persian Gulf war, the radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow proved to be a potent air-to-air weapon used by Air Force fighter pilots. Twenty-two Iraqi fixed-wing aircraft and three Iraqi helicopters were downed by radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. The Sparrow is limited by the requirement that the aircraft it is fired from must continue to paint the target with radar, limiting that aircraft to straight and level flight.

The AIM-7M/P Sparrow Missile is employed during air-to-air combat missions by Navy F-14, Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18, and Air Force F-15 and F-16 aircraft. The AIM-7 (series) is used primarily to neutralize the threat of high performance enemy aircraft. It is a supersonic, medium-range missile with Defensive Counter Countermeasure capabilities, which includes Electronic Protection from Electronic Attack. It guides on radio frequency energy, processing radar signals received via its rear signal receiver from the launch platform’s radar system and reflected target energy received directly from the target. The AIM-7M/P is controlled in flight by four movable delta platform wings. Missile stability is provided by four fixed delta fins which are located in-line with the forward wings. Missile propulsion is provided by a dual-thrust, solid propellant rocket motor. An active radio frequency fuze detonates the warhead when the missile is within lethal range of the target.

The missile has five major sections: radome, radar guidance system, warhead, flight control (autopilot plus hydraulic control system), and solid-propellant rocket motor. It has a cylindrical body with four wings at mid-body and four tail fins. Although external dimensions of the Sparrow remained relatively unchanged from model to model, the internal components of newer missiles represent major improvements with vastly increased capabilities. Sparrow is a supersonic, medium range, aerial-intercept missile, which guides on RF energy. The missile processes radar signals received directly from the launch platform’s radar via its rear signal receiver, and also processes RF energy reflected from the target received by its own internal radar receiver (front signal). Sparrow is controlled in flight by four movable delta platform wings. Missile stability is provided by four fixed delta fins which are located in line with the forward wings. Missile propulsion is provided by a dual-thrust, solid propellant rocket motor. An active RF fuze detonates the warhead when the missile is within lethal range of the target. To increase performance in either application, air-to-air or surface-to-air, Sparrow contains switching circuits that automatically program missile operation for optimum performance in the appropriate environment. The Sparrow Weapon System consists of the radar-guided missile; the support equipment consisting of test, handling, and training equipment, tools and reusable containers; and the aircraft or ship’s equipment required to launch the missile.

  • Guidance and Control Section. The GCS tracks a target, directs and stabilizes the missile on a lead-angle navigation course to the target, and starts warhead detonation by use of an active radar proximity fuze or a backup contact fuze. The guidance system uses energy reflected from the target and data received from the missile fire control system to track the target. A comparison of these signals allows the guidance section to sense changes in target position and create signals used by the control section to control movement of the wings and thus maintain course to target intercept. Missile-to-target closing speed is derived by a comparison of the signals (Doppler shift) received by the front antenna and the rear reference antenna.
    Guidance Section. The Guidance Section is a solid-state design. The Guidance Section is constructed modularly and includes a radome, tunnel cable to the control section, forward antenna, target and rear receivers, an embedded Missile Borne Computer (MBC), a radar fuze unit, and electric gimbaled motors.
    Control Section. The control section consists of an autopilot and a hydraulic control group which provide wing control to guide the missile to the target and to stabilize the missile. An accumulator supplies the hydraulic power to move the wings in response to guidance command signals from the autopilot. In addition to circuits for processing guidance and stabilization signals, the control section also contains an AC/DC converter for adapting external power for missile requirements before launch.

    Warhead Assembly. The Warhead Assembly includes a fuse booster, transfer lead (WAU-17 warhead only), Safe-Arm Device (SAD), and the main explosive charge. The warhead assembly is located between the guidance section and control section. It is connected electrically to the guidance section by a SAD cable. At launch, a thrust-activated mechanism in the SAD starts the arming cycle. When the missile receives a launch signal, voltage is applied to unlock the arming mechanism. As the missile accelerates, the arming rotor turns, aligning the explosive train and removing the shorting circuit. This completes the firing circuit. Detonation is triggered by a fuze pulse from the active RF fusing circuit in the guidance section at the nearest point of intercept or by an impact switch located in the control section.
    WAU-10/B and WAU-10A/B Warhead Assembly. The WAU-10/B Warhead Assembly includes a MK-71 Mod 0 Warhead Section with a MK-33 Mod 0 SAD and MK-33 Mod 1 fuze booster. The WAU-10A/B Warhead Assembly is similar to the WAU-10/B except it has a MK-38 Mod 2 fuze booster. Both warhead assemblies are of the insulated continuous-rod type.

    WAU-17B and WAU-17A/B Warhead Assembly. The WAU-17B Warhead Assembly includes a WDU-27B Warhead Section with a MK-33 Mod 0 SAD, a MK-38 Mod 1 fuze booster, and a MK-26 Mod 0 transfer lead. The WAU-17A/B Warhead Assembly is similar to the WAU-17B except it has a MK-38 Mod 2 fuse booster. The transfer lead extends the explosive train from the SAD to the fuse booster. Both warhead assemblies are of the end-initiated blast fragmentation type.

    Fuse Booster. When ignited by a SAD, the fuse booster charge ignites the main warhead charge. The MK-38 Mod 2 fuse booster is designed to melt rather than detonate when exposed to high heat. This provides an added safety feature for ordnance personnel and fire fighters.

    Rocket Motor Assembly. The MK-58 Rocket Motors are dual-thrust, solid propellant propulsion units. The case bonded grain consists of separate boost and sustain propellants in a side-by-side configuration. The rocket motor assembly consists of three major subassemblies: a case with propellant grain, a safe-arm ignition assembly and a nozzle weather seal at the rear. Integral parts of the case are the attachment points which include the forward skirt, launch hooks, waveguide clips, antenna bracket, and fin dovetail slots.

    MK-58 Mods 2, 3, and 5 Rocket Motor Assemblies. These rocket motor assemblies are used with the air-launched missiles (AIM-7M/P) and include a safe-arm ignition assembly with an Arm-Fire Device (AFD) relock assembly. The AFD relock T-handle, which locks in either the SAFE or ARM position, cannot be removed, and is used to arm the rocket motor manually before flight.

    Wing and Fin Assemblies. Four wings and four fins provide the flight control surfaces for Sparrow. The wings attach to the hub assembly of the control section and the fins mount into dovetail quick-attach fittings on the rear of the rocket motor.

    Rear Waveguide Assembly. A structural rear waveguide assembly containing the rear antenna is installed externally on the missile airframe. The rear waveguide is constructed in two parts with the forward section connecting to internal RF circuitry in the guidance section. The forward section also serves as a protective cover for the tunnel cable which electrically interconnects the GCS. The aft assembly contains the rear antenna and is joined to the forward section at the rear of the control section, and runs aft to the rear of the rocket motor.

    Training Missiles. The AIM-7 Missile System uses several types of training missiles: Air-launched Training Missile (ATM)-7M/P; the Captive Air Training Missile (CATM)-7F- 3; and the Dummy Air Training Missile (DATM)-7F-11. The ATM-7M/P is a live-fire missile that is an AIM-7M/P with the warhead section replaced with a telemetry section. The CATM-7F-3 and the DATM-7F-11 are used primarily for AIM-7M/P maintenance training, and are completely inert. Additionally, the CATM-7F-3 is used by F-14 aircrews for some training events/exercises. F/A-18 aircrews use a simulator plug (commonly referred to as a wafer) in the launcher umbilical that precludes the use of the CATM-7F-3, and enables the aircraft’s embedded training capability via its on-board computers.

  • Variants. The Sparrow missile is a supersonic, medium-range, aerial-intercept missile that guides on Radio Frequency (RF) energy. Sparrow incorporates Electronic Counter-Countermeasure (ECCM) capabilities, also known as Electronic Protection (EP), to defeat countermeasures such as jamming. The Sparrow began as project Hotshot in 1946, and became operational in late 1953. Experience during the Vietnam war demonstrated it to be virtually useless against maneuvering targets. A special AIM-7E-2 dogfight version was produced to overcome these shortcomings. Current configurations of the Sparrow missile include four air-launched variants, AIM-7M F1 Build, AIM-7M H Build, AIM-7P Block I, and AIM-7P Block II, and as many ship-launched variants, RIM-7M F1 Build, RIM-7M H Build, RIM-7P Block I, and RIM-7P Block II.

    Each new version has resulted in substantial improvement in missile performance. The AIM/RIM-7E reduced minimum range restrictions and provided dogfight capabilities. The RIM-7H incorporates rapid run-up capabilities, providing improvements over previous versions. The AIM-7F incorporates solid state circuitry and modular design, an improved warhead, and a boost-sustain rocket motor. The AIM/RIM-7R is most recent configuration and adds a dual mode radio frequency/infrared (RF/IR) seeker capability.

  • The AIM-7F joined the Air Force inventory in 1976 as the primary medium-range, air-to-air missile for the F-15 Eagle. The AIM-7F was an almost completely new missile, gaining ability from improved avionics that allowed the warhead to be moved to the front, allowing a bigger motor to be carried that has improved range.

  • The AIM-7M, the only current operational version, entered service in 1982. It has improved reliability and performance over earlier models at low altitudes and in electronic countermeasures environments. It also has a significantly more lethal warhead. The latest software version of the AIM-7M is the H-Build, which has been produced since 1987 and incorporates additional improvements in guidance. AIM/RIM-7M DT and OT was successfully completed in FY82. The F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters carry the AIM-7M Sparrow.

  • The RIM-7M Sparrow is employed during ship-to-air combat missions by Spruance class Destroyers outfitted with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Sea Sparrow Missile System (NSSMS). In ship-to-air combat evolutions, Sparrow is used primarily to neutralize the threat of high performance, anti-ship missiles. The RIM-7M guidance and control section is common with the AIM-7M. When used in the surface launched RIM configuration, folding wings, clipped fins, and a remotely armable rocket motor are used.


    Primary Function Air-to-air guided missile
    Contractor Raytheon Co.
    Power Plant Hercules MK-58 solid-propellant rocket motor
    Thrust Classified
    Speed Classified
    Range approximately 30 nm
    Length 12 feet (3.64 meters)
    Diameter 8 inches (0.20 meters)
    Wingspan 3 feet, 4 inches (1 meter)
    Warhead Annular blast fragmentation warhead
    88 lbs high explosive for AIM-9H
    Launch Weight Approximately 500 pounds (225 kilograms)
    Guidance System Raytheon semi active on either continuous wave or pulsed Doppler radar energy
    Date Deployed 1976
    Aircraft Platforms Navy: F-14 and F/A-18;
    Air Force: F-4, F-15, and F-16;
    Marine Corps: F-4 and F/A-18
    Unit Cost Approximately $125,000
    Inventory Classified
  • The AIM/RIM-7P Sparrow missile has undergone two block modifications. The AIM/RIM-7P Block I provides low altitude guidance and fuzing capability. The AIM/RIM-7P Block II provides increased memory and throughput to the MBC, enhanced production software reprogrammable capability, and mid-course uplink improvements to the rear receiver. The AIM/RIM-7P Block I retrofit included an upgrade of the MBC in the guidance section (WGU-6D/B) and incorporation of a new fuze (DSU-34/B). Approximately 600 missiles were upgraded to the Block I configuration. The AIM/RIM-7P Block II upgrade included modification of the MBC in the Guidance Section (WGU-23D/B), incorporation of the new fuze, and a new rear receiver. The AIM/RIM-7P Block I and AIM/RIM-7P Block II have the same approximate weight, center of gravity, and general mass distribution properties as the AIM/RIM-7M Guidance Sections. The AIM/RIM-7P program began as a retrofit program to AIM/RIM-7M Guidance and Control Sections (GCS) and resulted in a new build contract for AIM/RIM-7P Block II GCS. Follow-on AIM/RIM-7P Block II procurements will upgrade existing AIM-7M inventories and provide replacement for AIM-7M missiles lost through FMS. Remaining AIM-7M Missiles will continue to be supported until phase-out or other action through the FMS Replacement-In-Kind (RIK) program. The AIM/RIM-7P Sparrow Test and Evaluation Master Plan, M159-1RIM-7P, dated 21 July 1989, was developed for the AIM/RIM-7P. Developmental and operational test and evaluation phases for the AIM/RIM-7P have been completed. Developmental Test (DT) for the AIM/RIM-7P occurred in first quarter FY90 through second quarter FY90. Operational Test (OT) occurred in third quarter FY90 through second quarter FY91. Follow-On Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) for Block I and II AIM/RIM-7P Missiles was completed fourth quarter FY93 through second quarter FY94 using retrofit kits in Government Furnished Equipment missiles. The AIM/RIM-7P was introduced to the fleet through GCS retrofit and GCS new production contracts. The AIM/RIM-7P retrofit program began deliveries in November 1993. Because the upgrade from AIM/RIM-7M to AIM/RIM-7P did not impact Carrier Air Group (CAG) operation and maintenance procedures, a unique Fleet introduction was not required. All AIM/RIM-7P upgraded elements are contained in the guidance section to reduce technical risk. The AIM-7P modifications are incorporated in blocks.

    The AIM/RIM-7R was the latest Sparrow new development, but the program was halted in the first quarter of FY97 following completion of its DT/OT program. The AIM/RIM-7R integrated a passive infrared seeker in its radome for terminal guidance. Requirements for a dual mode seeker AIM-7R were rescinded in FY96. The AIM/RIM-7P Block II was the baseline for the AIM/RIM-7R missile.



    AIM-101/AIM-7/RIM-7 Sparrow

    Raytheon AAM-N-2,3,6/

    The AIM-7 Sparrow has been the major medium range air-to-air missile of U.S. fighters until the advent of the AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile), and the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow is still a very important short-range air-defense weapon on U.S. and NATO warships.

    The history of the Sparrow missile dates back to 1947, when the U.S. Navy contracted Sperry to develop a beam-riding guidance system for a standard 12.7 cm (5 in) HVAR (High Velocity Aerial Rocket). The original designation for this missile project was KAS-1, but this was changed to AAM-2 in September 1947 and to AAM-N-2 in early 1948. The 5" diameter soon proved to be too small, so Douglas developed a new airframe of 20.3 cm (8 in) diameter. The first un-powered flight tests of XAAM-N-2 prototypes occurred in 1948. Development was difficult, however, and the first successful air-to-air interception was only done in December 1952. The AAM-N-2 Sparrow I entered service in 1956 with F3H-2M Demon and F7U-3M Cutlass fighters. Because of the inherent disadvantages of beam-riding guidance, like poor low-level performance, only 2000 Sparrow I missiles were produced, and it was withdrawn from service after only a few years. Another drawback of the AAM-N-2 was that the guidance beam was slaved to an optical sight in the aircraft, which necessitated visual identification of the target, making the Sparrow I a short-range VFR missile only.

    The RAAM-N-2a and RAAM-N-2b were research and development missiles with an SPR guidance system of conventional (-2a) and modular (-2b) construction, respectively. The designation XAAM-N-2b was reserved for prototypes of a proposed operational version of the RAAM-N-2b, but this variant was not developed.

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    AAM-N-2 (AIM-7A)

    Because of the above noted principal problems of the AAM-N-2, new guidance methods were searched almost from the beginning. As early as 1950, Douglas studied the possibility of equipping the Sparrow with a radar-homing seeker. The designation XAAM-N-2a was assigned to the project, together with the name Sparrow II (at the same time, the original beam-riding Sparrow became Sparrow I). At some time in 1951/52, this designation was changed to XAAM-N-3. By 1955, Douglas had reached the point of proposing active radar homing for the Sparrow II, using an AN/APQ-64 radar. The operational AAM-N-3 was originally intended as armament for the Douglas F5D Skylancer interceptor. Operational evaluation models, designated YAAM-N-3, were flown, but in 1956 the U.S. Navy withdrew from the development of the AAM-N-3 missile. The Sparrow II was also planned as a weapon for the forthcoming Canadian CF-105 Arrow interceptor, but in September 1958, the missile was finally cancelled. The designation XAAM-N-3a had been reserved for a proposed supersonic-launch model of the Sparrow II, but this was not built.

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    XAAM-N-3 (AIM-7B)

    Development of the modern Sparrow began in 1955 by Raytheon, the new missile being designated XAAM-N-6 Sparrow III. The AAM-N-6 and all subsequent versions of Sparrow used semi-active radar homing. After production of the AAM-N-2 Sparrow I had been completed in 1956, Raytheon took over the missile production facilities, and has since been prime contractor for the whole Sparrow program. After tests with YAAM-N-6 R&D missiles, production of the tactical AAM-N-6 began in January 1958, and it entered service in August 1958. The missile had an Aerojet solid-fueled rocket motor, and a 30 kg (65 lb) MK 38 continuous-rod warhead. About 2000 AAM-N-6 missiles were built. The TAAM-N-6, developed via XTAAM-N-6 prototypes, was an inert training version of the AAM-N-6.

    The next version was the AAM-N-6a, developed via XAAM-N-6a and YAAM-N-6a prototype and test models, and produced from 1959. It had a new Thiokol MK 6 MOD 3 (LR44-RM-2) storable liquid-propellant rocket motor, which increased effective range and ceiling. It also had an improved guidance system for higher closing-rates and anti-jammer capability. There were also XTAAM-N-6a and TAAM-N-6a inert training versions of the AAM-N-6a.

    The USAF adopted the AAM-N-6a for its new F-110A Spectre (F-4C Phantom II after 1962) interceptor, and assigned the designation AIM-101.

    The AAM-N-6b was a further improved version, which entered service in 1963. It is described below under its post-1963 designation of AIM-7E.

    The designation XAAM-N-9 Sparrow X was allocated to a proposed nuclear-armed Sparrow derivative in 1958 with a low-yield W-42 fission warhead. However, this proposal was short-lived and the Sparrow X was cancelled early in the design stage.

    Old Designation New Designation
    AAM-N-2 AIM-7A
    AAM-N-3 AIM-7B
    AAM-N-6 AIM-7C
    AAM-N-6b AIM-7E

    In 1963, all Sparrow missiles were redesigated in the AIM-7 series, as follows:

    AIM-7B was a "paper designation" only, because the Sparrow II had long been cancelled in 1963. Inert training versions of the AIM-7D were later designated ATM-7D.

    In 1963, production switched to the AIM-7E version. It used a new propulsion system, a solid-fueled rocket by Rocketdyne (either a MK 38 or later a MK 52). The new motor again significantly increased range and performance of the missile. Effective range of course depended greatly on firing parameters like launch speed and relative velocity of the target. In head-on attacks under optimal conditions, it could be as high as 35 km (20 nm), while in stern attacks, maximum effective range was more around 5.5 km (3 nm).

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    Inert training versions of the AIM-7E include the ATM-7E for firing practice, the captive (non-launching) CATM-7E, and the non-flying DATM-7E for handling and loading practice. There is also a captive-carry version designated CAEM-7E, which is equipped with special telemetry electronics.

    About 7500 AIM-7D and 25000 AIM-7E missiles were built, and the Sparrow was used heavily in Vietnam by the USAF and the U.S. Navy. The first combat kill was scored on 7 June 1965, when USN F-4B Phantoms shot down 2 MiG-17s. However, the initial combat results were very disappointing. The potentially long range of the AIM-7 could not be used, because unreliable IFF capabilities of the time effectively required visual identification of all targets. Coupled with the high minimum range of the missile of 1500 m (5000 ft) and poor performance against maneuvering and/or low-flying targets, this led to a kill probability of less than 10%. Therefore, the improved AIM-7E-2 was introduced in 1969 as a "dogfight missile". It had a shorter minimum range, clipped wings for higher maneuverability, and improved autopilot and fusing. The AIM-7E-3 had further improved fuzing and higher reliability, and the AIM-7E-4 was specially adapted for use with high-power fighter radars (like the F-14's AN/AWG-9). Despite all problems, more than 50 aircraft were shot down by Sparrow missiles during the Vietnam air war.

    In the early 1960s, the U.S. Navy planned to provide a short-range missile defense system (called BPDMS - Basic Point Defense Missile System) for ships much smaller than then current missile defense ships. Initially the RIM-46 Sea Mauler missile was to be used for the BPDMS, but when this was cancelled in 1964, attention turned towards a derivative of the AIM-7E Sparrow. This missile was known as RIM-7E Sea Sparrow. The missile was essentially an unchanged AIM-7E, and was fired from modified ASROC launchers designated MK 25. The RIM-7E entered service in 1967.

    In January 1972, Raytheon began development of the vastly improved AIM-7F. It featured a new dual-thrust (boost/sustain) rocket motor (usually a Hercules MK 58, but sometimes an Aerojet MK 65), which greatly increased the missile's range. The AIM-7F also had a completely new solid-state electronic guidance and control system (GCS), designated AN/DSQ-35, which was also compatible with modern pulse-doppler radars. Continued improvement of the GCS resulted in versions from AN/DSQ-35A through -35H (used in the AIM-7F-11). The smaller GCS permitted the use of a larger 39 kg (86 lb) MK 71 warhead in the new WAU-10/B warhead section. Production began in 1975, and continued through 1981. With the AIM-7F, the official name of the missile was changed from Sparrow III to plain Sparrow.

    The various training versions of the AIM-7F are designated ATM-7F, CATM-7F, DATM-7F, and CAEM-7F for the same purposes as the equivalent -7E versions. The CATM/DATM-7F missiles are also suitable for training for the later AIM-7M/P versions.

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    The RIM-7F Sea Sparrow was the ship-launched equivalent of the AIM-7F. Therefore it was actually more advanced than the RIM-7H described below. It is possible that the RIM-101A missile proposed in 1974 was also an advanced RIM-7E/H Sea Sparrow derivative, which was cancelled in favor of further RIM-7 development. The RIM-7F was relatively short-lived because further development was cancelled in favor of a ship-launched derivative of the AIM-7M, the RIM-7M (q.v.).

    The AIM-7G was a version with a new seeker, developed for the USAF around 1970 for use by the F-111D aircraft. A few YAIM-7G prototype missiles were built, but this version did not enter production.

    The RIM-7H was an improved RIM-7E missile better adapted for shipboard use. Above all, it had folding fins to fit into more compact MK 29 launchers (these folding fins were also used on the subsequent RIM-7F/M/P/R versions). Otherwise it was essentially similar to the AIM/RIM-7E and therefore less advanced than the RIM-7F despite its "later" designation suffix. The RIM-7H is the missile used in the NATO Sea Sparrow Missile System (NSSMS) Block I, and production began in 1973.

    The next version of the AIM-7 was the AIM-7M, whose main new feature was the new inverse mono-pulse seeker for look-down/shoot-down capability in a new WGU-6/B (later WGU-23/B) guidance section. There is no evidence of any Sparrow variants officially designated -7J/K/L (although the designation AIM-7J is sometimes associated with the AIM-7E license-built in Japan). Source [2] says that the suffix "M" was deliberately chosen to mean "mono-pulse", suggesting that suffixes J/K/L were indeed skipped. The mono-pulse seeker improves missile performance in low-altitude and ECM environments. Other new features of the AIM-7M are a digital computer (with software in EEPROM modules reprogrammable on the ground), an autopilot, and an active fuse. The autopilot enables the AIM-7M to fly optimized trajectories, with target illumination necessary only for mid-course and terminal guidance. The AIM-7M also has a new WDU-27/B blast-fragmentation warhead in a WAU-17/B warhead section. The first firing of a YAIM-7M occurred in 1980, and the AIM-7M entered production in 1982.

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    AIM-7M/P (exact model unknown)

    The various training versions of the AIM-7M are designated ATM-7M, CATM-7M, DATM-7M, and CAEM-7M for the same purposes as the equivalent -7E versions. The CATM/DATM-7M missiles are also used for training for the later AIM-7P.

    The RIM-7M Sea Sparrow is the ship-launched equivalent of the AIM-7M, and its training version is designated RTM-7M. In addition to the 8-cell MK 29 box launcher, the RIM-7M (and the later RIM-7P) missiles can also be fired from MK 41 (AEGIS) and MK 48 VLS (Vertical Launch System) launchers.

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    The designation AIM-7N was allocated to an upgraded version of the AIM-7F for use with the USAF's F-15 MSIP (Multistage Improvement Program). This version was not produced in quantity.

    The AIM-7P is an improved AIM-7M, and AIM-7P missiles are built since 1987 by new production as well as conversion of existing AIM-7Ms. The AIM-7P features improved guidance electronics and on-board computer, has a new radar fuze, and has an uplink to the autopilot for mid-course guidance updates. The AIM-7P improves Sparrow performance especially against small and/or low-flying targets. There are two sub variants of the AIM-7P, known as Block I and Block II. The AIM-7P Block I has a WGU-6D/B guidance section, and the Block II uses a WGU-23D/B guidance section and also features a new rear receiver. The combat record of recent Sparrow missiles (AIM-7M/P) is much better than that of the AIM-7D/E of the Vietnam era. In Operation Desert Storm, 26 Iraqi aircraft were shot down with AIM-7 missiles, with 71 AIM-7s fired (a hit rate of 37%).

    There is also a ATM-7P training version for the AIM-7P, but there are apparently no specialized CATM/DATM/CAEM-7P versions. For non-firing training (CATM/DATM), the equivalent -7F/M versions are used. The RIM-7P Sea Sparrow is the ship-launched equivalent of the AIM-7P, and its training version is designated RTM-7P.

    I have found no evidence of a Sparrow missile with a -7Q designation, so the next - and final - variant is the AIM-7R. The AIM-7R was projected in the early 1990s as an improved AIM-7P Block II. A new dual mode (Radar/IR) seeker was developed under the MHIP (Missile Homing Improvement Program) to improve the terminal phase performance. It also had a considerably improved on-board computer for the higher processing requirements of active terminal homing. An equivalent ship-launched version was projected as RIM-7R. Although it was initially planned to upgrade many AIM/RIM-7M/P rounds to AIM/RIM-7R standard, the -7R program was cancelled because of high costs in December 1996 after the evaluation phase was completed. The MHIP seeker was also used in the RIM-66M-5 SM-2 Block III B missile.

    Raytheon is still producing AIM/RIM-7Ps by upgrading existing Sparrow missiles to -7P standard. Although the AIM-7 is being replaced by the AIM-120 AMRAAM, Sparrow will probably remain in service for some time, because it is significantly cheaper than AMRAAM. The replacement for the RIM-7M/P Sea Sparrow is the ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile). This was unofficially referred to as RIM-7PTC (RIM-7P with Tail Control) or RIM-7T, but is now known as RIM-162. Until 2001 more than 62000 AIM-7 Sparrow and 9000 RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles of all versions have been built.



    Notes: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate! The AIM-7's range depends heavily on firing parameters and aircraft radar, and the numbers given below are only rough estimates for maximum effective range in head-on engagements.

    Data for AIM-7A/C/E/F/M/P and RIM-7M/P:


      AAM-N-2 (AIM-7A) AIM-7C AIM-7E AIM-7F AIM-7M/P RIM-7M/P
    Length 3.74 m (147.3 in) 3.66 m (144 in)
    Wingspan 0.94 m (37 in) 1.02 m (40 in)
    Finspan 0.88 m (34.8 in) 0.81 m (32 in) 0.62 m (24.3 in)
    Diameter 0.203 m (8 in)
    Weight 143 kg (315 lb) 172 kg (380 lb) 197 kg (435 lb) 231 kg (510 lb)
    Speed Mach 2.5 Mach 4
    Range 10 km (5.4 nm) 11 km (6 nm) 30 km (16 nm) 70 km (38 nm) 26 km (14 nm)
    Propulsion Aerojet 1.8KS7800 solid rocket Rocketdyne MK 38/MK 52
    solid rocket
    Hercules MK 58 dual-thrust solid rocket
    Warhead 20 kg (45 lb) 30 kg (65 lb) MK 38 continuous rod 39 kg (86 lb) MK 71
    continuous rod
    40 kg (88 lb) WDU-27/B

    Main Sources

    [1] Norman Friedman: "US Naval Weapons", Conway Maritime Press, 1983
    [2] Norman Friedman: "World Naval Weapons Systems, 1997/98", Naval Institute Press, 1997
    [3] Bill Gunston: "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rockets and Missiles", Salamander Books Ltd, 1979
    [4] Hajime Ozu: "Missile 2000 - Reference Guide to World Missile Systems", Shinkigensha, 2000
    [5] Christopher Chant: "World Encyclopaedia of Modern Air Weapons", Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1988
    [6] BuAer Instruction 05030.4A: "Model Designation of Naval Aircraft, KD Targets, and BuAer Guided Missiles", Dept. of the Navy, 1958




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