THE 456th FIGHTER INTERCEPTOR SQUADRON

T PROTECTORS OF  S. A. C.

 

 

AIM-9 "Sidewinder" Air-to-Air Missile

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 The AIM-9 is a 200 pound supersonic air-to-air missile carried by A-10, F-4, F-15, F-16 and F-111 aircraft. It is a "heat seeking" missile with a range of 1-2 miles and is generally used in day, clear weather conditions. the Sidewinder has been continually improved since entering service in the 1950s.

COURTESY OF THE AIR FORCE MUSEUM

 

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The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a supersonic, heat-seeking, air-to-air missile carried by fighter aircraft. It has a high-explosive warhead and an active infrared guidance system. The Sidewinder was developed by the U.S. Navy for fleet air defense and was adapted by the U.S. Air Force for fighter aircraft use. Early versions of the missile were extensively used in the Southeast Asian conflict.
 
The AIM-9 has a cylindrical body with a roll-stabilizing rear wing/rolleron assembly. Also, it has detachable, double-delta control surfaces behind the nose that improve the missile's maneuverability. Both rollerons and control surfaces are in a cross-like arrangement.
 
The missile's main components are an infrared homing guidance section, an active optical target detector, a high-explosive warhead, and a rocket motor.
 
The infrared guidance head enables the missile to home on target aircraft engine exhaust. An infrared unit costs less than other types of guidance systems, and can be used in day/night and electronic countermeasures conditions. The infrared seeker also permits the pilot to launch the missile, then leave the area or take evasive action while the missile guides itself to the target.
 
The AIM-9A, prototype of the Sidewinder, was first fired successfully in September 1953. The initial production version, designated AIM-9B, entered the Air Force inventory in 1956 and was effective only at close range. It could not engage targets close to the ground, nor did it have nighttime or head-on attack capability. These shortcomings were eliminated on subsequent versions.
 
The AIM-9J, a conversion of the AIM-B and E models, has maneuvering capability for dog fighting, and greater speed and range, giving it greater enhanced aerial combat capability. Deliveries began in 1977 to equip the F-15 and other Sidewinder-compatible aircraft.
 
The AIM-9L added a more powerful solid-propellant rocket motor as well as tracking maneuvering ability. An improved active optical fuse increased the missile's lethality and resistance to electronic countermeasures. A conical scan seeker increased seeker sensitivity and improved tracking stability. The L model was the first Sidewinder with the ability to attack from all angles, including head-on. Production and delivery of the AIM-9L began in 1976.

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The AIM-9P, an improved version of the J model, has greater engagement boundaries, enabling it to be launched farther from the target. The more maneuverable P model also incorporated improved solid-state electronics that increased reliability and maintainability. Deliveries began in 1978.
 
The AIM-9P-1 has an active optical target detector instead of the infrared influence fuse; the AIM-9P-2 added a reduced-smoke motor. The most recently developed version, the AIM-9P-3, combined both the active optical target detector and the reduced-smoke motor. It also has added mechanical strengthening to the warhead as well as the guidance and control section. The improved warhead uses new explosive material that is less sensitive to high temperature and has a longer shelf life.
The AIM-9M, currently the only operational variant, has the all-aspect capability of the L model, but provides all-around higher performance. The M model has improved defense against infrared countermeasures, enhanced background discrimination capability, and a reduced-smoke rocket motor. These modifications increase ability to locate and lock-on a target and decrease the missile's chances for detection. Deliveries of the M model began in 1983.
 
The AIM-9M-9 has expanded infrared counter measures detection circuitry. AIM-9X is a future variant currently under development.
 
General characteristics
Primary function Air-to-air missile
Contractor Naval Weapons Center
Power plant Hercules and Bermite Mk 36 Mod 71, 8 solid-propellant rocket motor 
Length 9 ft 5 in 2.87 m
Diameter 5 in 13 cm
Wignspan 2 ft 3/4 in 0.63 m
Warhead Annular blast fragmentation warhead
Launch weight 190 lb 86.2 kg
Guidance System Solid-state, infrared homing system
Date deployed 1956
Unit cost Approximately $84,000
Inventory Classified

 

AIM-9 Sidewinder

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 The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a supersonic, heat-seeking, air-to-air missile carried by fighter aircraft. It has a high-explosive warhead and an active infrared guidance system. The Sidewinder was developed by the US Navy for fleet air defense and was adapted by the U.S. Air Force for fighter aircraft use. Early versions of the missile were extensively used in the Southeast Asian conflict. In September 1958 Chinese Nationalist F-86s fired the first Sidewinder air-to-air missiles to down 11 communist Chinese MiG-17s over the Formosa Straits. Until that time, aircraft defensive means where primarily limited to pilots and tail gunners firing small caliber ammunition in dog-fight situations.

The AIM-9 has a cylindrical body with a roll-stabilizing rear wing/roller-on assembly. Also, it has detachable, double-delta control surfaces behind the nose that improve the missile's maneuverability. Both roller-on's and control surfaces are in a cross-like arrangement.

The missile's main components are an infrared homing guidance section, an active optical target detector, a high-explosive warhead, and a rocket motor.

The infrared guidance head enables the missile to home on target aircraft engine exhaust. An infrared unit costs less than other types of guidance systems, and can be used in day/night and electronic countermeasures conditions. The infrared seeker also permits the pilot to launch the missile, then leave the area or take evasive action while the missile guides itself to the target.

 

Variants

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The development process has produced increased capabilities with each missile modification.

The AIM-9A, prototype of the Sidewinder, was first fired successfully in September 1953. The initial production version, designated AIM-9B, entered the Air Force inventory in 1956 and was effective only at close range. It could not engage targets close to the ground, nor did it have nighttime or head-on attack capability. These shortcomings were eliminated on subsequent versions.

The AIM-9G provided the capability to lock on and launch against a target offset from the axis of the launch aircraft.

The AIM-9H configuration replace vacuum tubes with solid-state modules and a thermal battery replaced the turbo-alternator. The AIM-9H was configured with a continuous-rod bundle warhead.

The AIM-9J, a conversion of the AIM-B and E models, has maneuvering capability for dog-fighting, and greater speed and range, giving it greater enhanced aerial combat capability. Deliveries began in 1977 to equip the F-15 and other Sidewinder-compatible aircraft.

The AIM-9L added a more powerful solid-propellant rocket motor as well as tracking maneuvering ability. Improvements in heat sensor and control systems have provided the AIM-9L missile with an all-aspect attack capability and improved guidance characteristics. The L model was the first Sidewinder with the ability to attack from all angles, including head-on. An improved active optical fuse increased the missile's lethality and resistance to electronic countermeasures. A conical scan seeker increased seeker sensitivity and improved tracking stability. The AIM-9L is configured with an annular blast fragmentation warhead. Production and delivery of the AIM-9L began in 1976.

The AIM-9M missile utilizes a guidance control section with counter-countermeasures and improved maintainability and reducibility. The AIM-9M is configured with an annular blast fragmentation warhead.

The AIM-9P, an improved version of the J model, has greater engagement boundaries, enabling it to be launched farther from the target. The more maneuverable P model also incorporated improved solid-state electronics that increased reliability and maintainability. Deliveries began in 1978.

The AIM-9P-1 has an active optical target detector instead of the infrared influence fuse; the AIM-9P-2 added a reduced-smoke motor. The most recently developed version, the AIM-9P-3, combined both the active optical target detector and the reduced-smoke motor. It also has added mechanical strengthening to the warhead as well as the guidance and control section. The improved warhead uses new explosive material that is less sensitive to high temperature and has a longer shelf life.

The AIM-9M, currently the only operational variant, has the all-aspect capability of the L model, but provides all-around higher performance. The M model has improved defense against infrared countermeasures, enhanced background discrimination capability, and a reduced-smoke rocket motor. These modifications increase ability to locate and lock-on a target and decrease the missile's chances for detection. Deliveries of the M model began in 1983.

The AIM-9M-9 has expanded infrared counter measures detection circuitry.

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The AIM-9X Sidewinder Air-to-Air missile program will develop a short range heat seeking weapon to be employed in both offensive and defensive counter-air operations. Offensively, the weapon will assure that US and combined air forces have the ability project the necessary power to insure dominant maneuver. In the defensive counter-air role, the missile system will provide a key capability for force protection. The multi-service Air Intercept Missile (AIM-9X Sidewinder) development will field a high off-bore sight capable short range heat seeking missile to be employed on US Air Force and Navy/Marine Corps fighters. The missile will be used both for offensive and defensive counter-air operations as a short range, launch and leave air combat missile that uses infra red guidance. The AIM-9X will complement longer range radar guided missiles such as the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM).

The new missile is required to reestablish the parity of US aircraft in short range air combat, vis-à-vis improved foreign export aircraft and missiles. Specific deficiencies exist in the current AIM-9M in high off-bore sight angle capability, infra-red counter-countermeasures robustness, kinematics performance, and missile maneuverability. The MiG-29 with its AA-10/AA-11 missiles are the major threat to US forces. Additionally, there are a number of other missiles on the world market that outperform the current US inventory AIM-9M weapon system in the critical operational employment areas.

The AIM-9X will expand the capabilities of the current AIM-9M by developing a new seeker imaging infra-red focal plane array, a high performance airframe, and a new signal processor for the seeker/sensor. The current acquisition strategy seeks to retain the warhead, fuse, and rocket motor of the current design in order to capitalize on the large existing inventory of AIM-9 weapons. The F-15C/D and the F/A-18C/D will be the initial platforms for integration and T&E.

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The early operational assessment of the Hughes and Raytheon DEMVAL results was that both the Hughes and Raytheon missiles showed potential for meeting both the mission effectiveness and suitability requirements of the AIM-9X operational requirements document. Specifically, all critical operational issues were rated green (potentially effective/suitable) except counter-countermeasures capability, lethality, built in test functionality, and re-programmability. Counter-countermeasures capability of both missiles was initially below the operationally required threshold values, however the Hughes missile showed a rapid improvement through the course of the evaluation. The missiles demonstrated acceptable performance levels in the air-to-air phase. The other assessment areas not resolved as green had insufficient data for conclusive evaluation. However, again, the risk of either DEMVAL missile not meeting the threshold requirement was rated as low. The results of the operational assessment were integral to the Service source selection decision to award the engineering, manufacturing, development contract to Hughes Missile Systems Corporation.

The early operational assessment of the British ASRAAM foreign comparative test (FCT) focused on the risk areas of the ASRAAM: focal plane array effectiveness, seeker signal processing, warhead effectiveness, rocket motor testing, and kinematics/guidance ability to support the lethality requirements of the AIM-9X. The resulting assessment was that the ASRAAM (as is) cannot meet the AIM-9X operational requirements in high off-bore sight angle performance, infrared counter-countermeasures robustness, lethality, and interoperability.

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The AIM-9X is a supersonic, air-to-air, guided missile which employs a passive IR target acquisition system, proportional navigational guidance, a closed-loop position servo Control Actuation Section (CAS), and an AOTD. The AIM-9X is launched from an aircraft after target detection to home in on IR emissions and to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft. The missile interfaces with the aircraft through the missile launcher using a forward umbilical cable, a mid-body umbilical connector and three missile hangars. The AIM-9X has three basic phases of operation: captive flight, launch, and free flight.

The AIM-9X utilizes the existing AIM-9M AOTD, warhead, and rocket motor, but incorporates a new Guidance Section (GS), new hangars, a new mid-body connector, new harness and harness cover, new titanium wings and fins, and a new CAS. The missile is propelled by the AIM-9M solid-propellant rocket motor, but uses a new Arm and Fire Device (AFD) handle design. Also, the AIM-9M rocket motor is modified to mount the CAS on its aft end. Aerodynamic lift and stability for the missile are provided by four forward-mounted , fixed titanium wings. Airframe maneuvering is accomplished by four titanium control fins mounted in line with the fixed wings and activated by the CAS, which includes a thrust vector control system that uses four jet vanes to direct the flow of the rocket motor exhaust. The AIM-9X is configured with the AIM-9M Annular Blast Fragmentation (ABF) warhead, which incorporates a new Electronic Safe and Arm Device (ESAD) to arm the warhead after launch. The AIM-9M AOTD is used to detect the presence of a target at distances out to the maximum effective range of the missile warhead and command detonation.

Guidance Section. The GS provides the missile tracking, guidance, and control signals. It consists of three major subassemblies: (1) a mid-wave IR Focal Plane Array (FPA) seeker assembly for detecting the target, (2) an electronics unit that converts the detected target information to tracking and guidance command signals, and (3) a center section containing the cryo-engine, contact fuse device, two thermal batteries, and required harnesses and connectors. The coolant supply for the GS is provided by the twin-opposed-piston, linear drive, Sterling cryo-engine.

Forward Hangar/Mid-body Umbilical Connector and Buffer Connector. The hangers on the AIM-9M rocket motor are replaced by slightly "taller" hangers for AIM-9X. These taller hangers provide additional separation between the missile and the launcher. This separation is needed to provide adequate clearance for the AIM-9X on all the launcher configurations. The middle and aft hanger mounting is unchanged from the AIM-9M configuration. The forward hanger is replaced by an integrated forward hanger/mid-body umbilical assembly. The mid-body umbilical connector adds a mid-body interface with the LAU-127 launcher. This connection provides the missile MIL-STD-1553 digital communications with the launching aircraft, and requires a buffer connector similar to the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) buffer connector. The forward hanger/mid-body umbilical assembly is an integrated assembly that consists of the hanger, the mid-body umbilical connector, the umbilical cabling, and the rocket motor AFD wiring to the hanger striker points. The rocket motor AFD wiring is unchanged from that used in the AIM-9M and will interface with the striker points as in the AIM-9M configuration.

Harness and Harness Cover. Unlike the AIM-9M, an electronic harness has been added to the AIM-9X to provide the communications interface between the electronics unit in the GS and the other missile components. Due to the lack of space internally, the harness had to be mounted externally on the underside of the missile surface. The harness cover spans most of the length of the missile and provides an aerodynamic surface and protective cover for the electronic harness and the CAS electronic circuit board.

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The AIM-9X will utilize mid-wave IR FPA seeker technology in lieu of the single-element IR seeker used in the AIM-9M. The AIM-9X will be a digital missile with Built-In-Test (BIT) and re-programming capability that is not present in the the analog AIM-9M. A buffer connector must be used on the mid-body umbilical connector when the AIM-9X is loaded on the LAU-127 launcher. The AIM-9X will use an internal cryogenic engine, called a cryo-engine, for IR element cooling. The cryoengine does not require externally-supplied coolant, e.g., nitrogen, and thus does not use the nitrogen receiver assemblies contained in the LAU-7 and LAU-127 launchers, which provide IR element coolant for the AIM-9M. The AIM-9X will use titanium wings and fins. Also, the AIM-9X will use a CAS to direct movement of the aft fins and four internal jet vanes. The jet vanes direct the flow of the rocket motor exhaust to generate thrust vector control.

Fleet introduction of the AIM-9X missile is planned to begin in FY02 via aircraft carrier load outs. Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) All-Up-Round (AUR) missile deliveries begin in FY01 and continue through FY04, when Full-Rate Production deliveries begin.

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The AIM-9X seeks and homes in on IR energy emitted by the target. When an IR-emitting source enters the seeker field of view, an audio signal is generated by the electronics unit. The pilot hears the signal through the headset, indicating that the AIM-9X has acquired a potential target. One method of cueing the AIM-9X to the target’s IR energy source is referred to as boresight, whereby the missile is physically pointed toward the target via the pilot maneuvering the aircraft. The IR energy gathered by the missile seeker is converted to electronic signals that enable the missile to acquire and track the target up to its seeker gimbals limits. A second method of cueing the AIM-9X to the target’s IR energy is the Sidewinder Expanded Acquisition Mode (SEAM). SEAM slaves the AIM-9X seeker to the aircraft radar. The aircraft avionics system can slave the missile seeker up to a given number of degrees from the missile/aircraft bore sight axis. The missile seeker is slaved until an audible signal indicates seeker target acquisition. Upon target acquisition, a seeker interlock in the missile is released (encaged) and the missile seeker begins tracking the target. The AIM-9X seeker will then continue to track the target. A third method for cueing the AIM-9X to the target’s IR energy is through use of the JHMCS. This method allows the pilot to cue the AIM-9X seeker to high off-bore sight targets via helmet movement. The pilot can launch the AIM-9X anytime after receipt of the appropriate audible signal.

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The AIM-9X is required to be compatible, at full capability, with the F/A-18C/ D/E/F, F-15C/D/E, F-16C/D, and F-22 aircraft, and be capable of being used in a reduced capacity on other aircraft with MIL-STD-1760 signal set capability (F-14B Upgrade, F-14D, AV-8B, and AH-1W). The AIM-9X is also backward compatible to aircraft/launchers only capable of AIM-9M analog communication. For analog interfaces, the AIM-9X operates, and is identified, as an AIM-9M. This backward compatibility includes the analog seeker slave mode. The AIM-9X will be integrated with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), a helmet-mounted display with capability to cue and verify cueing of high off-bore-sight sensors and weapons. This missile-helmet marriage will provide the aircrew with first-look, first-shot capability in the air-to-air, within visual range, combat arena. Increased off-bore-sight acquisition angle and improved situational awareness will be achieved through the integrated combination of the AIM-9X missile, the JHMCS and the aircraft.

For the USN and United States Marine Corps (USMC), two guided missile launchers are available to carry and launch the AIM-9X on the F/A-18 aircraft. The LAU-7 guided missile launcher can be used on all applicable Sidewinder weapons stations, however, it requires modification of the current power supply and the addition of digital and addressing lines to the forward umbilical to carry and launch the AIM-9X. With these modifications, it will be designated the LAU-7D/A. The LAU-127 guided missile launcher can be used on the F/A-18 aircraft wing stations only. F/A-18 aircraft wing stations require a LAU-115 guided missile launcher in order to attach the LAU-127.

Specifications

Primary Function Air-to-air missile
Contractor Naval Weapons Center
Power Plant Hercules and Bermite Mk 36 Mod 71, 8 solid-propellant rocket motor
Thrust Classified
Speed Supersonic Mach 2.5
Range 10 to 18 miles depending on altitude
Length 9 feet, 5 inches (2.87 meters)
Diameter 5 inches (0.13 meters)
Finspan 2 feet, 3/4 inches (0.63 meters)
Warhead Annular blast fragmentation warhead
25 lbs high explosive for AIM-9H
20.8 lbs high explosive for AIM-9L/M
 
Launch Weight 190 pounds (85.5 kilograms)
Guidance System Solid-state, infrared homing system
Introduction Date 1956
Unit Cost Approximately $84,000
Inventory Classified

 

AIM-9 Sidewinder

 Raytheon (Philco/General Electric)AAM-N-7/GAR-8/AIM-9 Sidewinder

The AIM-9 Sidewinder is the world's most successful short-range air-to-air missile, and will remain the U.S. military's main "dogfight" AAM for the foreseeable future.

 

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Development of Sidewinder began in 1950 at the NOTS (Naval Ordnance Test Station) - later renamed as NWC (Naval Weapons Center) - at China Lake. The idea was to create a very simple heat-seeking air-to-air missile by equipping a 12.7 cm (5 in) air-to-air rocket with a lead sulphide (PbS) photo cell in a hemispherical glass nose to detect IR radiation. Another simple, yet effective, idea was the use of "Roller-ons" (slipstream-driven wheels at the fin trailing edges acting as stabilizing gyros) as roll-stabilizing devices. The first test missiles were fired in 1951, and on 11 September 1953, the first air-to-air hit on a drone was scored. In the same year, the prototype missile received the official designation XAAM-N-7.

General Electric began low-rate production in 1955, and in May 1956, the AAM-N-7 Sidewinder I entered U.S. Navy service. Only 240 Sidewinder I missiles were built, and full-rate production missiles (built by Ford Aerospace (Philco) and General Electric) were known as AAM-N-7 Sidewinder IA. I have found no evidence that the AAM-N-7 designations ever used suffix letters (like AAM-N-7a, etc.). For ease of reference, I will use the post-1963 designations of AIM-9A (Sidewinder I) and AIM-9B (Sidewinder IA) throughout this text, even when referring to pre-1963 events.

The AIM-9A/B used a 4.5 kg (10 lb) blast-fragmentation warhead. This was triggered by an IR proximity or contact fuse, and had an effective kill radius of about 9 m (30 ft). The un-cooled PbS seeker of these early missiles had a 4° angle of view and a tracking rate of 11°/s, and the missile itself could turn at 12G. Propulsion was provided by a Thiokol MK 17 solid-fuel rocket motor (17.8 kN (4000 lb) thrust for 2.2 s), which could propel the missile to a speed of Mach 1.7 above launch speed. Because of the limitations of the seeker, the AIM-9A/B could only be used for tail-on engagements of non-maneuvering(!) targets at ranges between 900 m (3000 ft) and 4.8 km (2.6 nm). The missile was also very susceptible to other heat sources (sun, ground reflections).

Because of the usual inter-service rivalry, the USAF did not adopt the Sidewinder, until a "fly-off" against the USAF's GAR-2/AIM-4B Falcon in June 1955 showed the superiority of the Sidewinder. The USAF subsequently procured the AIM-9B under the designation GAR-8. More than 80000 AIM-9B missiles were produced until 1962.

On 24 September 1958, the Sidewinder achieved the world's first successful use of air-to-air guided missiles, when Taiwanese F-86Fs shot down Communist Chinese MiG-15s using AIM-9Bs supplied by the U.S. Navy.

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From top: AIM-9B, AIM-9D, AIM-9C

The limited performance of the AIM-9B prompted the Navy to look for improvements. The AAM-N-7 Sidewinder IC was developed in two version: a semi-active radar homing version (called Sidewinder IB in source [1]), designated AIM-9C in 1963, and an IR guided version, later designated as AIM-9D. Improvements common to both IC versions include a new Hercules MK 36 solid-fuel rocket motor for significantly increased speed and 18 km (9.7 nm) range, a larger MK 48 continuous-rod warhead, and slightly larger fins.

The SARH AIM-9C was only used with the Navy'S F8U Crusader fighters to provide these with an all-weather capability without having to fit a Sparrow-compatible radar. However, the AIM-9C was not very successful, and only 1000 were built by Motorola between 1965 and 1967. Many were later converted into AGM-122A Sidearm anti-radiation missiles.

The IR seeker of the AIM-9D (in a more pointed nose) featured a new nitrogen-cooled PbS seeker, which had field of view of only 2.5° (reduced background noise) and a higher tracing rate of 12°/s. However, only about 1000 AIM-9D missiles were built (by Philco-Ford and Raytheon) between 1965 and 1969.

The following table summarizes the re-designations of the Sidewinder variants in June 1963:

Old Designation

New Designation

AAM-N-7 Sidewinder I AIM-9A
AAM-N-7 Sidewinder IA
GAR-8
AIM-9B
AAM-N-7 Sidewinder IC (SARH) AIM-9C
AAM-N-7 Sidewinder IC (IR) AIM-9D

A training version of the AIM-9D for captive flight target acquisition, which had the warhead replaced by a WDU-9/B dummy warhead, was later designated as ATM-9D. The WDU-9/B is also used in all subsequent inert ATM/CATM/NATM-9 versions. Early training Sidewinders for firing practice were designated GDU-1/B.

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The AIM-9E was the first version specifically developed by the USAF. It was an improved AIM-9B with a new seeker with thermoelectric (Peltier) cooling, and a higher tracking rate of 16.5°/s. The Peltier cooling method allowed unlimited cooling time while the missile was on the launch rail. Externally, the AIM-9E differed from the AIM-9B by its longer conical nose section. About 5000 AIM-9Bs were converted to AIM-9E. The AIM-9E-2 is a variant with a reduced-smoke motor.

The AIM-9F (also known as AIM-9B FGW.2) was a European development of the AIM-9B, of which 15000 were built by Bodensee Gerätetechnik (BGT) in Germany. It featured a now CO2-cooled seeker, some solid-state electronics, and a new nose dome. This version entered service in 1969, and most European AIM-9Bs were converted to AIM-9F standard.

Another Navy variant was the AIM-9G, an improved AIM-9D. It featured SEAM (Sidewinder Expanded Acquisition Mode), which allowed the optics either to be slewed through a search pattern, or to be slaved to the aircraft's radar to acquire a target. 2120 AIM-9G were built by Raytheon from 1970 to 1972. Equivalent to ATM-9D, there was also an ATM-9G training version of the AIM-9G.

The Sidewinder was of course used extensively over Vietnam by both the USAF and the Navy. The Air Force scored 28 AIM-9 air-to-air kills using the AIM-9B/E versions, achieving a kill probability for this missile of about 16%. The USN's most successful Sidewinder variants in Vietnam were the AIM-9D and -9G, which were resposible for the majority of USN air-to-air kills in this conflict. A total of 82 air-to-air kills over Vietnam are attributed to the AIM-9.

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To increase the reliability of the AIM-9G, the Navy developed the AIM-9H. The main difference to the AIM-9G were solid-state electronics in the guidance and control system. The seeker tracking rate was also increased to 20°/s to complement the more powerful actuators. Only a few AIM-9Hs were fired over Vietnam, but they were credited with a higher kill rate than any other AIM-9 version in Vietnam. About 7700 AIM-9Hs were produced by Philco-Ford and Raytheon between 1972 and 1974. The ATM-9H was a training version for captive flight target acquisition.

The USAF's AIM-9J was an improved AIM-9E. It had partial solid-state electronics, a longer-burning gas generator (increasing flight time), and more powerful actuators which drove new square-tipped double-delta canards. The latter feature doubled the single-plane "G"-capability of the missile. About 10000 AIM-9Js were eventually built from 1972 on, mostly by converting existing AIM-9B/E missiles.

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The designation ZAIM-9K was allocated by the U.S. Navy to a planned upgraded AIM-9H, but development was cancelled in favor of the joint USAF/USN AIM-9L.

In 1971, the USAF and U.S. Navy agreed to jointly develop the AIM-9L, a vastly improved Sidewinder based on the AIM-9H. Major development goals were ALASCA (All-Aspect Capability) and effective use against violently manoeuvering and high-speed targets at all ranges. The AIM-9L had new long-span pointed double-delta canards, a modified MK 36 solid-fuel rocket motor (MODs 8 through 11), and a new AN/DSQ-29 solid-state guidance and control section. Additional improvements include a completely new Argon-cooled Indium Antimonide (InSb) seeker, a DSU-15/B AOTD (Active Optical Target Detector) laser proximity fuze, and an improved 9.4 kg (20.8 lb) WDU-17/B annular blast-fragmentation warhead. All AIM-9L features resulted in a vastly improved missile which could acquire targets at all aspects, and had a much improved tracking, maneuvering, terminal homing, and killing performance. Production started in 1978, and more than 16000 AIM-9Ls have been built by Philco-Ford, Raytheon, BGT (Germany), and Mitsubishi (Japan). The AIM-9L was used very successfully by the Royal Navy in the Falklands War during 1982.

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Training versions of the AIM-9L are the ATM-9L for firing practice, the captive (non-launching) CATM-9L, and the non-flying DATM-9L for handling and loading practice. There is also a version designated NATM-9L, which is equipped with special test and evaluation equipment. There is also a loading practice version of the AIM-9L known as GDU-6/C. This may be just another (earlier) designation for the DATM-9L.

The AIM-9M is a development of the AIM-9L and replaced the latter on the production line. It features a reduced-smoke rocket motor, an improved guidance section designated WGU-4/B, better countermeasures resistance (IRCCM - Infrared Counter-Countermeasures), and improved overall reliability. Production began in 1982, and so far more than 7000 missiles have been built by Raytheon in subtypes numbered AIM-9M-1 through AIM-9M-10. The principal current production versions are the AIM-9M-8 (USN) and AIM-9M-9 (USAF). They have further improved IRCM detection circuitry, and the latest versions of the rocket motor (MK 36 MOD 11), guidance section (WGU-4E/B), and AOTD (DSU-15B/B). The AIM-9M-10 is a slightly modified -9M-8 for use by the F/A-18E/F Hornet. Most existing AIM-9Ms will be upgraded to -9M-8/9 standard. In Operation Desert Storm in 1991, 13 air-to-air kills were attributed to the Sidewinder, all of which were probably AIM-9M missiles.

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There seem to be no special ATM-9M launch training and DATM-9M ground handling training versions for the AIM-9M. Probably the equivalent -9L versions are used for these purposes. However, there is the CATM-9M captive-carry version, which exists in many sub variants. Variants known to me are the CATM-9M-1/2/4/6/8 (for AIM-9M-1/3 training), CATM-9M-12/14 (for AIM-9M-8/9 training), and CATM-9M-27 (for AIM-9M-10 training). The NATM-9M is a version equipped with special test and evaluation equipment (variants include NATM-9M-1 through -4).

The AIM-9N (originally designated AIM-9J-1) is an improved AIM-9J with all three major circuit boards redesigned for improved seeker performance. Around 7000 were built by Philco-Ford, mainly for export.

The AIM-9P is a USAF-sponsored development of AIM-9J/N, mainly intended for export to countries which can't afford, don't need, or are not allowed to receive the AIM-9L/M. The AIM-9P-1 introduced the DSU-15/B AOTD laser proximity fuze, and the AIM-9P-2 adds a reduced-smoke rocket motor. The AIM-9P-3 has the reduced-smoke motor, a new insensitive munitions warhead, and an improved guidance and control section. Some sources say the -9P-3 retains the original IR fuze of the AIM-9J, while others say that it also uses the new DSU-15/B like the -9P-1. The designation AIM-9P-4 applies to variants with an ALASCA seeker using some of the technology of the AIM-9L/M, and the AIM-9P-5 adds improved IRCCM. Externally, the AIM-9P remains almost identical to the AIM-9J/N. More than 21000 AIM-9Ps have been built so far, many being rebuilt AIM-9B/E/J missiles. Although originally intended for export only, many AIM-9Ps are in the USAF inventory.

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The designation AIM-9Q was applied by the U.S. Navy to an AIM-9M development with an upgraded guidance and control section. I have no further information about this version, and it was probably either cancelled or re-designated as an AIM-9M sub variant.

In 1986, development of the AIM-9R began. It was derived from the AIM-9M and equipped with a completely new WGU-19/B IIR (Imaging Infrared) seeker, offering much improved detection and tracking performance in daylight. The first live firing occurred in 1990, but in 1992, the planned production was cancelled due to lack of funding.

The AIM-9S is a stripped-down version of the AIM-9M without the IRCCM system. It is intended for export, and the first customer will be Turkey.

Since the 1980s, the DOD has been searching for a new missile to replace the AIM-9 as its standard short-range "dogfight" air-to-air missile. Original plans to procure the European AIM-132 ASRAAM (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile) were dropped, and various test programs were conducted during the late 1980s/early 1990s, including Have Thrust (USAF, classified), Top Hat (USAF/Hughes), Box Office (Loral/Raytheon) and Boa (NWC China Lake). From 1991 on, efforts to develop a Sidewinder follow-on were generally known as "AIM-9X". Following cancellation of the AIM-9R, development of a future dogfight missile based on the AIM-9M began in earnest. In 1994, a Dem/Val (Demonstration/Validation) program for the AIM-9X started, with Hughes and Raytheon as competitors, and in December 1996, Hughes was announced as winner. However, because Raytheon has since acquired the Hughes missile division, Raytheon is now prime contractor for the AIM-9X. The new missile is also officially designated as AIM-9X, so that suffixes -9T/U/V/W are all skipped. Test firings of the AIM-9X began in 1998, and in June 1999, the first guided live firing succeeded to hit a QF-4 target drone. Low-rate initial production was authorized in September 2000, and the first production AIM-9X reached the USAF and USN evaluation units in summer 2002. Initial operational capability with the U.S. Air Force was officially achieved in November 2003, and in May 2004 full-rate production of the missile was approved.

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The AIM-9X retains the MK 36 motor and the WDU-17/B warhead of the AIM-9M. The airframe is new, however, and has much smaller fins and canards for lower drag and higher flight performance. The guidance section is completely new, and features an IIR (Imaging Infrared) seeker. The new WPU-17/B propulsion section has a jet-vane steering system for significantly enhanced agility. The missile is compact enough to fit into the internal weapons bays of stealthy fighters like the F/A-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but can also be used on existing AIM-9 launchers (like the LAU-7/A series, and the LAU-127/A, -128/A and -129/A series of Common Rail Launchers). The AIM-9X is also fully compatible with the new JHMCS (Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System) for target acquisition. Non-tactical versions of the AIM-9X include the captive (non-launching) CATM-9X, the non-flying DATM-9X for handling and loading practice, and the NATM-9X, which is equipped with special test and evaluation telemetry equipment.

Until 2001, more than 150000 AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles of all variants have been built in the USA by Raytheon (current prime contractor), Ford Aerospace (Philco), General Electric, and Motorola. Foreign built missiles raise this number to more than 200000, and production will almost certainly continue for many years. About 270 air-to-air kills worldwide are attributed to the AIM-9.

The graph below summarizes the development line of the AIM-9 missile family. The view of the various AIM-9 variants seems to contain a few minor inaccuracies, but does nevertheless show the major external differences.

 

Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Specifications

Data for AIM-9B/D/E/G/H/J/L/M/N/X:

  AIM-9B AIM-9D/G/H AIM-9E AIM-9J/N AIM-9L/M AIM-9X
Length 2.83 m (111.5 in) 2.87 m (113 in) 3.00 m (118 in) 3.05 m (120 in) 2.85 m (112.2 in) 3.02 m (118.8 in)
Finspan 0.56 m (22 in) 0.63 m (24.8 in) 0.56 m (22 in) 0.58 m (22.8 in) 0.63 m (24.8 in) 0.28 m (11 in)
Diameter 12.7 cm (5 in)
Weight 70 kg (155 lb) AIM-9D: 88 kg (195 lb)
AIM-9G: 87 kg (192 lb)
AIM-9H: 84 kg (186 lb)
74 kg (164 lb) 77 kg (170 lb) 86 kg (191 lb) 85 kg (188 lb)
Speed Mach 1.7 Mach 2.5+ ?
Range 4.8 km (2.6 nm) 18 km (9.7 nm) 4.2 km (2.3 nm) 18 km (9.7 nm) 40+ km (22+ nm) ?
Propulsion Thiokol MK 17
solid-fuel rocket
Hercules MK 36
solid-fuel rocket
Thiokol/Aerojet MK 17 Hercules/Bermite MK 36
Warhead 4.5 kg (10 lb)
blast-fragmentation
11 kg (25 lb) MK 48 continuous rod 4.5 kg (10 lb) blast-fragmentation 9.4 kg (20.8 lb) WDU-17/B
annular blast-fragmentation

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] Christopher Chant: "World Encyclopaedia of Modern Air Weapons", Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1988
[5] Hajime Ozu: "Missile 2000 - Reference Guide to World Missile Systems", Shinkigensha, 2000
[6] Malcolm English: "First Look, First Kill", article in "Air International", August 2001
[7] Carlo Kopp: The Sidewinder Story, 1998 (original article published in "Australian Aviation", April 1994)

 

The Sidewinder Story


 

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