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. It is a widely deployed missile used by U.S. and NATO forces.


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.


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-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-Buildwhich has been produced since 1987 and incorporates additional improvements in guidance. The F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters carry the AIM-7M Sparrow. U.S. and NATO navies operate a surface-to-air version of this missile called the RIM-7F/M Sea Sparrow.

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.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Air-to-air guided missile

Contractor: Raytheon Co.

Power Plant: Hercules MK-58 solid-propellant rocket motor

Thrust: Classified

Speed: Classified

Range: Classified

Length: 12 feet (3.64 meters)

Diameter: 8 inches (0.20 meters)

Wingspan: 3 feet, 4 inches (1 meter)

Warhead: Annular blast fragmentation warhead

Launch Weight: Approximately 500 pounds (225 kilograms)

Guidance System: Raytheon semiactive on either continuous wave or pulsed

Doppler radar energy

Date Deployed: 1976

Unit Cost: Approximately $125,000

Inventory: Classified



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