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.
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.
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.
Primary Function: Air-to-air guided missile
Power Plant: Hercules MK-58 solid-propellant rocket
Length: 12 feet (3.64 meters)
8 inches (0.20 meters)
Wingspan: 3 feet, 4 inches (1 meter)
Annular blast fragmentation warhead
Launch Weight: Approximately
500 pounds (225 kilograms)
Guidance System: Raytheon semiactive
on either continuous wave or pulsed
Doppler radar energy
Unit Cost: Approximately $125,000
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