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.
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
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.
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.
a conversion of the AIM-B and E models, has maneuvering capability for dogfighting,
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.
AIM-9L added a more powerful solid-propellant rocket motor as well as tracking
maneuvering ability. An improved active optical fuze 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.
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 fuze; 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.
Function: Air-to-air missile
Contractor: Naval Weapons Center
Plant: Hercules and Bermite Mk 36 Mod 71, 8 solid-propellant rocket motor
9 feet, 5 inches (2.87 meters)
Diameter: 5 inches (0.13 meters)
2 feet, 3/4 inches (0.63 meters)
Warhead: Annular blast fragmentation warhead
Weight: 190 pounds (85.5 kilograms)
Guidance System: Solid-state, infrared
Introduction Date: 1956
Unit Cost: Approximately $84,000
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