Dimensions and weight
Range of fire
Altitude of fire
General Motors 6V53 diesel
Maximum road speed
Amphibious speed on water
~ 8 km/h
Chaparral is a self-propelled short-ranged SAM system, employing a
missile based on the Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
It was the only truly mobile weapon of this class ever fielded by
the US military (as the
Avenger, LAV-AD, and
Linebacker vehicles can only fight in a stationary position).
The US Army's 1959 FAAD (Forward Area Air Defense) program
was originally built around the MIM-46 Mauler SAM, but the Mauler's
numerous problems prompted the Army to pursue an interim system. As
a result, the subsequent IFAAD (Interim Forward Area Air Defense)
program was initiated in 1963, with the intent to create a
"stop-gap" for the Mauler until its flaws could be corrected. The
IFAAD program opted in 1965 for a missile based on the Sidewinder,
carried by a launcher mounted on a tracked transport vehicle.
The resulting system was developed in 1967. It was comprised
of four basic components; the MIM-72 Chaparral missile, the M54
launcher, and the M730 vehicle that carries them, which was derived
M548. Collectively, these were also referred to as the M48 fire
unit. Following approval and procurement by the US Army, the first
Chaparral battalion was fielded in 1969. The Chaparrals were
gradually transferred to the US Army National Guard in the late
1980s, and finally retired entirely by 1998, though the system
remains in service with several other nations (see below).
Ultimately, the Mauler system's problems proved totally
insurmountable, forcing the US Army to fully-adopt the "interim"
Chaparral system instead.
Interestingly, because of its commonality with the AIM-9D,
the early model Chaparral missiles were procured from the US Navy
(the AIM-9D being a Navy variant of the Sidewinder). As the
development of the Sidewinder and Chaparral diverged in the 1970s,
later models were produced new by Ford Aerospace.
The first model of the missile, the MIM-72A, was directly
derived from the AIM-9D Sidewinder. Its only significant structural
differences from the AIM-9D are that only two of the fins on the
MIM-72A have rollerons, while the other two are non-moving. The
seeker head of the MIM-72A is derived from that of the FIM-43 Redeye
MANPADS missile, and as a result, it is highly susceptible to
flares, infrared jamming, and sun glare.
The MIM-72A is propelled by a Mk.50 solid-fuel rocket motor,
and has a top speed of Mach 1.5, a ceiling of 3 000 m, and a maximum
range of 9 000 m. Its warhead is a Mk.48 11kg continuous rod
munition. Its minimum effective altitude and range are 25 m and 500
The definitive model of the series is the MIM-72G. In
addition to an M121 smokeless motor first introduced in the E model,
and the new M817 directional doppler fuse and M250 blast
fragmentation warhead first introduced in the C model, the G model
also boasts the RSS (Rosette Scan Seeker) seeker head derived from
that of the
FIM-92B Stinger. The RSS seeker head substantially
improved the Chaparral's guidance and sensitivity, allowing for
head-on engagements, and also giving this missile significant
resistance against flares and infrared jamming systems. As a result,
the MIM-72G is thus unquestionably the most capable Chaparral
The MIM-72G is propelled by the Hercules M121 smokeless
solid-rocket motor. It has the same top speed and ceiling, but the
range has been increased to 30 000 m. The new M250 warheads is a
12.6 kg annular blast munition. The minimum effective altitude and
range of the MIM-72G remain unchanged from the MIM-72A.
Other variants and details of the Chaparral missile are
outlined further below.
The launch vehicle for the Chaparral is the M730-based M48,
as described above. It has mobility virtually equal to the
series vehicles it is derived from, including air transportability
C-130H Hercules, and airdrop capability. It is fully-amphibious
without preparation, and propelled through water by its tracks.
The cab and chassis of the M48 vehicle are armored, and
protected from small arms fire, shell splinters, and blast
overpressure, and most mines up to 6 kg anti-tank mine. A collective
NBC system is standard.
The M54 launcher can traverse 360 degrees in 6 seconds, and
can elevate to 90 degrees, or depress to -9 degrees. It is
stabilized in 2 planes, allowing the M48 to launch while on the
move. The sights are electro-optical, and in M48 vehicles
manufactured from 1984 onward (and many older examples that were
back-fitted), this was augmented with a FLIR (Forward Looking
InfraRed) system and a laser rangefinder.
The MIM-72 Chaparral missiles are loaded onto the four launch
rails manually, as this munition is light enough for two men to
carry with their bare hands. Protective covers on both ends of the
missile are removed and the fins manually installed prior to launch.
Protective shutters are closed over the windscreen of the M48 fire
unit prior to launch as well, due to the possibility of the
Chaparral missile’s backblast shattering unprotected glass.
The M48 vehicle lacks either search or targeting radar, and
relies on a separate radar set for long-range detection and tracking
of aerial targets. It does however possess an IFF system.
It is unclear whether the Chaparral has ever been used in
combat, though the US military has never launched one in anger.
Though given the performance of the Vietnam War-era Sidewinder
missiles, it would likely demonstrate a pK Ratio of at least 25%
(which is exceptionally high for guided missiles; most missiles have
pK Ratios of between 0.5% and 10%).
At one point, the Chaparral was to be replaced under a second
FAAD program by a new SAM system in the 1980s. The
selected by the US Army, but it was found wanting in testing and
development, and not procured by the US military. Deciding to
M6 Linebacker and
M1026 Avenger as replacements for the
Chaparral, the Army ironically found itself back at square-one;
buying an interim weapon to launch a surplus missile, because the
preferred, newly-developed model was a failure.
The regular US Army formations began phasing-out the
Chaparral in 1990, and Army National Guard formations began to
follow suit in 1994. By 1998, the Chaparral was no longer in service
with the US military, though the missiles and launchers remained in
storage for some time (possibly into the present, pending export
sales or disposal).
Approximately 600 M48 fire units and 21 000 MIM-72 Chaparral
missiles have been manufactured. They have been operated by eight
different nations; Chile, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Portugal, Taiwan,
Tunisia, and the United States. As of 2015, it is known to remain
operational in Portugal, Taiwan, and Tunisia. It is likely that
these nations as well will have phased-out their Chaparrals by 2025.
The M48 fire unit has a unit cost of $1.5 Million, while each
MIM-72G Chaparral costs $80 000. However, neither of these systems
are in production, and neither are still offered new by the
Original production model, converted from surplus AIM-9D
Sidewinders. Produced from 1967 to 1975.
MIM-72B: Training version of the MIM-72A. Performs almost
exactly the same as the MIM-72A, but has a different fuse. Produced
alongside the A model.
MIM-72C Improved Chaparral: Has improved guidance system,
fusing, and warhead. Produced from 1976 to 1981.
RIM-72C Sea Chaparral: Navalized MIM-72C. Used on Taiwanese
MIM-72D: Hybrid model with the seeker head from the A model,
and the warhead and fuse of the C model. Did not enter production.
MIM-72E: MIM-72Cs back-fitted with the M121 smokeless motor.
MIM-72F: Same as the MIM-72E, but factory-new rather than
MIM-72G: The definitive model, essentially an MIM-72F with
radically improved guidance. Produced from 1982 to 1991.
MIM-72H: Export model of the MIM-72F.
MIM-72J: Export model of the MIM-72G.
M30: Inert training round based on the MIM-72A.
Four-rail launcher for the MIM-72 Chaparral. Can be mounted on
vehicles, ships, trailers, and stationary sites.
M48: M730-based vehicle carrying the M54.
Antelope: Extremely similar system to the Chaparral, with a
four-rail launcher for the Tien Chien 1 SAM, mounted on the flatbed
of a Toyota 4x4 truck.
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Video of the M48
Chaparral air defense missile system