Country of origin
Range of fire
~ 4.2 km
based on analyses of air combat reports in the Vietnam War, the
second generation of the
Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder were a product improvement of the
AIM-9B and AIM-9D. These missiles were the mainstay of many air arms
around the world for over 30 years.
The first generation of AIM-9 Sidewinders had delivered mixed
results in combat over Southeast Asia. While they were the most
effective missile by far used by the US military in that theater,
the short range and narrow azimuth of their seeker heads gave them
much less utility than expected, and when stronger heat sources than
the target entered their field of view (e.g., burning vehicles on
the ground, factory smokestacks, and sun glare), Sidewinders would
go after these instead. The Probability of Kill (pK) ratio was also
far less than predicted, with Sidewinder launches only hitting
targets 25% of the time in the most favorable reports (on average,
the pK ratio of all Vietnam War Sidewinder launches combined was
10%) --- far from the promised 90%.
AIM-9E was developed at the behest of the US Air Force
(USAF), making it
the first Sidewinder variant created expressly for that service (the
previous Sidewinders were all developed for the US Navy). Similarly,
the AIM-9F was developed and produced in Germany, making it the first Sidewinder
variant developed by a foreign country. The AIM-9F was produced by BGT (Bodensee Gerätetechnik),
predominately for sale to NATO air arms. Both the -E and -F models
were developed from the more common AIM-9B.
AIM-9F is identical in shape to the AIM-9B, and seems to
differ only in a slightly greenish sensor window. See the
AIM-9 page for a detailed description of the AIM-9B for comparison.
The general composition of the AIM-9F Sidewinder is largely the
same as those of previous missiles, though several components of this new model
were different. The AIM-9F followed a different design philosophy
from the AIM-9E, with a new version of the AIM-9B's seeker window
(which has the aforementioned characteristic green color), a carbon
dioxide cooling system, and solid state electronics.
The AIM-9F, as well as all four of the second generation Sidewinders
(E, F, G and H models) are infrared-guided, but their guidance was
markedly improved over the first generation. It is unclear as to what changes were made
with the AIM-9F's guidance system, though they reportedly resulted
in an improved pK ratio. All four models
still use the lead sulfide seeker element of the preceding
used in the AIM-9F is the same as that from the AIM-9B (Thiokol/
Mk.17). It accelerated the missile to a
speed of approximately Mach 2.5 (3 087 km/h), within seconds after
launch, by which time the propellant has already been expended.
The AIM-9E and F missiles still retain the same High
Explosive Fragmentation (HE-FRAG) warhead as the AIM-9B. As with the preceding missiles in the
series, these warheads were powerful enough that a single Sidewinder
could potentially shoot-down any aircraft with a single direct hit.
It is unclear exactly how many AIM-9F Sidewinders were
They were all converted from European-built AIM-9Bs that
numbered some 15 000 in total, so no more than that many could have
been converted, but the number is still unclear; many AIM-9Bs would
have been expended disposed of, or lost by then, and some air arms
might have preferred not to convert their AIM-9Bs for some reason
(e.g., budgetary constraints, too few remaining, skipping the AIM-9F
for a later variant, etc.).
As with the AIM-9B Sidewinder, the
-F model was
very long-lived in operational service. Exactly how long they've
remained in service is unclear, through given that some air arms
still use the AIM-9B, some of these newer missiles are probably
still operational as well.
Little of the AIM-9F's service record has been published, but
a number of publications have mentioned it has seen service with
foreign air arms as well, notably Egypt from the mid-1970s onward.
This would likely have introduced the AIM-9F into Egyptian service
in time for Libya's disastrous war with the former in the late
1970s, which saw the Egyptian Air Force inflict considerable damage
on the Libyan Air Force. Most Eastern Bloc fighters still in service
at the time carried AIM-9 Sidewinders instead of the
reporting name AA-2
or Atoll) missiles they had originally been delivered with, and as
these were relatively recent-model Sidewinders, they proved brutally
effective --- some of these might have been AIM-9Fs (though in
fighters, which achieved the most success, used
Production of the AIM-9F missiles ended by the
mid-1970s, and any remaining serviceable examples are nearing their
expiration dates. They are no longer available for production, and
assuming any of them are still available for export, they are
probably only worth their scrap value.
Designated AA-2C or Atoll by the West, this is an improved version
of the preceding
(Western designation AA-2) missile, which was a direct duplicate of
the AIM-9B. The R-13 itself was developed from a reverse-engineered
AIM-9D, but enough modifications were made that it visibly differs
in appearance. However, it is closer in performance to the AIM-9D,
than to the -E, -F, -G, and -H models.
R.550 Magic: the French R.550
Magic is broadly similar to the Sidewinder, but is immediately
distinguished by having two tandem sets of forward fins. A notable
internal difference is its seeker element, which is cryogenically
cooled with liquid nitrogen. Being shorter and lighter than the
Sidewinder, and having a larger fin area, the Magic is likely much
more maneuverable than the Sidewinder as well.
Shafrir-2: A rapid follow-up of the Shafrir-1 missile (which
was immediately deemed a failure), Israel's Shafrir-2 became
operational too late for the Six Day War or the War of Attrition,
but it earned great fame in the Yom Kippur War --- and 89 confirmed
kills. It is broadly similar to most Sidewinders, but visibly
shorter at 2.5 m, and fatter with a fuselage diameter of 150 mm.
TC-2: This Taiwanese missile is very close in capabilities
and attributes to the AIM-9H Sidewinder, but it is slightly smaller. However,
as the TC-2 was introduced in the mid-1980s, it was largely obsolete
even before its debut. The "TC" in its name is short for Tien Chien,
or "Sky Sword", which is also an alternate title for this weapon.
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