Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder
From Scramble - The Aviation Magazine
The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a supersonic, heat-seeking, air-to-air missile carried by fighter aircraft. It has a high-explosive warhead and an passive infrared guidance system. The Sidewinder was developed by the US Navy for fleet air defence and was adapted by the US Air Force for fighter aircraft use. Latest model is the AIM-9X, being produced for US Air Force, US Navy and international customers. In several European air forces, the Sidewinder is being replaced by the IRIS-T air-to-air missile.
The first Sidewinder (AIM-9B) was 9.28 feet long, weighed 156 pounds and had a max range of five kilometers . The most current one (AIM-9X), half a century later, is 9.5 feet long, weighs 191 pounds and has a max range of over 20 kilometers. The AIM-9X can go after the target from all angles, while the AIM-9B could only be used from directly behind the target. Out of the approx. 110,000 missiles built, the Sidewinder has nearly 300 kills world-wide to date. Thus for every 407 Sidewinders manufactured, only one brought down an enemy aircraft.
Originally conceived by William Burdette McLean in the late 1940s, development of the Sidewinder air to air missile began in 1950 at the NOTS (Naval Ordnance Test Station, later renamed Naval Weapons Center) at China Lake. The first test missiles were fired in 1951, and on 11 September 1953, the first air-to-air hit on a drone was scored. It was officially designated Sidewinder in 1952. General Electric began low-rate production in 1955, and in May 1956, the AAM-N-7 Sidewinder I entered US Navy service. Because of the usual inter-service rivalry, the US Air Force did not adopt the Sidewinder, until a "fly-off" against the US Air Force's GAR-2/AIM-4B Falcon in June 1955 showed the superiority of the Sidewinder. The US Air Force subsequently bought the AIM-9B and it entered service under the designation GAR-8. The inter-service rivalry continued to the early seventies, until the US Navy and US Air Force agreed to the joint development of a third generation Sidewinder.
A more comprehensive article covering early IR missile guidance and Sidewinder's systems and development can be found here. The article covers:
- Infrared target acquisition
- Early development of infrared detection systems
- Introduction to infrared missile guidance
- Counter (counter) measures
- Sidewinder in detail
Interestingly, also after the fly-off, the US Navy and US Air Force initially pursued their own Sidewinder development. Early Sidewinder development was promoted mainly by the US Navy, whose F-4B Phantom IIs were armed solely with missiles. The US Air Force had diluted its resources into several AAM programs and thus lagged in the development of their own Sidewinder subtypes. Moreover, in South-East Asia, most US Air Force engagements were flown at higher altitudes, the weapon was used far less often than the AIM-7 Sparrow, and at short ranges the US Air Force F-4E Phantom IIs and F-105D/F/G Thunderchiefs tended to rely on the internal M61 Vulcan gun, therefore the AIM-9 accounted for only 14% of US Air Force kills. Arguably this environment produced less pressure for improvements in US Air Force AIM-9 performance, initially resulting in the use of less capable versions in comparison with the Navy. The AIM-9 has been produced by several manufacturers:
- Loral Aeronautronics (formerly Ford Aerospace and Communications, formerly Philco)
- Bodenseewerk Gerätetechnik, German/British/Italian/Norwegian consortium
- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The total number of Sidewinder missiles built exceeds 200,000 and exports have been made to a large number of countries including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, South Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, UK, Venezuela, Vietnam and Yemen. Sidewinders have been fitted to a very large number of aircraft throughout the world and these have included the F-4 Phantom II, F-5E Tiger II, F-8 Crusader, F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, F-20 Tigershark, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, F-104 Starfighter, F-111, A-4 Skyhawk, A-6 Intruder, A-7 Corsair II, A-10 Thunderbolt II, OV-10 Bronco, Mirage III, Mirage F1, MiG-21 Fishbed, J.35 Draken, JA.37 Viggen, JAS.39 Gripen, Kfir, Mitsubishi F-1, Mitsubishi F-2, Hawk, Sea Harrier, Harrier, Tornado GR.1, Tornado F.3, Nimrod MR.2, Jaguar, Buccaneer, AMX, J-7 Airguard, AT-3 Tzu-chung, T-50 Golden Eagle. There have been trials from helicopters over several years, including AH-64A Apache in 1987 and AH-1 Cobra in 1988.
Currently, Raytheon is working on a submarine launched Sidewinder (see Capsule Launching System) as well as on adopting the AIM-9X to strike moving ground or surface targets. Software changes allows the AIM-9X to strike both air and ground targets. During a 23 September Gulf of Mexico test, a US Air Force F-15C fired an air-to-surface AIM-9X and hit a speeding "cigar boat", a type commonly used by drug smugglers. Boeing won a contract in March 2010 to support Sidewinder operations through 2055, guaranteeing that the weapons system will remain in operation until at least that date.
Fox Two: combat history
In October 1958, the Sidewinder became the worlds first successfully launched air to air missile, when Taiwanese Air Force F-86Fs shot down Chinese Air Force MiG-17s using AIM-9Bs supplied by the US Navy, claiming as many as 14 shot down in one day. During the 1982 air engagements over Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, 51 out of the 55 Syrian-flown MiGs shot down were hit by Sidewinders. In the 1982 conflict in the Falkland Islands, between Great Britain and Argentina, Sea Harriers used AIM-9L Sidewinders for 16 confirmed kills and 1 probable against Argentine aircraft (of a total 20 air-to-air kills; another 45 Argentine aircraft were shot down by surface-to-air missiles in that conflict). Compared to its dominant role in the 1982 Falkland Islands campaign as well as the Israeli operation in Lebanon, the Sidewinder was used relatively little during Operation Desert Storm's air assault against Iraqi targets. The lower use resulted from the nature of most engagements (a stern chase with little "jinking" by the targets) and improvements in the longer-range AIM-7 Sparrow AAM that eliminated the need for a follow-up attack at closer range. However, Sidewinders fired by US Air Force F-15C Eagles downed 6 Iraqi combat aircraft. 2 more Su-22 Fitters were shot down by AIM-9s 3 weeks after the ceasefire. A Saudi F-15C Eagle pilot downed 2 French-built Iraqi Mirage F1s with Sidewinders in a single attack. 2 F/A-18 Hornets and an F-14 Tomcat scored with AIM-9s, the Hornets shooting down MiG-21 Fishbeds and the Tomcat downing a helicopter. Fox Two is declared by (US) combat pilots after an infra-red missile is launched. It is estimated that approximately 270 air-to-air kills were scored by Sidewinder missiles.
First generation: legacy Sidewinders
The first generation Sidewinder was the principal heat-seeking air-to-air missile in Western service by the early sixties. It first drew blood over North Vietnam, there used by the US Navy and US Air Force. Its early combat record was not spectacular, as the seeker performance limitations were exacerbated by the poor reliability of the tube electronics and the inexperience of its users, who until then trained for intercepts rather than dogfights. Kill probabilities were in the tens of percent, very sensitive to how well the launch aircraft was positioned. Designed to intercept lumbering bombers, the AIM-9B was ill suited to knife-fights with MiG-17s at low level. Its launch load factor limit of 2G hampered aircrew, while its seeker very often locked on to the sun or clouds, subsequently sending the missile ballistic. The range limit of 2.6 nm meant that the launch aircraft had to be quite properly positioned for a shot, and the pilot very careful about closure rate and range.
The AIM-9A, prototype of the Sidewinder, was first fired successfully in September 1953. Initially designated XAAM-N-7 Sidewinder I.
The initial production version, produced by Philco (later merged into Ford Aerospace) for US Navy and US Air Force. The AIM-9B model had an uncooled PbS detector, glass dome window, 70 Hz reticle spin rate, a 25deg seeker field of view (FOV) and a 4deg instantaneous field of view (IFOV). Designated AIM-9B, it entered the inventory in 1956 and was effective only at close range. Initially designated AAM-N-7 Sidewinder IA and GAR-8. Its launch load factor limit of 2g hampered aircrew, while its seeker very often locked on to the sun or clouds, subsequently sending the missile ballistic. The range limit of 2.6 nm meant that the launch aircraft had to be quite properly positioned for a shot, and the pilot very careful about closure rate and range. The AIM-9B was most numerous production version with almost 80,000 manufactured by Philco and Raytheon.
Unique Sidewinder version, as it is radar guided. Developed by Motorola as AAM-N-7 Sidewinder IC (SARH) this semi-active radar homing version was developed for the F-8 Crusader. Only about 1,000 of these weapons were produced, many of which were later rebuilt as the AGM-122 Sidearm anti-radiation missile.
Second generation: reliability issues solved
The second generation Sidewinders solved some of the shortcomings of the legacy AIM-9B model. Improvements generally included cooling systems for the detector element and introduction of solid state electronics (vastly improving reliability), higher frequency reticle scan rates and bigger warhead.
Initially designated AAM-N-7 Sidewinder IC (IR). The AIM-9D was developed for the US Navy and introduced a nitrogen cooling system for the PbS detector, coupled to a redesigned optical system. The new optical system retained the tilted cassegrain of the earlier subtype, but was more compact, fitting into a ogival nose section, and spun at a higher frequency of 125 Hz, rather than the 70 Hz of the B-model. The Field Of View (FOV) was reduced to 2.5 degrees, while the seeker FOV was slightly increased to beyond 25 degrees. The glass nose dome was replaced by a much smaller magnesium fluoride dome, which provides better transparency to longer wavelength (cooler) infrared emissions. A 22.4lbs continuous-rod annular blast-fragmentation warhead replaced the old 10lbs one. In comparison with the AIM-9B, the AIM-9D had a much wider engagement envelope, was more manoeuvrable and hence offered a better Probability of Kill P[k]. The AIM-9D entered production in the late fifties, and Ford Aerospace built about 1,000 systems.
The "Echo" was an US Air Force version of the basic AIM-9B. It saw the adoption of a similar low drag nose to the US Navy subtypes, but using a conical rather than ogival profile, a distinguishing feature of this family to this very day. A magnesium fluoride dome was adopted, a more compact optical assembly was used, with a faster 100 Hz reticle rate, and a 16.5 deg/sec tracking rate. The canards were changed to the characteristic squared tip double delta planform, adopted to improve canard behaviour at higher angles of attack. Significant changes were made to the internal wiring harnesses. The most significant design change was the adoption of a cooling for the PbS detector element, the US Air Force opting for Peltier thermoelectric cooling. This arrangement has the advantage of unlimited cooling time on the launch rail, subject only to the availability of electrical power. The seeker improvements expanded the weapon's acquisition envelope and increased its P[k], although not dramatically. Over 5,000 rounds were rebuilt from AIM-9Bs. Some E models are equipped with reduced-smoke rocket motors and have the designation AIM-9E-2.
Designation for the improved German version of the AIM-9B, also known as the AIM-9B FGW Mod.2. This AIM-9B variant used solid state electronics GCS, carbon dioxide seeker cooling, a new silicon nose dome and better optical filtering, the latter providing for much better seeker sensitivity. Approximately 15,000 built.
The AIM-9G, an US Navy development, was very similar to the AIM-9D and had new forward canard design improving ACM performance and expanded acquisition modes and improved envelopes. The AIM-9G Sidewinder Expanded Acquisition Mode (SEAM) also provided the capability to lock on and launch against a target offset from the axis of the launch aircraft by slaving of the optics to radar or a helmet sight. This capability was used extensively by US Navy McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs during the seventies. (Firing) Air Training Round designated ATM-9G. 2,120 airframes built by Raytheon.
The AIM-9H was the first solid state Sidewinder, with the complete GCS built with semiconductors, designed for the US Navy. In redesigning the electronics, the G optical system was essentially retained, but the tracking rate was further increased, to complement the more powerful 163 Nm actuators. The solid stated design solved reliability problems of the earlier AIM-9D/G due the intolerance of vacuum tubes to repeated 20 ft/sec sink rate recoveries on aircraft carrier decks. While few of the AIM-9H were fired in combat due shortages of supply, they are reported to have scored a much higher kill rate per launch than any other Sidewinder in the campaign. 7,720 airframes built for the US Navy and 800 for the US Air Force. (Firing) Air Training Round designated ATM-9H.
US Air Force successor to the AIM-9E, with hybrid GCS electronics using a mix of solid state and tube technology, and an improved control actuation gas generator for a 40 sec flight time. The AIM-9J was rushed to the South-East Asia Theatre in July 1972 during the Linebacker campaign, in which many aerial encounters with North Vietnamese MiGs occurred. The Juliet model could be launched at up to 7.5g (74 m/s²) and improved actuators were capable of delivering 120 Nm torque to the flight fins, thereby improving dogfight prowess. 6,700 of this subtype were rebuilt from AIM-9B/E stocks. In 1973, Ford Aerospace began production of an enhanced AIM-9J-1, followed by the AIM-9J-2, which were later redesignated the AIM-9N. Local Swedish designation of the AIM-9J is Rb.24.
Redesignated from AIM-9J-1, approx. 7,000 rebuilt from AIM-9B/E stocks.
Second tier weapon for use in less demanding situations, and also suitable for export. The subsequent AIM-9P family was derived from AIM-9J/N. The AIM-9P-2 and P-3 were introduced in the mid seventies and use improved GCS, a new rocket motor and an active optical fuze.
- AIM-9P-1: has an active optical target detector instead of the passive infra-red influence fuze.
- AIM-9P-2: added a reduced-smoke rocket motor.
- AIM-9P-3: combines both the active optical target detector and the reduced-smoke rocket motor.
Third generation: all aspect
When the US Air Force cancelled its TRW/Philco-Ford/Hughes AIM-82 missile, the US Navy sponsored Hughes AIM-95 Agile was intended to be used for both Air Force and Navy aircraft. The AIM-95 reached the flight test stage, but Agile was cancelled in 1975 as being too expensive. As a short-term replacement, US Air Force and US Navy eventually fielded the third generation AIM-9 Sidewinder. The third generation Sidewinders were all-aspect weapons, capable of engaging targets from all angles, instead of locking-on the engine exhaust only.
The designation ZAIM-9K was allocated by the US Navy to a planned upgraded AIM-9H, designed as fall-back option should the planned Hughes AIM-95 Aglie missile run into development problems, which it did. Development was cancelled in favour of the joint US Air Force/US Navy AIM-9L.
The AIM-9L is essentially an AIM-9H with a new 4 micron Indium Antimonide detector, new Argon cooling system, FM modulated reticle and new fuze. The InSb detector finally replaced the 1940s era PbS (lead sulphide) infra-red detector). The cassegrain system of the AIM-9H was retained, but a new FM reticle was adopted, necessitating some fundamental changes to the GCS. The new optical system allows acquisition and tracking of targets from all aspects, due the longer wavelength sensitivity of the InSb, with the filter employed to reject shorter wavelengths. Argon gas is used to cool the detector, with the coolant tank embedded in the missile's seeker to allow use with arbitrary physically/electrically compatible launchers. Local Swedish designation is Rb.74. Upgrades include the AIM-9L Tactical, which is an upgraded version of the basic 9L missile. Next was the AIM-9L Genetic, which has increased infra-red counter counter measures (IRCCM), this upgrade consisted of a removable module which when placed in the GCS gave a infrared flare rejection (IRCCM) capability. Next came the AIM-9L(I), this had its IRCCM module hardwired into the GCS giving improved counter measures as well as an upgraded seeker system. Diehl BGT also markets the AIM-9L(I)-1 which again upgrades the AIM-9L(I) GCS (more insensitive to the recognition and shadowing against infrared flares) and is considered an operational equivalent to the initially "US only" AIM-9M. (Firing) Air Training Round designated ATM-9L, Captive Air Training Round designated CATM-9L and Dummy Air Training Round (for ground handling training) designated DATM-9L. The NATM-9L is equipped with special test and evaluation equipment. Over 5,500 rounds were built, with licensed production by Diehl BGT Germany and Mitsubishi in Japan.
The Lima was followed in production in 1982 by the AIM-9M, which is essentially an improved AIM-9L. The Mike has improved background rejection, counter-countermeasures capability and a low smoke motor to reduce the visual signature of the inbound weapon. The AIM-9M has the all-aspect capability of the AIM-9L model, but provides all-around higher performance. The M model has infra-red countermeasures, enhanced background discrimination capability, and a reduced-smoke rocket motor. Deliveries of the initial AIM-9M-1 began in 1982. The only changes from the AIM-9L to the AIM-9M were related to the Raytheon Guidance Control Section (GCS). Several models were introduced in pairs with even numbers designating US Navy versions and odd for US Air Force. All AIM-9M GCS are comprised of three major assemblies; a seeker assembly for detecting and tracking the target; an electronics assembly for processing detected target information; and a servo assembly that transforms electrical tracking signals to mechanical movement of the fins. An umbilical cable assembly provides electrical interface between the missile GCS and the aircraft launcher. The umbilical I-3 cable also allows the flow of coolant from the LAU-7 to the missile GCS. AIM-9M GCS versions include the WGU-4A/B used in the AIM-9M-1 and AIM-9M-3, the WGU-4C/B used in the AIM-9M-4, the WGU-4D/B used in the AIM-9M-6, and the WGU-4E/B GCS used in the AIM-9M-8. The WGU-4E/B GCS uses advanced technology that has evolved through the WGU-4D/B development, while expanding the potential of the IRCM detection circuitry and improving the missile's capability with respect to tactical IRCM deployment.
- AIM-9M-1: The first AIM-9M variant, the AIM-9M-1, was fielded in FY 82. It has a WGU-4A/B Guidance Control Section. Dummy Air Training Missile, used to support the training of US Navy and US Marine Corps ground maintenance technicians in assembly, disassembly, loading, transportation, and stowage procedures and techniques for the Sidewinder AIM-9M, is designated DATM-9M-1. Captive Air Training Round designated CATM-9M-1.
- AIM-9M-2: US Navy designation for initial model AIM-9M. Special Test Air Training Missile is designated NATM-9M-2 and features a communication tube that allows routing of the telemetry cable assembly. DATM-9M-2 is the Dummy Air Training Missile. Captive Air Training Round designated CATM-9M-2.
- AIM-9M-3: US Air Force designation of the AIM-9M-2, using the GCS of the AIM-9M-1. Special Test Air Training Missile is designated NATM-9M-3.
- AIM-9M-4: US Navy designation for improved AIM-9M-2 with WGU-4C/B GCS. Captive Air Training Round designated CATM-9M-4.
- AIM-9M-5: US Air Force designation of the AIM-9M-4. Special Test Air Training Missile is designated NATM-9M-4.
- AIM-9M-6: The AIM-9M-6 was a specific modification to AIM-9M in response to threats expected in the Persian Gulf war zone, equipped with WGU-4D/B GCS. Captive Air Training Round designated CATM-9M-6.
- AIM-9M-7: US Air Force designation of the AIM-9M-6.
- AIM-9M-8: Upgrade of existing AIM-9M-1/-2/-4/-6 missiles. The AIM-9M-8 incorporated replacement of five circuit cards and the related parent board of the WGU-4E/B GCS to improved tracking capabilities against modern infrared counter counter measures (IRCCM) and have the latest versions of the rocket motor (Mk.36 Mod 11). Most existing AIM-9Ms will be upgraded to -9M-8/9 standard. The first AIM-9M-8 was fielded in FY 95. Captive Air Training Round designated CATM-9M-8.
- AIM-9M-9: US Air Force designation of the AIM-9M-8.
- AIM-9M-10: The AIM-9M-10 is a slightly modified -9M-8 for use by the F/A-18E/F Hornet.
- CATM-9M-12: Captive Air Training Missile for US Navy with WGU-4E/B GCS.
- CATM-9M-14: Captive Air Training Round for AIM-9M-8.
The WDU-9A/B warhead (used in the NATM-9L-1 configuration) is mechanically interchangeable with the WDU-17/B tactical warhead . The WDU-9A/B contains a smoke-flash mix with CH-6 booster to provide visual observation of the missile/target hit.
- AIM-9P-4: The AIM-9P-4 is an incremental development of the AIM-9P-3, with an all aspect seeker using some of the technology developed for the AIM-9L. In comparison with its cousin, it is less agile but still a very effective missile. The -P4 GCS is manufactured by Ford Aerospace.
- AIM-9P-5: The AIM-9P-5 is further improved by the addition of a counter-countermeasures capability. The wide range of types which can carry the P-3/4/5 suggest that the gas coolant is carried on board, as with the L/M.
M-Version with enhanced manoeuvrability and data processing power.
Stripped-down export version of the AIM-9M without the IRCCM system and fitted with WGU-31/B GCS.
Fourth generation: high off-boresight
As early as the mid-seventies, the ASRAAM (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile) was proposed as long term replacement for the second generation Sidewinders. Initial development lead to the MBDA AIM-132 missile, which was not procured by US services and prompted the development of the fourth generation Sidewinder. Fourth generation Sidewinders use Focal Plane Array (imaging) infra-red seekers and can engage targets at all angles, including 'over the shoulder' launches using a Helmet Mounted Cueing System. This provides High-Off-BoreSight (HOBS) capabilities, allowing pilots to accurately direct, or "cue," onboard weapons against enemy aircraft merely by pointing their heads at the targets to guide the weapons, while performing high-g aircraft manoeuvres that may be required to complete the attack. The new three-dimensional thrust-vectoring control (TVC) system provides increased turn capability over traditional control surfaces.
AIM-9RPromoted by Loral Corporation and originally funded as AIM-9M Product Improvement Program (PIP). Still further improved Sidewinder developed under Pave Prism research effort for enhanced clutter rejection, better aim-point selection, increased field-of-regard for tracking highly manoeuvrable or off-boresight targets, better IRCCM. The proposed AIM-9R was using an imaging seeker which is a fundamental departure from the established design. Developed by the Naval Weapons Center, the AIM-9R uses a modified AIM-9M control actuator, while retaining the fuse, warhead, motor, wings and canards of its predecessor. The imaging seeker is built around a focal plane array imaging device, analogous to the CCDs employed in modern television cameras. A focal plane array has a much greater instantaneous field of view than a reticle seeker, and 'stares' at the target and its immediate background, tracking the target by means of a contrast lock similar to that employed by TV guided weapons such as AGM-65 Maverick or GBU-15. In this fashion, the seeker can account for the background contrast and reject it, while also providing the potential to discriminate between multiple targets and countermeasures such as flares. Conventional pulse jammers have no effect. The GCS section was to be the WGU-19/B. The US Air Force opted to not join this project and since the US Navy could not bear the costs of the project, it was abandoned in 1991, in spite of some very promising test results.
Test firings of the AIM-9X began in 1998, and in June 1999, the first guided live firing succeeded to hit a QF-4 target drone. Low-rate initial production was authorized in September 2000, and the first production AIM-9X reached the US Air Force and US Navy evaluation units in summer 2002. Initial operational capability with the US Air Force was officially achieved in November 2003, and in May 2004 full-rate production of the missile was approved. The AIM-9X retains the Mk.36 motor and the WDU-17/B warhead of the AIM-9M. The airframe is new, however, and has much smaller fins and canards for lower drag and higher flight performance. The guidance section is completely new, and features an IIR (Imaging Infrared) seeker. The new WPU-17/B propulsion section has a jet-vane steering system for significantly enhanced agility. The missile is compact enough to fit into the internal weapons bays of stealthy fighters like the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, but can also be used on existing AIM-9 launchers (like the LAU-7/A series, and the LAU-127/A, -128/A and -129/A series of Common Rail Launchers). The AIM-9X is also fully compatible with the new JHMCS (Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System) for target acquisition. The CATM-9X is used for pilot training in aerial target acquisition and use of aircraft controls and displays, the DATM-9X is used to train ground personnel in loading, handling and storage with only inert components. In the NATM-9X the warhead is replaced by telemetry system allowing transmittance of missile electrical functions to ground stations during flight.
AIM-9X Block I
By mid-2009, Raytheon has delivered more than 3,600 AIM-9X Block I missiles to eight countries and is on contract to deliver missiles to two additional countries. In 2008 the US Navy test fired the first AIM-9X Block II (aka AIM-9X-2), production of which is scheduled for late 2010.
AIM-9X Block II
The AIM-9X Block II adds lock-on-after launch capability and a one-way forward quarter datalink capability. This enables the missile to be fired first and then directed to its target afterwards by aircraft with internal weapon bays such as the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
AIM-9X Block III
Scheduled to become operational in 2022, the AIM-9X Block III will have 60% greater range.In addition to an improved, more energetic, rocket motor, the enhanced weapon will also have a new insensitive munitions warhead, which will be safer to use onboard an aircraft carrier. The need for greater range arises from the proliferation of advanced digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jammers that many potential adversaries are adding to their fighter fleets. DRFM jammers have the potential to blind the AMRAAM's onboard radar, which makes the AIM-9X's passive imaging infra-red guidance system a useful alternative means to defeat those threats. However, the Block III will use the current Block II's guidance unit and electronics-including the missile's AMRAAM-derived datalink.
Related variants, clones and developments
MIM-72 Chaparral/M48/RIM-72 Sea Chaparral
In the late 1950s, the US Army had a requirement for a new fully mobile FAAD (Forward Area Air Defense) short-range missile system. The name MIM-46 Mauler was assigned to the projected system. The Mauler program was plagued by all kinds of problems from the beginning. In place of the ill-fated Mauler, the US Army developed and procured the MIM-72 Chaparral system, which was based on the proven AIM-9D Sidewinder. The proposed RIM-46 Sea Mauler was to be replaced by the RIM-72 Sea Chaparral, but at the end, the US Navy ordered the RIM-7E Sea Sparrow. The M48 Chaparral system included a M113 tracked vehicle carrying four missiles attached to a rotating turret. The missiles are manually fired by visually tracking the targets, slewing the missile carrier into the general direction, and waiting for the missile seekers to "lock on" to the target. It is not suitable for engaging helicopters "popping up" behind cover, for instance. The Chaparral served the active US Army from 1969 to March 1990. The ARNG deactivated its Chaparral battalions August 1996.
- MIM-72A: 2nd Gen
- MIM-72B: Training missile
- MIM-72C Improved Chaparral: 3rd Gen with all-aspect capabilities. Produced between 1976 and 1981. It entered service in November 1978. Range improved to 9,000 m.
- MIM-72D: An experimental D model used the warhead from the C version with the seeker from the A model, but was not deployed.
- MIM-72E: 3rd Gen, MIM-72C missile retrofitted with a new M121 smokeless motor.
- MIM-72F: 3rd Gen, new built missiles with upgraded M121 smokeless motor.
- MIM-72H: 3rd Gen, export version of the MIM-72F.
- MIM-72G: 4th Gen, fitted with a new AN/DAW-2 based on the seeker in the FIM-92 Stinger giving improved resistance to countermeasures. This was retrofitted to all Chaparral missiles during the late 1980s. New missiles where produced between 1990 and 1991.
- MIM-72J: 4th Gen, downgraded export version of the MIM-72G.
RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile
Lightweight infrared homing surface-to-air missile used primarily as a point-defence weapon against anti-ship cruise missiles. The missile is named because it rolls around its longitudinal axis during its flight to stabilize its flight path. The original Block 0 version is based on the AIM-9 Sidewinder, from which it took its rocket motor, fuse, and warhead. Block 0 missiles initially home in on active radiation emitted from a target (such as the radar of an incoming anti-ship missile). Then, the terminal guidance is done by an infrared seeker derived from that of the General Dynamics FIM-92 Stinger missile. In test firings, the Block 0 missiles achieved hit rates of over 95%.
A derivative for air-to-ground use. An unknown number of AIM-9B missiles were converted by General Electric and designated AGM-87A Focus I. The AGM-87A was used in Vietnam during 1969/70 for night attacks against visible IR emitters, such as truck headlights.
The emergence of weapons such as the Soviet ZSU-23 antiaircraft guns and SA-8 surface to air missiles posed serious threats to U.S. helicopters. This generated a requirement by the US Marine Corps to provide self-protection against these threats. China Lake engineers, along with industry partners Motorola answered this requirement by modifying a version of the Sidewinder missile that had a semi-active radar seeker on it. The AGM-122A Sidearm is a rebuilt AIM-9C, in which the narrow band semi-active seeker electronics have been modified for the much greater bandwidth required to home in on a wide range of radars. In addition, the later DSU-15 active fuse was used, while the Mk.17 motor and WDU-17 warhead were retained. The control electronics were also modified to command an immediate pop-up after launch at low level, to provide for a dive attack on the offending emitter. No reports exist on combat use, the weapon was built to equip US Marine Corps AV-8 Harriers, A-4 Skyhawks and helicopters.
Vympel AA-2 Atoll
The AA-2 Atoll (Vympel K-13, designated R-3S in Soviet service) is a unlicensed copy of the early AIM-9B. According to some accounts, it was acquired after a AIM-9B, fired by a Taiwanese F-86 Sabre, struck a Chinese MiG-17 without exploding during an air battle on 28 September 1958. The missile remained stuck in the MiG's fuselage and was carried back to its base. This one example provided considerable insight to Soviet engineers in the design of workable IR-guided missiles. The Sidewinders was copied quite accurately: subsequent examination of AA-2 missiles captured by NATO forces showed that parts from an AIM-9 could be interfaced with parts from an AA-2 and either combination would still work . Also, it is reported that part numbers were copied, but this can not be confirmed. A license-built version of the AA-2 called A-91 was built in Romania.
PL-2 and its derivatives are members of a series of Chinese air-to-air missiles (AAM) originated from the Vympel K-13.
Sky Sword I
The TC-1 Sky Sword I (Tien Chien I) is a short range infrared guided air-to-air missile developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology Taiwan, for the Republic of China Air Force. The missile - clearly inspired by the Sidewinder - was developed in the mid to late 1980s and is presently deployed on the AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-Kuo fighter.
Mitsubishi AAM-1 & AAM-3
The Mitsubishi AAM-1 and AAM-3 are short-range infra-red guided missiles, very similar to Sidewinder. The AAM-1 was based on the AIM-9E and approximately 330 were produced between 1969 and 1971. The AAM-3 (Type 90) is a successor to the AIM-9L. It has been operated since 1990, and is operated on Japanese Air Self Defence Force F-15 Eagle and the F-4EJ Phantom II fighters.
The AN/AVQ-11 Pave Sword was a laser spot tracker using a modified (early) AIM-9 seeker head.
Box Office/Improved Sidewinder
This formerly classified US Air Force program began in 1988 in cooperation with Raytheon to improve the Sidewinder design. The effort led to the AIM-9X.
This program is similar to the Box Office program , but is undertaken by the US Naval Air Test Center at China Lake, Calif. The Sidewinders wings are reduced in size, but not eliminated.
Larger rocket motor
Under the High Altitude Project, engineers at China Lake mated a Sidewinder warhead and seeker to a Sparrow rocket motor to experiment with usefulness of a larger motor.
2 AIM-9s were fired from a AH-64 Apache in November 1987. This was a company-funded test to test the suitability of the Sidewinder as a helicopter self-defense weapon. One was fired from hovering flight, the other while the AH-64 was flying at 81 kts (93 mph or 150 km/h).
Capsule Launching System
In September 2009, Northrop Grumman successfully demonstrated the underwater launch of a AIM-9X air-to-air test missile shape from a submerged Tomahawk Capsule Launching System (CLS). Conducted at the Army's Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen, Md. The test marked the first time an AIM-9X test missile shape has been launched underwater. The launch demonstrates a new degree of submarine self-defense capability against threats from coastal surveillance aircraft, helicopters and high-speed small craft.
In 1971, China Lake experimented with an AIM-9L Sidewinder in the air-to-ground mode including use as an anti-tank weapon. Starting from 2008, the AIM-9X demonstrated its ability as a successful light air-to-ground missile.
The Smokewinder is not a Sidewinder model but a smoke generating system produced by Sanders Smoke Technologies that can be fitted to standard Sidewinder missile launch rails. Each Smokewinder unit is completely self contained and will produce up to seven minutes of dense high quality smoke. Internal tankage is provided for one gallon (4.5 liters) of gasoline and six gallons (23 liters) of smoke oil. Gasoline is pumped to a nozzle in the combustor where it is mixed with regulated ram air. A capacitor discharge ignition source charges a coil to fire the spark plug, ignite the gasoline/air mixture and provide heat to vaporize the smoke oil. Oil is pumped to a baffled mixing chamber which discharges smoke at the tail of the unit. The Smokewinder fits on stock Sidewinder launch rails with no modifications required to the aircraft and has the same CG location, gross weight and inertia as the Sidewinder missile.
prototype Sidewinder I mounted on Douglas F3D Skyknight
AIM-9X fitted to F-15C Eagle
Sidewinder fired from F-16
MIM-72C Chaparral on M113 chassis