The AIM-9 Sidewinder - History, Design, Performance & Discussion

AIM-9A (XAAM-N-7 or Sidewinder 1)

In 1946, a team led by William B. McLean began a project to create an air-to-air missile at the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) in China Lake, California. The project was initially called “Local Fuze Project 602” but was given the name “Sidewinder” in 1950.

The project did not receive official funding until 1951, when it was demonstrated to Admiral William “Deak” Parsons, Deputy Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance.

The missile was first fired and tested in 1951, and was successful in intercepting a drone for the first time on September 11, 1953. That same year, the missile was officially designated XAAM-N-7 (AIM-9A).

In 1954, the Navy conducted a total of 51 tests, with low-rate production by General Electric beginning in 1955. Subsequent production was done by Ford Aerospace and General Electric. The AAM-N-7 Sidewinder I (AIM-9A) missile began entering service with the U.S. Navy in May 1956.

AIM-9B (Sidewinder 1A)

The AIM-9B used the same rocket motor, actuators, seeker, and warhead as the AIM-9A. The difference was that the front canard was changed to a more aerodynamic model.

AIM-9B was the first mass-produced model, and it was used for the first time in the 1958 during the Battle of Kinmen, marking the beginning of an era of air-to-air missiles.

During the Battle of Kinmen, one of the PLAAF’s MiG-17s returned with a missile in its fuselage, leading to rumors that the Soviets reverse-engineered the AIM-9B to create the R-3S (AA-2 Atoll). What is certain is that the Chinese delivered many of the shrapnel to the Soviets and received the blueprints for the AIM-9B from Swedish Air Force Colonel Stig Wennerström.

The AIM-9B was also used in the Vietnam War, but with very unsatisfactory results (187 shots fired, 29 downed (15% kill rate)).

AIM-9C/D (Sidewinder 1C)

Due to the limited performance of the AIM-9B, the U.S. Navy began developing the next model. The SARH version was designated the AIM-9C and the IR version was designated the AIM-9D.

Although the two versions had different seekers, the Hercules MK 36 rocket motor, improved Mk.48 warhead, and slightly larger fins were used in both versions.

Motorola developed the Sidewinder 1C (AIM-9C) in 1957 for fighters like the F-8 that could not use the AIM-7 Sparrow. However, the first two tests were unsuccessful, and it wasn’t until 1959 that a test was successful. In addition, the radar antenna on the early F-8s had a smaller diameter (33 cm) than the recommended 61 cm, so it had to wait until the APQ-83 radar was fitted. By 1964, the missile was evaluated and found to have a 77% hit probability under ideal conditions, but was not suitable for altitudes below 3000 meters.

Due to the low reliability of the AIM-9C, the AIM-9C was retired from service beginning in the 1980s, with stocks converted to the AGM-122 “SideARM” by Motorola.

Deployed in late 1964, the AIM-9D was built by Ford Aerospace and Raytheon. Compared to the AIM-9B, the AIM-9D had a better IR seeker, a 2.5° FoV, and a 12°/s tracking speed.

AIM-9D was launched 99 times in Vietnam, killing the enemy 18 times, for a total kill rate of 18%.

The AIM-9D was also used on the MIM-72 “Chaparral”, however, when launched from the MIM-72, the missile does not gain enough speed, reducing its maximum maneuverability to 16.5g.

AIM-9E

Unlike the USN, which emphasized close air combat, the USAF focused on long-range BVR engagements with the AIM-7. As a result, the Air Force used the outdated AIM-9B in Vietnam, with considerable failure. USAF then decided to modify the AIM-9B to improve its performance against fighters.

The AIM-9E utilized thermoelectric (Peltier) cooling and an IR seeker with a new dome for lower air resistance. The modified IR seeker had an improved seeker tracking rate of 16.5°/s. The thermoelectric cooling also had the advantage of unlimited cooling when mounted on the launcher.

In addition, the canard was replaced with a square-tipped double delta to improve the operation of the canard at high angles of attack.

The AIM-9E began deploying to Vietnam in the late 1960s.

AIM-9F (AIM-9B FGW.2)

The AIM-9F is the European production version of the AIM-9B, with 15,000 units produced by Bodensee Gerätetechnik (BGT) in Germany. The AIM-9F features solid-state electronics and a CO2-cooled seeker, a new nose dome, and better optical filtering.

This resulted in better seeker sensitivity and better resistance to the sun.

AIM-9F entered service in 1969.

Performance of AIM-9B

Spoiler
  • Length: 2.83 m (111.5 in)
  • Finspan: 0.56 m (22 in)
  • Diameter: 12.7 cm (5 in)
  • Weight: 70 kg (155 lb)
  • Speed: Mach 1.7
  • Propulsion: Thiokol MK 17 solid-fuel rocket
  • Thrust: 3820lbs (1732kg) for 2.2 seconds
  • Guidance duration: 20 seconds
  • Warhead: 11kg (25lbs) Mark 8 Blast Fragmentation with 4.76kg (10,5lbs) HBX-1 (7,62 kg TNT)
  • Prox Fuze triggering distance: 9m (30ft)
  • Maneuvering capability: up to 10-12g at Sea Level
  • Maneuvering surface: Delta canard
  • Servo torque: 750 in-lbs (84,74 Nm)

Seeker:

  • FOV: 4°
  • Gimbal limit: 20° (Mark 1 mod 0) 30° (Mark 1 Mod 1-14)
  • Tracking rate: 11°/s
  • Cooling: None
  • Seeker uncage: None
  • Rear Aspect only

Performance of AIM-9C/D

Spoiler
  • Length: 2.87 m (113 in)
  • Finspan: 0.63 m (24.8 in)
  • Diameter: 12.7 cm (5 in)
  • Weight: 88 kg (195 lb)
  • Speed: Mach 2.5+
  • Propulsion: Hercules MK 36 solid-fuel rocket
  • Thrust: 2880lbs (1306kg) for 5 seconds
  • Guidance duration: 60 seconds
  • Warhead: 11kg (25lbs) MK 48 continuous-rod warhead with 2.95kg (6.5lbs) HMX (~ 5kg TNT)
  • Prox Fuze triggering distance: 9m (30ft)
  • Maneuvering capability: up to 18g at Sea Level
  • Maneuvering surface: Delta canard
  • Servo torque: 1100 in-lbs (124,28Nm)

Seeker: (AIM-9D)

  • FOV: 2.5°
  • Gimbal limit: 40°
  • Tracking rate: 12°/s
  • Cooling: Nitrogen
  • Seeker uncage: None
  • Rear Aspect only

Performance of AIM-9E

Spoiler
  • Length: 3.00 m (118 in)
  • Finspan: 0.56 m (22 in)
  • Diameter: 12.7 cm (5 in)
  • Weight: 74 kg (164 lb)
  • Speed: Mach 2.5+
  • Propulsion: Thiokol MK 17 solid-fuel rocket
  • Thrust: 4200lbs (1905kg) for 2.2 seconds
  • Guidance duration: 20 seconds
  • Warhead: 11kg (25lbs) Mark 8 Blast Fragmentation with 4.76kg (10,5lbs) HBX-1 (7,62 kg TNT)
  • Prox Fuze triggering distance: 9m (30ft)
  • Maneuvering capability: up to 11g at Sea Level
  • Maneuvering surface: Delta canard
  • Servo torque: 750 in-lbs (84,74 Nm)

Seeker:

  • FOV: 2.5°
  • Gimbal limit: 40°
  • Tracking rate: 12°/s
  • Cooling: Peltier (electric)
  • Seeker uncage: Yes
  • Rear Aspect only

Performance of AIM-9F

Spoiler
  • Length: 2.83 m (111.5 in)
  • Finspan: 0.56 m (22 in)
  • Diameter: 12.7 cm (5 in)
  • Weight: 70 kg (155 lb)
  • Speed: Mach 1.7
  • Propulsion: Thiokol MK 17 solid-fuel rocket
  • Thrust: 3820lbs (1732kg) for 2.2 seconds
  • Guidance duration: 20 seconds
  • Warhead: 11kg (25lbs) Mark 8 Blast Fragmentation with 4.76kg (10,5lbs) HBX-1 (7,62 kg TNT)
  • Prox Fuze triggering distance: 9m (30ft)
  • Maneuvering capability: up to 10-12g at Sea Level
  • Maneuvering surface: Delta canard
  • Servo torque: 750 in-lbs (84,74 Nm)

Seeker:

  • FOV: 4°
  • Gimbal limit: 30° (Mark 1 Mod 1-14)
  • Tracking rate: 16°/s
  • Cooling: CO2
  • Seeker uncage: None
  • Rear Aspect only

Performance of AIM-9G

Spoiler
  • Length: 2.87 m (113 in)
  • Finspan: 0.63 m (24.8 in)
  • Diameter: 12.7 cm (5 in)
  • Weight: 87 kg (192 lb)
  • Speed: Mach 2.5+
  • Propulsion: Hercules MK 36 solid-fuel rocket
  • Thrust: 2880lbs (1306kg) for 5 seconds
  • Guidance duration: 60 seconds
  • Warhead: 11kg (25lbs) MK 48 continuous-rod warhead with 2.95kg (6.5lbs) HMX (~ 5kg TNT)
  • Prox Fuze triggering distance: 9m (30ft)
  • Maneuvering capability: up to 18g at Sea Level
  • Maneuvering surface: Delta canard
  • Servo torque: 1100 in-lbs (124,28Nm)

Seeker:

  • FOV: 2.5°
  • Gimbal limit: 40°
  • Tracking rate: 12°/s
  • Cooling: Nitrogen
  • Seeker uncage: Yes
  • Rear Aspect only
  • Has SEAM

Performance of AIM-9H

Spoiler
  • Length: 2.87 m (113 in)
  • Finspan: 0.63 m (24.8 in)
  • Diameter: 12.7 cm (5 in)
  • Weight: 84 kg (186 lb)
  • Speed: Mach 2.5+
  • Propulsion: Hercules MK 36 solid-fuel rocket
  • Thrust: 2880lbs (1306kg) for 5 seconds
  • Guidance duration: 60 seconds
  • Warhead: 11kg (25lbs) MK 48 continuous-rod warhead with 2.95kg (6.5lbs) HMX (~ 5kg TNT)
  • Prox Fuze triggering distance: 9m (30ft)
  • Maneuvering capability: up to 18g at Sea Level
  • Maneuvering surface: Delta canard
  • Servo torque: 1350 in-lbs (152,53 Nm)

Seeker:

  • FOV: 2.5°
  • Gimbal limit: 40°
  • Tracking rate: 20°/s
  • Cooling: Nitrogen
  • Seeker uncage: Yes
  • Rear Aspect only
  • Has SEAM

Performance of AIM-9J/P/N

Spoiler
  • Length: 3.05 m (120 in)
  • Finspan: 0.58 m (22.8 in)
  • Diameter: 12.7 cm (5 in)
  • Weight: 74 kg (164 lb)
  • Speed: Mach 2.5+
  • Propulsion: Thiokol MK 17 solid-fuel rocket
  • Thrust: 4200lbs (1905kg) for 2.2 seconds
  • Guidance duration: 40 seconds
  • Warhead: 11kg (25lbs) Mark 8 Blast Fragmentation with 4.76kg (10,5lbs) HBX-1 (7,62 kg TNT)
  • Prox Fuze triggering distance: 9m (30ft)
  • Maneuvering capability: up to 22g at Sea Level
  • Maneuvering surface: square-tipped double-delta canards
  • Servo torque: 1050 in-lbs (118,63 Nm)

Seeker:

  • FOV: 2.5°
  • Gimbal limit: 40°
  • Tracking rate: 16°/s
  • Cooling: Peltier (electric)
  • Seeker uncage: Yes
  • Rear Aspect only (until P-3)
  • All aspect (after P-4)
  • IRCCM (after P-5)

Performance of AIM-9L/M

Spoiler
  • Length: 2.85 m (112.2 in)
  • Finspan: 0.63 m (24.8 in)
  • Diameter: 12.7 cm (5 in)
  • Weight: 86 kg (191 lb)
  • Speed: Mach 2.5+
  • Propulsion: Hercules/Bermite MK 36 solid-fuel rocket
  • Thrust: 2660lbs (1206kg) for 5.23 seconds
  • Guidance duration: 60 seconds
  • Warhead: 9.4 kg (20.8 lb) WDU-17/B annular blast-fragmentation with a 3.175 kg (7 lbs) PBXN-3 filler (~ 5,4kg TNT)
  • Prox Fuze triggering distance: 9m (30ft)
  • Maneuvering capability: up to 32g at Sea Level (AIM-9L)
  • Maneuvering capability: up to 35g at Sea Level (AIM-9M)
  • Maneuvering surface: long-span pointed double-delta canards
  • Servo torque: 1350 in-lbs (152,53 Nm)

Seeker:

  • FOV: 3.6°
  • Gimbal limit: 40°
  • Tracking rate: 22-24°/s
  • Cooling: Argon
  • Seeker uncage: Yes
  • All aspect 3km frontal lock range (8.5km against afterburning targets)
  • Has SEAM
11 Likes

Propellant weights for the motors seem to be incorrect for the AIM-9D/G in-game (5kg too much, so empty weight is 15.3% less than it should be). Propellant weights for the AIM-9L are also (slightly) off in-game.

Also, the explosive filler for the AIM-9L is 3.58kg not 3.175kg.
https://community.gaijin.net/issues/p/warthunder/i/HbjfJGV2bsPH

It should be noted the Hercules Mk36 mod 9 (first used on later AIM-9L models) is a reduced smoke motor which would have lower ISP over previous models.

@_David_Bowie Welcome back & good job 👍

I wonder maneuvering G limit AIM-9M from cdk, AIM-9M-8 (USN) and AIM-9M-9 (USAF) pull 30G or 35G ?

CDK AIM-9M has no missile data (yet). AIM-9M-8 and AIM-9M-9 both pull 35G, there is no mention of an increase or decrease in maneuvering limits for these.

Lateral acceleration is 32g for AIM-9L and 35g for AIM-9M.


Strategic Digest Volume 32, Issues 6-12


Air Pictorial Volume 61

@_David_Bowie AIM-9M-8 (USN) & AIM-9M-9 (USAF) up to 35G ?

and AIM-9M-1 or AIM-9M basic at 32G same AIM-9L or 35G ?

All AIM-9M are 35G…

@MiG_23M I wondering difference between AIM-9M-1, AIM-9M-8 (USN) & AIM-9M-9 (USAF), especially maneuvering capability

Maneuvering capability is the same, the changes are small and don’t seriously change the capabilities iirc.

it was seeker/electronic changes, M5-6 was useed by the brits in i think the gulf, it left us left than impressed so we reverted to the 9L. M8 gives it a true IRCM capability.

@Fireball_2020 But AIM-9M-1, AIM-9M-8 (USN) & AIM-9M-9 (USAF) maneuvering capability at 35G ?

Afaik, every 9M variant is 35G’s.

@Fireball_2020 So good, I was secretly hope dev add AIM-9M on AH-1Z, F-16A Block 15 ADF (USA & Italy) and Harrier GR.7 this year

For F-16A Block 20 AIM-9M replace AIM-9L and 2x AIM-9P replace by AIM-9P-4

Your question has been answered several times, if you do not understand or want to ask simple questions like this (repeatedly) I would suggest sending a personal message to someone instead.

I would agree with the Harrier part but personally i think the 9M and equivelent (9Li, whatever russia have) should only really go to aircraft with limited capability, such as attackers (A7k, Gr7) which are slow and aircraft which only get 2 missiles (Tornado IDS variants for example) but i cant imagine an f16 running around being super fast with 6 flare resistant 35g missiles, it would break top tier. even as a GR7 player im torn between whether i think having 4 is balanced enough, so i think Li would be better.

I think they should not go on aircraft with limited abilities. This is already why the A-10 and Su-25 were wreaking havok. The top of the line missiles should go on the top of the line fighters or the attack aircraft should be at such a high BR that whatever ordinance they have is hardly useful to begin with. They’re attack aircraft.

How was the upgrade achieved? Was control surface power increased or was the G limit raised by strengthening the missile? (correct me if I’m wrong but I’ve heard the Lima needed to be reinforced to even reach 30G while in theory it could pull more)

The modifications to the AIM-9M seeker, and the new propellant changed the weight, weight balance, and increased the structural stability of the missile.

The Hercules Mk36 Mod 9 motor switches from CTPB to HTPB (reduced smoke) propellants which is lighter due to there being less aluminum in it and adheres to the packaging better improving rigidity and strength.

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AIM-9M has changed the Guidance Control Section (GCS) to WGU-4

1 Like

I think 9Ls may have had another nerf. It has been previously established that 9Ls should ignore flares when the target is on reheat in most cases and most aspect, especially in rear aspect. In game, it was pretty much only rear aspect though that this was the case. As in any other aspect, the 9L would favour flares heavily. No matter if the target was on reheat.

Just had a perfect shot at a full reheating Mig-23 in rear aspect, in theory the 9L should have traveled straight and true, instead, a single flare was suffecient to defeat the 9L in rear aspect. The target remained on the full reheat the entire time.

Here is clips of the shot. Everything I know, this should have hit.

Aim-9L Rear aspect (target view) - YouTube - From Target Perspective

Aim-9L Rear-aspect (player view) - YouTube - From my perspective

This happened in an SB match

3 Likes