Vympel R-73 'ARCHER' - History, Design, Performance & Discussion



P.s. sorry for web translation
note: article from 2006


The main weapon of close air combat of modern Russian fighters are short-range missiles R-73 (“product 72”). This missile, which was put into service almost a quarter of a century ago, in 1983, was recognized as the best in its class and served as a “model of perfection” when creating similar weapons abroad. Today , the Russian Air Force is in service and there are two main options for export deliveries R-73 missiles – with a non-contact radar fuse “Krechet” and with a laser non-contact fuse “Yantar”. Both variants were created during the existence of the USSR. Serial production of missiles was established at the Moscow plant “Kommunar” (now – JSC “Duks”). The thermal homing head (TGS) “Mayak-80” and its modifications are made at the State Enterprise “Arsenal” in Kiev. The missile control system (autopilot) for the R-73 was created at JSC MNPK Avionics (Moscow), and the solid-fuel rocket engine RDTT-295 was developed by the Iskra ICD (Moscow). Checking the rocket during its operation and preparation for combat use is carried out at the technical position “Gurt”, created in the Kiev State Design Bureau “Luch”. Thus, Russia does not fully have all the rights to manufacture and supply this missile and to a certain extent depends on Ukrainian allies. Work on the modernization of the R-73 after the collapse of the USSR and the related political problems of interaction with Ukrainian partners could not be carried out actively for many years. Despite this, it was at this time that a “transitional” modified version of the rocket appeared with an improved TGS “Mayak-80M” with a range of target designation angles increased to ± 60o (for serial P-73 this parameter is ± 45o ) and increased energy. In the summer of 1997, a full-size mock-up of such a rocket, called K-74ME, was demonstrated at the exposition of the GosMKB “Vimpel” at MAKS-1997. It was reported at the exhibition that the rocket had been tested since 1994 and was ready for mass production by the time of the air show. The further development of the R-73 and K-74ME should be an upgraded rocket, referred to in the report of Gennady Sokolovsky as “product 760”. This UR being created as part of the “second stage of modernization” of the R-73 missile family, it is considered by its creators as a “weapon of equal opportunities” with foreign analogues – the British ASRAAM and the American AIM-9X. The characteristics of the rocket are increased by equipping it with a combined control system consisting of a TGS, an inertial control system (ISU) and a radio correction line receiver, as well as an improved RTT with an increased pulse traction. In addition, to ensure placement in the internal compartments of the carrier’s armament, the transverse transport dimension of the missile has been reduced. The capture of the target by the homing head of the upgraded missile will be able to be carried out after launch, on the trajectory, according to the target designation from the ISU. By the time the report was published, the rocket was on the verge of starting flight tests, it could enter service around 2010.

RVV-MD2 ( Izdelie 760 )
Presented only now


This is actually because all standard R-73s in service at the time were converted to it.

Where did you get that from

A book called Soviet/Russian Aircraft Weapons Since WW2

Yefim Gordon is unreliable source. He even states such nonsense as R-73E and R-33E being energy variant of R-73 and R-33, while being just export versions, stating R-33S being some sort pf upgrade of R-33, while being absolutely same R-33, just with nuclear warhead. Nothing actually changed out of paper/prototypes in terms of R-73 performance before start of RVV-MD (Izdelie 750) production.

Any news on whether R-73 is going to 60G’s?

No, report is still open. Willing to bet they’re gonna have a stepped overload limit wherein it’s 60G while burning and 40G thereafter

I’m very familiar with his work so I know when to recognize that there is not enough proofreading when his translator translates his work into English. I also have Viktor Markovsky’s “Soviet air-to-air Missiles” book.

The R-73E existed but it did not go specifically into production as a separate variant since the work that was put into it was transferred to the R-73M - hence why its maximimum kill range is higher. It can be confusing since they use the same suffix to denote two different meanings (export or energy) so you have to be careful. The R-33E is the same as the R-33S but proposed for export, and no R-33S was ever fitted with a nuclear warhead unless that’s been a recent addition. But then the only source I’ve found on that was a recent article that claims the MiG-29 can also use the R-33… in my humble opinion I think you should re-check your information just in case.

S means “special” (warhead). That’s why none russian reliable book or Vympel itself mentions it (only Markovsky mentions nuclear variant of R-33), because it’s weapon never supposed to be used. The first step in modernization of R-33 family was R-37 with ARH seeker.

Even if such missile existed then what? Even you said it was transferred to “R-73M” (project of which died in 90s) , then this missile never had “R-” name and never produced in any sufficient number and has never been put into service.

“The requirements were drawn up in 1984 for K-73 with extended range, after 4 years 16 missiels were produced”. And that’s all. 90s started, most of the projects in Russia died.

For the upgraded MiG-31B interceptor, the production of which began in 1990, an improved modification of the rocket was developed - the R-33S with an active RGSN. The R-33S is the first Soviet missile equipped with an integrated digital BTSVM…


The GSI of the MiG-31-33 automatic transmission system has not yet ended, as the development of the MFBU-520 CSG — the modernization of the MFBU-410 CSG began. At the same time, the modernization of the MiG-31-33 automatic transmission began.

The main directions of modernization of the MFBU-410 CSG were;
— expansion of the range of heights of combat use;
— further increase of the missile launch range;
— defeat of low-flying cruise missiles of the ALCM type.;
— increase of noise immunity for promising types of interference of a potential enemy, including group targets;
— the transfer of the CSG completely to a new element base — transistors and microcircuits (in MFBU-410, the receiving channel was implemented on radio tubes of the Fish series);
— improving the reliability of products.

The development of the MFBU-520 CSG as a whole was carried out by the integrated laboratory of Chief Designer Ermakov B.N. with the participation of industry departments of developers.

The previous structure of relations with related organizations has been preserved: with MKB “Vimpel”, NIIP, NPP “Zenit” and others.

A new generation of specialists took an active part in the creation of the MFBU-520 CSG along with the veterans of the Institute.

A number of new technical solutions to ensure compliance with the requirements of the TOR were protected by copyright certificates. 5 inventions were used in the MFBU-520 CSG.

An improved target capture machine was introduced, which made it possible to increase the target detection range. An increase in the accuracy characteristics of the missile guidance was implemented under the influence of interference. Optimal and nonlinear filtering was widely used to generate control signals.

The probability of hitting elements of a group target has significantly increased.

The increase in reliability was achieved by the use of a new element base and the introduction of a number of additional technological tests for blocks and CSG as a whole.

The development of the MFBU-520 CSG was carried out at the Chief Designer’s stand and at the stand of semi-natural modeling, where the effectiveness of the proposed technical solutions was checked directly by the miss criterion.

A lot of work was carried out at NIIAS on the technical support of the MFBU-520 CSG, on the evaluation of new technical solutions, and especially on the evaluation of targeting low—flying targets (including cruise missiles and group targets).

In 1991, the State Research Institute issued a positive conclusion on the results of modeling and testing, and the R-33S rocket was accepted for mass production and without waiting for the end of the GSI of the upgraded MiG-31-33B automatic transmission, which were successfully completed in 1992.


The development of the IFBU-520 CSG was carried out at the NIO-3 NIIP. At the Agat Research Institute, the development of this CSG was continued.

In 1987, the State joint (flight) tests of the missile with the MFBU-520 CSG were to be conducted. However, the MiG-31 aircraft was prepared for launch work only at the end of November 1987 and flight tests began late. By the end of the year, several start-up works were carried out. There were no comments on the work of the MFBU-520 during the launches.

In 1988-90, the MFBU-520 GSI as part of the rocket was continued. At the same time, in order to ensure the implementation of measures based on the results of the GSI, a semi-natural simulation of MFBU-520 was carried out at NIIAS.

The stage of conducting State tests of the MFBU-520 as part of the rocket was repeatedly postponed, however, in 1991 the tests were continued and completed.

FSUE Moscow Research Institute “Agat”. The history of creation and development. 2001

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Perhaps we can create a thread on the R-33. I already manage too many, so until then let’s shelf this discussion as it’s getting off topic and a bit lengthy.

I’ve seen claims that the R-73 in game is a late version/R-73M due to it’s much improved seeker and I kinda understand why but it’s still bugging the hell out of me and I need an answer

It is not, the seeker isn’t impressive. In fact, I believe in many aspects the in-game model is underperforming. It should be 60G for example… at least when motor is burning.

Okay. Then is this the first production version of the R-73? Sorry for asking so many questions but the jump from the R-60M to this thing feels really big and I wish there was a missile that could be added to top tiers other than the SMT (without causing too much difficulty for the enemies in downtiers)

I don’t think the R-73 is particularly OP currently… and it’s the first production model of R-73 it seems.

Made a report to hopefully fix the MiG-29s underperforming AoA.


I was out of CM’s so I fired an R-73 to decoy the magic 2… lol