AIM - 54 Phoenix

AIM - 7 Sparrow

AIM - 9 Sidewinder

M - 61 A1 Vulcan

AIM - 54 Phoenix

Long-range air-to-air missile, carried in clusters of up to six missiles on the F-14 Tomcat.

Background: The Phoenix missile is the Navy's only long-range air-to-air missile. It is an airborne weapons control system with multiple-target handling capabilities, used to kill multiple air targets with conventional warheads. Near simultaneous launch is possible against up to six targets in all weather and heavy jamming environments. The improved Phoenix, the AIM-54C, can better counter projected threats from tactical aircraft and cruise missiles.

General Characteristics:

Primary Function: Long-range air-launched air intercept missile
Contractor: Hughes Aircraft Co. and Raytheon Co.
Unit Cost: $477,131
Power Plant: Solid propellant rocket motor built by Hercules
Length: 13 feet (3.9 meters)
Weight: 1,024 pounds (460.8 kg)
Diameter: 15 inches (38.1 cm)
Wing Span: 3 feet (.9 meters)
Range: In excess of 100 nautical miles (115 statute miles, 184 km)
Speed: In excess of 3,000 mph (4,800 kmph)
Guidance System: Semi-active and active radar homing
Warheads: Proximity fuse, high explosive
Warhead Weight: 135 pounds (60.75 kg)
Date Deployed: 1974

AIM-7 Sparrow

Mission:The AIM-7 Sparrow is a radar-guided, air-to-air missile with a high-explosive warhead. The versatile Sparrow has all-weather, all-altitude operational capability and can attack high-performance aircraft and missiles from any direction. It is a widely deployed missile used by U.S. and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces.

Features:The missile has five major sections: radome, radar guidance system, warhead, flight control (autopilot plus hydraulic controlsystem), and solid-propellant rocket motor. It has a cylindrical body with four wings at mid-body and four tail fins. Although external dimensions of the Sparrow remained relatively unchanged from model to model, the internal components of newer missiles represent major improvements with vastly increased capabilities.

Background:The AIM-7F joined the Air Force inventory in 1976 as the primary medium-range, air-to-air missile for the F-15 Eagle.

The AIM-7M, the only current operational version, entered service in 1982. It has improved reliability and performance over earlier models at low altitudes and in electronic countermeasures environments. It also has a significantly more lethal warhead. The latest software version of the AIM-7M is the H-Buildwhich has been produced since 1987 and incorporates additional improvements in guidance. The F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters carry the AIM-7M Sparrow. U.S. and NATO navies operate a surface-to-air version of this missile called the RIM-7F/M Sea Sparrow.

In the Persian Gulf war, the radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow proved to be a potent air-to-air weapon used by Air Force fighter pilots. Twenty-two Iraqi fixed-wing aircraft and three Iraqi helicopters were downed by radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missiles.

General Characteristics:
Primary Function: Air-to-air guided missile
Contractor: Raytheon Co.
Power Plant: Hercules MK-58 solid-propellant rocket motor
Thrust: Classified
Speed: Classified
Range: Classified
Length: 12 feet (3.64 meters)
Diameter: 8 inches (0.20 meters)
Wingspan: 3 feet, 4 inches (1 meter)
Warhead: Annular blast fragmentation warhead
Launch Weight: Approximately 500 pounds (225 kilograms)
Guidance System: Raytheon semiactive on either continuous wave or pulsed Doppler radar energy
Date Deployed: 1976
Unit Cost: Approximately $125,000
Inventory: Classified

AIM-9 Sidewinder

Services: Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force

Description: The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a heat-seeking, short-range, air-to-air missile
carried by fighter aircraft.

Features: The Sidewinder has a high-explosive warhead and an infrared heat-seeking guidance system. Its main components are an infrared homing guidance section, an active optical target detector, a high-explosive warhead and a rocket motor. The guidance section enables the missile to home in on the engine exhaust of target aircraft. An infrared unit costs less than other types of guidance systems and can be used day or night in all weather conditions. The infrared seeker also permits the pilot to launch the missile then leave the area or take evasive action while the missile guides itself to the target.

Background: A prototype of the Sidewinder, the AIM-9A, was first fired successfully in September 1953. The initial production version, designated AIM-9B, entered operational use in 1956 and has been improved upon steadily since. The L model was the first Sidewinder with the ability to attack from all angles, including head-on. The AIM-9M, currently the only one operational, has the all-aspect capability of the L model while providing all-around higher performance. The M model has improved defense against infrared countermeasures, enhanced background discrimination capability, and a reduced-smoke rocket motor. These modifications increase its ability to locate and lock on a target and decrease the missile's chances for detection. Deliveries began in 1983. The AIM-9M-7 was a specific modification to AIM-9M in response to threats expected in the Persian Gulf war zone. The AIM-9M and AIM-9X are future variants presently under development.

The Sidewinder is the most widely used air-to-air missile in the West, with more than 110,000 missiles produced for 27 nations excluding the United States. The AIM-9 is one of the oldest, least expensive and most successful missiles in the entire U.S. weapons inventory.

General Charateristics:
Primary Function: Air-to-air missile
Contractor: Raytheon Co.; Ford Aerospace and Communications Corp.; Loral
Power Plant: Thiokol Hercules and Bermite MK 36 Mod 11; single-stage, solid-propellant rocket motor
Length: 9 feet 6 inches (2.89 meters)
Diameter: 5 inches (.13 meters)
Fin Span: 2 feet 1 inch (0.63 meters)
Speed: Supersonic
Warhead: Blast fragmentation (conventional) weighing 20.8 pounds (9.36 kg)
Launch Weight: 190 pounds (85.5 kg)
Range: 10+ miles (8.7 nautical , 16 km)
Guidance System: Solid-state infrared homing system
Unit Cost: $41,300
Date Deployed: 1956

M - 61A1 Vulcan
Type: Gatling cannon
Range: 1 mile
Ordnance: 20mm shell
Weight: 255 lb
Mount: Internal
Muzzle Velocity: 3,400 feet/second
Fire Rate: 6,600 rounds/minute
Max. Rounds: 515


The M61 Gatling Cannon has been the standart internal aircraft gun of the United States Air Force for 30+ years. It is capable in both dogfighting and strafing roles. While current Air Force doctrine stresses the development and use of BVR missiles such as the AMRAAM, the gun is the only weapon effective at very close ranges. In fact, during the Vietnam War, guns accounted for one-third of the air combat kills, despite being installed on only a small percentage of the American fighter contingent.