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AIM-7 Sparrow


AAM-N-6 Sparrow III, AIM-101


Overview


AIM-7M Sparrow

Wings being installed on an AIM-7M Sparrow air to air missile.
Source: US Air Force (Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo) - © public domain

Origin
United States
Type
Long range air to air missile
Entered service
1958
Status
In service
Development
1951 - 1956
Developer
United States
Production
1958 - present
Producer
United States - Raytheon
Japan - Mitsubishi
Unit cost
About $ 125.000 for AIM-7
Number produced
Over 62.000 AIM-7
Designations
AAM-N-6 Sparrow III (early namefor AIM-7C)
AIM-101 (early designation for AIM-7D)

Description


Introduction

The AIM-7 Sparrow is an air to air missile of US origin. It was developed by Raytheon in the early 1950's and is based on earlier projects developed since 1947. The AIM-7 Sparrow is the air-launched version for use on fighter aircraft. The RIM-7 Sea Sparrow is the surface-launched version that is used on many Western warships. Over its lifetime the Sparrow was continuously upgraded and the latest Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is still in production. The Sparrow was also the basis for the European Skyflash and Aspide derivatives.

Design


The Sparrow has a conventional design in being a cylinder with large cruciform wings in the middle and smaller ones at the rear. The guidance section is in the front, the warhead in the middle and the single stage solid fuel rocket engine at the rear. Over its lifetime the missile has been upgraded with better electronics, new warhead types and larger and more capable rocket engines. The Sea Sparrow missiles are roughly similar to the air launched models but feature folding main wings and some have smaller tail wings.

Guidance

All variants of the AIM-7 Sparrow use semi-active radar homing. The passive radar on the Sparrow missile tracks the target that is illuminated by either the launch aircraft, another aircraft or a ship based radar. When target illumination ceases the missile is unable to find the target. The latest models are capable of command guidance next to the semi-active radar homing mode. A version with an additional infrared seeker was in development but scrapped due to costs.

Firepower

The Sparrow is fitted with a continuous rod warhead in the early models and a blast-fragmentation warhead in the latest models. Early model Sparrow missiles had a very poor combat record with a less than 10% kill probability during the Vietnam war. From the AIM-7F onward solid state electronics were used and combat effectiveness improved drastically. Late model Sparrows have a maximum range of about 45 km, although under optimal conditions 70 km could be achieved.

Platforms

The Sparrow can be launched from most US fighter aircraft developed during the Cold War, including the F-4 Phantom, F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet. Additionally it can be used on various Western aircraft such as the F-104S Starfighter, Viggen, Tornado F3 and Japanese F-2.

Users

The AIM-7 Sparrow was the primary BVR missile in US service from the 1960's to the 1990's and was widely exported to US allies in the same timeframe. The AIM-7 has been completely replaced by the AIM-120 AMRAAM in US service but is still used in many other nations.

Variants


AIM-7F Sparrow

An AIM-7F launched from an F-15 Eagle.
Source: US Air Force (Master Sgt. Michael Ammons) - © public domain

AIM-7C
The AIM-7C entered service in 1958 as the AAM-N-6. It was the first fully operational Sparrow missile but due to its limited range only 2.000 were produced. Renamed to AIM-7C in 1963.
AIM-7D
The AIM-7D produced from 1959 onward was known as AIM-101 and AAM-N-6a until 1963. Compared to the AIM-7C the AIM-7D had an improved engine and guidance system and better anti-jamming capabilities.
AIM-7F
The AIM-7E is a much improved model that entered service in 1963. The AIM-7E uses the MK 38 or MK 52 engine resulting in a much higher speed and range than the earlier models. At first the AIM-7E was briefly known as the AAM-N-6b.
AIM-7F
The AIM-7F uses the much improved MK 58 dual thrust rocket, resulting in a much longer range. The AIM-7F also uses an improved MK 71 continuous rod warhead and much improved guidance section.
AIM-7M
The AIM-7M uses the same MK 58 engine as the AIM-7F and entered production in 1982. The AIM-7M has a new monopulse seeker that gives it an look-down/shoot-down capability.
AIM-7P
The AIM-7P is an improved model that is produced since 1987. It features improved guidance, a new radar fuze and an uplink for mid-course guidance. Both M and P models were later available in a Block II version with an improved guidance section.

Details


Facts AIM-7C AIM-7E AIM-7F AIM-7M AIM-7P
General
Origin
United States
Type
Air to air missile
Dimensions
Length
3.66 m
Diameter
203 mm
Wingspan
1.02 m wingspan
0.81 m finspan
Weight
172 kg
Guidance
Guidance mode
Semi-active radar homing
Warhead
Type
MK 38 continuous rod
Weight
30 kg
Engagement envelope
Propulsion
Aerojet 1.8KS7800 solid fuel rocket motor
Speed
Mach 1.8
Range
1.5 to 11 km
Altitude
1.5 km minimum altitude

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