|This page is about the American air-to-air missile AIM-9J Sidewinder. For other versions, see AIM-9 Sidewinder (Family).|
The USAF's AIM-9J was an improved AIM-9E. It had partial solid-state electronics, a longer-burning gas generator (increasing flight time), and more powerful actuators which drove new square-tipped double-delta canards. The latter feature doubled the single-plane "G"-capability of the missile. About 10,000 AIM-9Js were eventually built from 1972 on, mostly by converting existing AIM-9B/E missiles.
Vehicles equipped with this weapon
|Vehicles equipped with this weapon|
|Jet fighters||F-5E · F-16A|
|F-4||F-4E Phantom II · ◄F-4F Early · ◄F-4F|
|F-104||◄F-104G · ␗F-104G · ▄F-104G · F-104S|
|A-7||A-7D · A-7K|
|Lock range (rear-aspect)||5.5 km|
|Launch range||18 km|
|Maximum speed||2.5 M|
|Maximum overload||20 G|
|Missile guidance time||40 secs|
|Explosive mass||7.62 kg TNTeq|
Like most Sidewinders, the missile features a 4.5 kg warhead that makes it an effective air-to-air missile. In general, a direct hit will either destroy or critically damage an enemy aircraft. If a near miss is achieved, the damage will be sharply decreased.
Comparison with analogues
Compared to other Sidewinders, the AIM-9J is miles better than the preceding AIM-9E, and is on a similar playing field to the Navy's AIM-9H, being slightly less suited for ranged launches, but superior in dogfight scenarios.
|Mass||76 kg||76 kg||88 kg|
|Seeker Head||Uncaged||Uncaged||Uncaged (radar slavable)|
|Lock range (rear-aspect)||5.5 km||5.5 km||5.5 km|
|Launch range||18 km||18 km||18 km|
|Maximum speed||2.5 M||2.5 M||2.5 M|
|Maximum overload||20 G||10 G||18 G|
|Missile guidance time||40 s||20 s||60 s|
|Explosive Mass||7.62 kg TNTeq||7.62 kg TNTeq||3.53 kg TNTeq|
When comparing the AIM-9J to the most common analogues such as R-60 and R550 Magic, the AIM-9J tends to fall in the middle to high range of effectiveness, most accurately described as Jack of all trades, master of none. Mid-range TNT load, decent launch range, good acceleration and a perfectly sufficient seeker make it a good all-rounder, usable in a wide variety of engagements.
Usage in battles
The AIM-9J is a great tool for any situation where a gun cannot suffice or the pilot has no time to engage. After having used other infrared missiles, the AIM-9J takes virtually no time to get used to.
Deploying the AIM-9J in combat
The AIM-9J is best used when having to chase an enemy fighter that is accelerating away from you, or is outside of effective gun range. Timing is key to success when using the AIM-9J, since unlike any other type of armament, the AIM-9J requires 1 second to warm up before readiness for launch, after which the missile seeker will remain active for 20 seconds. The AIM-9J is most effective in distances from 0.75-3 km at altitudes below 4 km, or 1-4 km above 4 km of altitude. Furthermore, it is recommended to only fire the AIM-9J against the targets rear, preferably with an active afterburner to ensure continuous tracking towards the AIM-9J's upcoming flight. However, when attempting to engage a target moving on a tangent to the launch aircraft, it is recommended to lead the missile slightly towards the target, to ensure the track is sustained throughout the flight.The only threat to the AIM-9J worth mentioning are heavily turning targets, due to its maximum G-load of 20G, therefore making it not an impossible task to dodge the AIM-9J.
Pros and cons
- Great 20G maximum overload
- Tracks targets well
- Seeker has a good FOV
- Does not follow hard turning targets well
- Seeker cannot be slaved to an aircraft’s radar
As the AIM-9E Sidewinder was entering the Southeast Asia in the conclusion of Operation Rolling Thunder, the development for the next generation of Sidewinders was undergoing in the US Air Force. In November 1968, the testing for an AIM-9E "Extended Performance" missile began. The missile, designed to give pilots a more capable close-range heat-seeking weapon against a manoeuvring target, would be designated the AIM-9J. The missiles featured a new "double delta canards (stabilizing fins) and a torque feedback servo unit (a signal processing device)", which helped improve capabilities in higher G-forces. Other improvements were in its integration of solid-state electronics and a longer burning gas generator to increase its flight time.
The new AIM-9J was tested extensively during the "AIM-9J End Game II Development Program" in August 1970, which was suspended after results found that improvements were still needed. The AIM-9J testing was resumed in 04 April 1972 under the program "Combat Snap", with conclusions in July 3rd that the AIM-9J improvements were suitable, but requiring a more in-depth testing before it can fully replace the AIM-9B and AIM-9E currently in service. Production of the AIM-9J commenced, with more than 6,700 of the missile variant built or rebuilt from older AIM-9B units.
AIM-9J in combat
To prove the AIM-9J in combat, the missiles were soon sent to the Southeast Asian theater under the Combat Snap evaluation program, Phase IIA. The first unit to receive the new AIM-9J was the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. Once training was completed and the approval to use the weapon in combat was given on 31 July 1972, the unit would soon see combat service in the ongoing Operation Linebacker. The first flight into combat with AIM-9J would be on 02 August 1972.
The AIM-9J first victories were in September 9th, when four F-4D Phantoms of "Olds" Flight from the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) encountered a MiG-21 and two MiG-19 around Phuc Yen airfield. Though the MiG-21 was shot down with 20 mm cannon fire by Olds 03, three AIM-9Js were launched by Olds flight lead (Aircraft Commander Captain John A. Madden and Weapon System Officer (WSO) Captain Charles B. DeBellevue) and accounted for the two MiG-19 shot down (one struck by the missile, the other pre-detonated a distance away but the plane was found crashed and burning at Phuc Yen airfield later that day). This battle also means that Captain DeBellevue becomes the second, and highest-scoring, air force ace of Vietnam with a total of six enemy aircraft shot down.
The third AIM-9J victory was done on September 16th, when "Chevy" Flight of F-4E from the 555th encountered a MiG-21 flying at low altitude at around 700 feet above ground level. A total of eight AIM-9J missiles were fired by Chevy lead and Chevy 03, with Chevy 03's last missile finally striking the MiG-21 (Chevy 03's aircrew were pilot Captain Calvin B. Tibbett and WSO 1st Lt. William S. Hargrove). The seven missed missiles revealed a problem in the AIM-9J that the missile's maximum range at low altitude was less than was expected. The last AIM-9J victory was on October 15th when Chevy flight located a MiG-21 that took off from Phuc Yen airfield. Chevy 01 (aircrew of pilot Majors Ivy J. McCoy and WSO Frederick W. Brown) fired off three Sparrow missiles at the target, with all missing. This was followed up by Chevy 03 firing three AIM-9Js, with the last one impacting the MiG-21. With the Vietnam cease-fire on 24 January 1973, the AIM-9J's combat tally for that conflict comes to a conclusion.
Performance evaluation in Vietnam
From its first engagement in September to the end of Operation Linebacker in December 1972, there were 31 attempted launches of the AIM-9J Sidewinder. Of these attempts, only four resulted in a confirmed hit on the enemy target (23 misses, four failed to launch). Though this gives the AIM-9J a 13% hit rate, this compares favorably in the track record of the AIM-7E-2 Sparrow (5%) and the AIM-9E Sidewinder (8%).
Excellent additions to the article would be video guides, screenshots from the game, and photos.
- Related development
- Siemann 1974, p.10-11
- Siemann 1974, p.15-16
- Siemann 1974, p.16
- Kopp 2014
- Parsch 2008
- Siemann 1974, p.x
- Siemann 1974, p.17
- Siemann 1974, p.21
- Siemann 1974, p.23
- Futrell 1976, p.104-105
- Siemann 1974, p.24
- Futrell 1976, p.106
- Futrell 1976, p.110-111
- Siemann 1974, p.24-26
- Siemann 1974, p.26
- Siemann 1974, p.29
- Futrell, R. Frank; et al. United States Air Force in Southeast Asia 1965–1973: Aces and Aerial Victories. Air University; Headquarters USAF, 1976.
- Kopp, Carlo. "The Sidewinder Story: The Evolution of the AIM-9 Missile." Air Power Australia, 27 Jan 2014, Website.
- Parsch, Andreas. "AIM-9." Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Designation-Systems.Net, 09 July 2008, Website.
- Siemann, John W. Project CHECO Southeast Asia Report. COMBAT SNAP (AIM-9J Southeast Asia Introduction). Defense Technical Information Center, 24 Apr 1974.