AIM-9J Sidewinder

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The AIM-9J Sidewinder missile (scale is approximate)

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

General info

Length: 3.05 m

Finspan: 0.58 m

Weight: 77 kg

Warhead: 4.5 kg blast-fragmentation

speed: Mach 2.5+

Range: 18 km

Motor: Thiokol/Aerojet MK 17

Effective damage

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

When comparing AIM-9J to the most common analogues such as R-60 and R550 Magic, 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


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 AIM-9J in combat

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 AIM-9J, since unlike any other type of armament, AIM-9J requires 5 seconds to warm up before readiness for launch, after which the missile seeker will remain active for 10 seconds. So it is recommended to plan a missile launch shortly ahead of warmup, such as picking out the target ahead in time and then positioning the engagement to your advantage. 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 AIM-9J against the targets rear, preferably with an active afterburner to ensure continuous tracking towards 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. In most cases though, the excellent seeker of AIM-9J will stay on target, even when flares or other countermeasures are deployed. The only threat to AIM-9J worth mentioning are heavily turning targets, due to its limited maximum G-load of 20G, therefore making it not an impossible task to dodge AIM-9J.

Pros and cons


  • TNT load sufficient to kill any aircraft it hits when compared to opposing aircrafts missiles such as R-60
  • Accurate seeker hard to distract with flares
  • Radar can assist the missile to pick the right target before launch


  • Does not follow hard turning targets well unlike R-60 or R550
  • Seeker remains warmed up for only 10 seconds



As the AIM-9E Sidewinder was entering the Southeast Asia in the conclusion of Operation Rolling Thunder,[1] 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 maneuvering target, would be designated the AIM-9J.[2] 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.[3] Other improvements were in its integration of solid-state electronics and a longer burning gas generator to increase its flight time.[4][5]

The new AIM-9J was tested extensively during the "AIM-9J End Game II Development Program" in August 1970,[6] 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",[7] 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.[8] Production of the AIM-9J commenced, with more than 6,700 of the missile variant built or rebuilt from older AIM-9B units.[4]

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.[9][10]

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.[11][12] 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.[13] With the Vietnam cease-fire on 24 January 1973, the AIM-9J's combat tally for that conflict comes to a conclusion.[14]

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).[15] 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%).[16]


Excellent additions to the article would be video guides, screenshots from the game, and photos.

See also

Links to the articles on the War Thunder Wiki that you think will be useful for the reader, for example:

  • reference to the article about the variant of the weapon;
  • references to approximate analogues by other nations and research trees.

External links

  1. Siemann 1974, p.10-11
  2. Siemann 1974, p.15-16
  3. Siemann 1974, p.16
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kopp 2014
  5. Parsch 2008
  6. Siemann 1974, p.x
  7. Siemann 1974, p.17
  8. Siemann 1974, p.21
  9. Siemann 1974, p.23
  10. Futrell 1976, p.104-105
  11. Siemann 1974, p.24
  12. Futrell 1976, p.106
  13. Futrell 1976, p.110-111
  14. Siemann 1974, p.24-26
  15. Siemann 1974, p.26
  16. 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.

AAM  AIM-7C Sparrow · AIM-7D Sparrow · AIM-7E Sparrow · AIM-7E-2 Sparrow · AIM-7F Sparrow
  AIM-9B Sidewinder · AIM-9C Sidewinder · AIM-9D Sidewinder · AIM-9E Sidewinder · AIM-9G Sidewinder · AIM-9J Sidewinder · AIM-9L Sidewinder · AIM-9P Sidewinder
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  AAM = Air-to-Air Missile   AGM = Air-to-Ground Missile   ATGM = Anti-Tank Guided Missile (Ground mounts)   SAM = Surface-to-Air Missile