AIM-9M Sidewinder

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The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a renowned family of short-range air-to-air missiles used by global air forces. Among its variations, the AIM-9M, introduced in the 1980s, stands out. This version was tailored to offer enhanced resistance to IR countermeasures, making it harder for enemy aircraft to evade or deceive. The AIM-9M also features a reduced-smoke rocket motor, minimizing the risk of the launching aircraft being spotted. Its deployment in various conflicts has cemented its reputation as a formidable air-to-air weapon.

Vehicles equipped with this weapon

General info

The most notable characteristics are:

  1. IRCCM: the AIM-9M's guidance system was uses a form of IRCCM called Suspended Animation to provide increased resistance to infrared countermeasures. This form of IRCCM shuts off the seeker and relies off INS (Inertial Navigation System). This feature makes it harder for adversary aircraft to deploy flares or other means to deceive or divert the missile.
  2. Reduced-smoke rocket motor: the AIM-9M comes with a motor that produces less visible smoke. This characteristic is vital tactically, as it reduces the chances of the missile giving away the position of the launching aircraft, or the visual cue (besides the missile diamond) that a missile had even been fired.
  3. Reliability: over the years and through various upgrades, the Sidewinder family has developed a reputation for reliability, and the AIM-9M embodies this trait.

Effective damage

It has a 4.06 kg warhead, making it average but still reliable at crippling or downing enemy planes with its warhead. The damage can be, at times, inconsistent and larger aircraft may tank the missile in certain (and quite unlikely) conditions.

Comparison with analogues

In terms of flight characteristics, the missile is identical to the AIM-9L Sidewinder.

The IRCCM this missile uses (suspended animation) which currently can only be found on helicopter AAMs. The Japanese AAM-3 which is carried on the F-15J uses the same type of IRCCM, and has slightly better performance overall in comparison.

The other comparable missiles of this generation are the Matra R550 Magic 2 and R-73. Both of these also have IRCCM, however they use a type of IRCCM called FOV Gating, where once it is fired, the inner FOV of the seeker is reduced, making it harder to "see" flares.

Missile Characteristics AIM-9M R-73 Magic 2 AIM-9L
Mass 84 kg 105 kg 89 kg 84 kg
Guidance IR IR IR IR
Aspect All-Aspect All-Aspect All-aspect All-Aspect
Seeker Head Uncaged (radar slavable) Uncaged (radar slavable) Uncaged (radar slavable) Uncaged (radar slavable)
Lock range (rear-aspect) 11 km 11 km 6 km 11 km
Lock range (all-aspect) 3 km 3.4 km 3 km 3 km
ECCM Yes Yes Yes No
ECCM Type Suspended Animation FOV Gating FOV Gating
Thrust Vectoring No Yes No No
Launch range 18 km 30 km 10 km 18 km
Maximum speed 2.5 M 2.5 M 3 M 2.5 M
Maximum overload 30 G 40 G 35 G 30 G
Missile guidance time 60 s 25 s 25 s 60 s
Explosive Mass 4.06 kg TNTe 5.96 kg TNTe 9.6kg TNTe 4.06 kg TNTe

Usage in battles

The AIM-9M should be used to target enemy fighters. It's potential of destroying a target becomes exponentially higher when firing at a clueless or unsuspecting enemy, such as AFK players or those who don't know you are coming.

When an enemy is flaring, or ready to flare the missile, shooting it from side aspect is generally most reliable, with rear aspect being fairly reliable and front aspect not being reliable at all.

Pros and cons


  • Missile difficult to evade from as knowledge about how suspended animation IRCCM works is required to have a chance at evading missile
  • Long range for its class of missile. Can reliably be fired from 2.5 km when chasing a supersonic target at low altitude. Up to 4.5 km when at altitude, and even 6-7 km if conditions allow for it
  • Very manoeuvrable, it is extremely hard to dodge this missile kinetically


  • It becomes "dumb" if the target keeps flaring, trying to hit the enemy based on right before seeker shut off due to flares
  • Not very useful in a dogfight as it doesn't pull hard enough against a close range manoeuvring target


Despite the successful development and service of the AIM-9L, the team at China Lake still believed that there were still more capabilities that could be implemented into the missile that didn't fit within the AIM-9L development scope. When the US government came back and asked what else in the missile could be improved, the team set to work on the AIM-9L Product Improvement Package (PIP) that focused on adding these no capabilities.[1]

The primary improvement was better resistance to countermeasures, and as such a counter-countermeasure was implemented into the missile. One method was through the use of optical filters, which combined with the missile's own processing power in the installed computer chip meant it could not only filter out countermeasures, but also terrain and clouds, letting the missile focus on the optical signature of its target.[1] A low-smoke motor was also installed to reduce its visibility when fired.[2]

The new and improved missile was designated AIM-9M and would be put into production in 1981.[1] More than 7,000 AIM-9M missiles would be produced, with different subtypes developed, labeled sequentially from "AIM-9M-1" to "AIM-9M-10", for improvements such as better ability to distinguish countermeasures from an aircraft and new component improvements.[3]

Future Sidewinder variants

The next significant AIM-9 variant to be developed was the AIM-9R, which attempted to evolve the AIM-9 design with the use of a charge-coupled device (CCD) detector, allowing the missile to use an imaging system to track the target. However, cost overruns, staff mismanagement, use of expensive and complicated components, and the fact the imaging system could not work in the night caused the backers of the program to lose faith and the missile was cancelled by the US Navy in December 1991.[4]

An AIM-9X Sidewinder on an F-15C.

The most recent Sidewinder variant to see use is the AIM-9X, which uses the Mk 36 motor and WDU-17/B warhead from the AIM-9M, but the airframe had been redesigned with smaller fins and canards for lower drag and better flight performance. Rollerons have been removed from the Sidewinder's design as the flight control system was sophisticated enough to no longer need them. The WPU-17/B propulsion section uses a jet-vane steering system to steer the Sidewinder with thrust-vectoring. The result was a more compact missile that could fit within a fighter's internal bay, such as the F-22 and F-35.[3] The biggest improvement of the AIM-9X over the predecessors was the guidance, using a seeker that was developed for the AIM-132 ASRAAM with an imaging infrared array, cooled by a Stirling-cycle cryocooler.[2] The AIM-9X also introduced an "Off-Boresight" capability, allowing the missile to be used with the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) to acquire target with the pilot's helmet.[2][3] Continually seeing development as late as 2019,[5] the AIM-9X looks to be the main Sidewinder model for the 21st century aerospace.


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

Paste links to sources and external resources, such as:

  • topic on the official game forum;
  • other literature.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Westrum 2013, 197
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Goebel 2023
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Parsch 2008
  4. Westrum 2013, 198-203
  5. Rogoway et al. 2019
  • Goebel, Greg. 2023. "The Falcon & Sidewinder Air-To-Air Missiles." Air Vectors. Last modified June 01, 2023. Website (Archive).
  • Parsch, Andreas. 2008. "AIM-9." Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles. Last modified July 09, 2008. Website
  • Rogoway, Tyler and Josephy Trevithick. 2019. "The AIM-9X Sidewinder May Finally Evolve Into A Completely New And Longer-Range Missile". The Drive. Last modified September 03, 2019. Website (Archive).
  • Westrum, Ron. 2013. Sidewinder; Creative Missile Development at China Lake. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.

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