The Air Intercept Missile (AIM)-9 Sidewinder is a supersonic, short-range air-to-air missile developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s. Entering service in 1956, variants and upgrades remain in active service with many air forces after five decades. The U.S. Air Force purchased the Sidewinder after the Navy developed the missile at China Lake, California.
The Sidewinder is the most widely used missile the U.S. Armed Forces, employed on the Navy/Marine’s F/A-18A-D, F/A-18E/F, AV-8B, AH-1 and the Air Force’s F-16, F-15, F-22 and A-10 aircraft. Additionally, the Sidewinder is flown by over 30 international customers on over 12 different types of aircraft.
The missile's main components are an infrared homing guidance section, an active optical target detector, a high-explosive warhead, and a rocket motor.
The infrared guidance head enables the missile to home on target aircraft engine exhaust. An infrared unit costs less than other types of guidance systems, and can be used in day/night and electronic countermeasures 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.
Primary Function: Air-to-air missile
Contractor: Raytheon and Ford Aerospace
Power Plant: Hercules MK-36 solid-propellant rocket motor
Length: 9 feet, 5 inches (2.87 meters)
Launch Weight: 190 pounds (85.5 kg)
Diameter: 5 inches (.13 meter)
Wingspan: 2 feet, ¾ inches (0.63 meter)
Range: 10-18 miles
Speed: Supersonic Mach 2.5
Guidance System: Solid-state, infrared homing system
Warhead: Annular blast fragmentation