The Sidewinder story goes back to before 1950 and is outside the scope of this web page. While the AIM-9 is indeed quite old it is also the most successful air-to-air missile with some 270 kills. It has been upgraded quite extensively over the years and by the 1980s the AIM-9L performed very well in combat (the Gulf of Sidra, the Falklands War and especially in the 'Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot') 1. But to keep competitive with Russia's AA-11 Archer (R-73) the US looked into acquiring a replacement for the Sidewinder. This was the ASRAAM although participation by the United States fell through after disagreements over funding and requirements. While retaining the same rocket motor, fuze and warhead as the AIM-9M, the AIM-9X is almost a new missile with high-angle off-boresight capability (HOBS), vectored thrust, and added resistance to infrared countermeasures (IRCM) 2. The AIM-9X is also a tri-use weapon, being able to be used in air-to-air, air-to-surface and surface to air scenarios without requiring modification.
|1||90 some Israeli aircraft, mainly F-15s and F-16s shoot down 82–86 Syrian aircraft on June 9, 1982, many are downed with AIM-9L Sidewinders.|
|2||This ability was questioned when a Syrian Su-22 avoided a AIM-9X fired from a US Navy F/A-18E with flares on June 18, 2017. A follow-up AMRAAM missile destroyed the Su-22.|
|Type||Short Range Air-to-Air Missile|
|Cost||$621,000 per Block II (2017 FY)|
|In Service||November 2003|
|Propulsion||Orbital ATK Mk 139 solid-propellant rocket motor with a thrust vector control package|
|Guidance||Imaging Infrared Seeker and Data-Link|
|Warhead||20.6 lb (9.36 kg) WDU-17/B Annular Blast Fragmentation|
|Weight||187 lb (85 kg)|
|Length||9.8 ft (3 m)|
|Diameter||5 in (127 mm)|
|Range||More than 10 Miles (16+ km) 1 , 2 , 3|
|Speed||Mach 2.5+ (1,918+ mph / 3087+ kph)|
Estimates vary by source, especially range.
|1||AIM-9M range is listed as 18 km (11.2 mi) on missile non-comparison table|
|2||AIM-9X range is listed as 26 km (16.2 mi) on Deagel Guide to Military Equipment and Civil Aviation|
|3||AIM-9X Block III range is 60% greater than Block II yielding 41.6 km (25.8 mi) if Deagel's numbers are accurate.|
fin span of 44.4cm (17.5 in), a wing span of 35.3cm (14 in)
The AIM-9X is compatible with the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS)
The current production model, the Block II has a redesigned fuze and a digital ignition safety device that enhances safety. Notably, it has a lock-on-after-launch (LOAL) capability and the same datalink as the AMRAAM for near beyond visual range (NBVR) engagements.
The Block II+ is made on the same production line as the regular Block II. This variant is intended to satisfy the requirements of 5th generation aircraft like the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) with enhanced aircraft survivability features. The Block II Plus will be procured only for specific critical mission applications and the balance of the AIM-9X inventory will continue to be produced as regular Block II missiles to meet munitions requirement.
Beginning in 2020 (FY), the missile will incorporate a tech refresh of critical obsolete components required to ensure future producibility due to Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (DMS). Specific planned hardware updates include the inertial measurement unit (IMU), the dome and the guidance unit processor. The anticipated nomenclature to be used by the Prime Vendor for contracting purposes for the Lot 20 (FY 2020) hardware upgrades are AIM-9X-4 for AIM-9X Block II missiles, and AIM-9X-5 for AIM-9X Block II Plus missiles. 1
With a new, more powerful rocket motor and better power management a 60% greater range is projected allowing for beyond visual range (BVR) engagements. This is especially desired for the F-35 as it only carries four BVR missiles in its weapons bay along with two Sidewinders on outer wing pylons. This will effectively give each F-35 six BVR missiles. And more importantly, the AIM-9X Block III's will allow BVR combat using passive infrared homing, thereby overcoming digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jamming. A further requirement called for an insensitive munitions warhead for a greater margin of safety on board aircraft carriers. However, the Navy's 2016 (FY) budget canceled the Block III development effort.
|1||Air Force Missile Procurement Justification Book FY 2018 (pdf format)|
Air Force Fact Sheet
Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Deagel Guide to Military Equipment and Civil Aviation
Popular Mechanics - Story on how a Su-22 beat the AIM-9X in the skies over Syria.
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