AIM-7 Sparrow

Bruno Anthony

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Any way to find the AIM-7 pre Vietnam War test firing results? I mean someone must have known this anti bomber missile might have a hard time against maneuvering fighters.
The books I’ve read on the air war over N. Vietnam all seem to say that it’s failures in air to air combat were surprising. I doubt that.
Only Marshall L. Michell in Clashes: Air Combat over North Vietnam questions the pre war kill probabilities testing of the missile.
Any way to find the AIM-7 pre Vietnam War test firing results? I mean someone must have known this anti bomber missile might have a hard time against maneuvering fighters.
The books I’ve read on the air war over N. Vietnam all seem to say that it’s failures in air to air combat were surprising. I doubt that.
Only Marshall L. Michell in Clashes: Air Combat over North Vietnam questions the pre war kill probabilities testing of the missile.
Sparrow testing would have been primarily done against targets simulating bombers not fighters, and certainly not fighters maneuvering with haste. Pre-Vietnam USAF (and Navy to a lesser extent) was concentrating on dropping nukes and shooting down bombers in that order, and dogfights were the last thing on anyone's mind.

Testing is typically also done by specialised units with vendor support on tap and everything in pristine condition. Additionally there would be no ROE requiring visual identification, allowing Sparrow launch within its best area of the envelope. Not really surprising there were differences in Vietnam.
I get that but I would still love to see the test evaluation reports by both the contractor and the Navy or AF. Michell quoted 71% Sparrow success rate in tests. Down to ~10% in combat. That’s more than surprising.
By 1965 they knew that they wouldn’t be facing Badgers or Blinders over N. Vietnam. Yes a minor fighter threat but they had to know they were improperly armed for that. Even w/o Vietnam, the AF was sending Phantoms to front line overseas units who would be facing MIGS not Tupolevs. Was the plan to take BVR face shots?

Much to be done on researching these 1st/2nd gen air to air missiles. In my opinion they get a cursory overview.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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There's some interesting information in https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA323109.pdf about the use of balloons as targets for early Falcon (radar and infrared) and Sidewinder missiles. Initially the balloons themselves were the target, later on ballistic trajectory rocket propelled darts with IR-emitting flares were used.

There were some drone aircraft test shots as well of course, but I doubt they were pulling many more Gs than the balloons were.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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I've seen figures in articles suggesting AIM-9B achieved 70% SSKP in trials, but in trials you never launch outside of ideal parameters which were very limiting for early AAMs. There were a variety of circumstances that would be declared a "no-test" and that didn't count as a miss.

Combat isn't like that. The missiles might be roughly transported and handled, experience extremes of weather, or environmental issues like the mould seen in Vietnam. Pilots may be poorly trained and unaware of the correct launch parameters.

Like the majority of 1950s and 1960s radars, early Sparrow missiles could work well if everything was ideal, but were too unreliable with fragile components. Sidewinder fared better through its intrinsic simplicity.
 

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On a note unrelated to the above conversation (but still related to this topic), I have been trying to find more information on the AIM-7G. The link below states that it was a variant of the AIM-7F, simply having a seeker that was compatible with the F-111D's APQ-130 (all other information I have on this Sparrow variant mentions the new seeker, but nothing on what airframe it shared commonality with).

 

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Somewhere over on warships1 i think someone went into to problems with early Sparrow III, notably the connectors included some quite fragile components and could render not just that missile useless. But leave broken connectors jammed in the aircraft side of those. Requiring yet more effort to extract them.

Wish I could remember where I read that stuff....
 

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Was the plan to take BVR face shots?
It was, but then they had some own-goals and nobody had the stomach for that.

I doubt they were pulling many more Gs than the balloons were.
Given the intended targets for these missiles, there wasn't much need. Falcon in particular was designed to warm up on the SAGE-controlled run-in for a surprise attack on a target that couldn't pull more than a few G's without ripping the wings off, then flip out of the fuselage bay or wingtip pod and fire immediately. The thought that you would have to keep the IR version waiting indefinitely on the rack while you achieved a viable firing position under heavy G loading never occurred to the designers, because that wasn't the job the customer had asked the missile to do.

It's very similar to the early tanks; the BEF wanted a tracked vehicle that could cross trenches, smash wire and shoot up machine-gun posts in support of the infantry, and that's exactly what it got (and even then there were teething troubles). It did NOT ask for a vehicle that could do all this at the pace of a thoroughbred and perform encircle-and-rout manoeuvres in the style the world would become accustomed to twenty years later, which is just as well, because the industry of the time simply could not have delivered.

Maybe if the services had said "Oh, and by the way, we need this thing to be suitable for high-G dogfighting in a limited war as well as whacking bombers in an all-out nuclear exchange" way back when the design work was first initiated, someone might have had a look at what that meant for robustness, reliability and the need to keep the IR missiles adequately cooled (where appropriate) for an indefinite time on the rack. Maybe we would have got an AIM-4 variant with an uncooled seeker specifically to get that operational flexibility, keeping the N2-cooled variants for the gentler, more predictable anti-bomber launch profiles. Remember that none of these missiles, with the possible exception of Sidewinder, were ever meant to come back in a shooting war; they should all have been fired off in an attempt to stop the incoming Russian bomber hordes. Repeated launch-recover cycles played havoc with the internals of missiles that had been designed to be lifted off once, shot, and never brought home. (Peacetime training is another matter, because you have all the time in the world for maintenance afterwards.)
 

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On a note unrelated to the above conversation (but still related to this topic), I have been trying to find more information on the AIM-7G. The link below states that it was a variant of the AIM-7F, simply having a seeker that was compatible with the F-111D's APQ-130 (all other information I have on this Sparrow variant mentions the new seeker, but nothing on what airframe it shared commonality with).

Timespan of AIM-7G is 1967 -1970 when it was cancelled. It is always described as an AIM-7F with a different seeker compatible with the AN/APQ-130. Your link is pretty conclusive on this.
 

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On a note unrelated to the above conversation (but still related to this topic), I have been trying to find more information on the AIM-7G. The link below states that it was a variant of the AIM-7F, simply having a seeker that was compatible with the F-111D's APQ-130 (all other information I have on this Sparrow variant mentions the new seeker, but nothing on what airframe it shared commonality with).

Timespan of AIM-7G is 1967 -1970 when it was cancelled. It is always described as an AIM-7F with a different seeker compatible with the AN/APQ-130. Your link is pretty conclusive on this.
I knew about the different seeker, just not about the AIM-7F airframe.
 

Bruno Anthony

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On a note unrelated to the above conversation (but still related to this topic), I have been trying to find more information on the AIM-7G. The link below states that it was a variant of the AIM-7F, simply having a seeker that was compatible with the F-111D's APQ-130 (all other information I have on this Sparrow variant mentions the new seeker, but nothing on what airframe it shared commonality with).

Timespan of AIM-7G is 1967 -1970 when it was cancelled. It is always described as an AIM-7F with a different seeker compatible with the AN/APQ-130. Your link is pretty conclusive on this.
I knew about the different seeker, just not about the AIM-7F airframe.
Neither did I.
 

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I strongly doubt that changes were made to the AIM-7f airframe as making the seeker compatible with the AN/APQ-130 radar would just require a change to the seeker electronics.
 

Bruno Anthony

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I've seen figures in articles suggesting AIM-9B achieved 70% SSKP in trials, but in trials you never launch outside of ideal parameters which were very limiting for early AAMs. There were a variety of circumstances that would be declared a "no-test" and that didn't count as a miss.

Combat isn't like that. The missiles might be roughly transported and handled, experience extremes of weather, or environmental issues like the mould seen in Vietnam. Pilots may be poorly trained and unaware of the correct launch parameters.

Like the majority of 1950s and 1960s radars, early Sparrow missiles could work well if everything was ideal, but were too unreliable with fragile components. Sidewinder fared better through its intrinsic simplicity.

Absolutely, but I would still like to know if someone, somewhere said ~1965 based on design & reports, “uh, these missiles are not designed or capable of high success against other maneuvering fighters.” AF Phantoms would face those for sure. Especially since Sparrow was expected to be the real killer.

Feather Duster was more to test the aircraft in close combat.
I’m leaving out Boyd because he hated everything except .50 cal MGs.

I think the Michell book refers to PACAF reports.
 

Bruno Anthony

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We all agree that Sparrow was a high altitude bomber killer.

Wasn‘t Limited War supposed to have gotten higher priority under Kennedy/McNamara?
I don’t know of any new, more maneuverable air to air missile project started until ~1969.
Were they hoping a Limited War enemy would be flying TU-16s/22s?
 

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Vulcan actually displaced the Genie in the weapons bay, it was a podded system. They only ever carried the AIM-26 on underwing pylons as part of test programs.
Any idea why they used Genie on the F-106 but the more advanced AIM-26A only on the F-102?

Development of the GAR-11 began in 1959 because the USAF wanted a head-on kill capability against Soviet bombers, and it used a nuke in part because the SSKP for a SARH missile at the time was not stellar. The F-106 armament suite was finalized a few years prior and the F-106 entered service in 1959, the first XGAR-11 didn't appear until 1960 anyway.
Okay but how is it it went on the OLDER F-102 rather than the newer F-106? That's what's always puzzled me. Presumably any reasons for not putting it on the F-106 would apply to the F-102 only more so. :confused:
Because you could fit an AIM-26 into an F-102's weapons bay with minimal changes to the strucural changes, and it also didn't require much in the way of modification to the Weapons Control System radar, computer, or weapon interface. The Genie is substantially larger - fitting it into a Deuce in operational condition would have required rebuilding the entire airframe. Unless you were designing it in - the F-101B is an interesting case, theinitial armament was to be 6 GAR-1/GAR-2 on the rotaaing weapon bay door (I have seen photos of the six-shot bay door on early aircraft) but the final configuration was the 2 Genie/ 2 GAR-2 Falcon door. the F-89s were able to get away with hanging them underwing - not practical for an F-102. The AIM-26 wasn't necessarily more advanced, or effective - its warhead was much smaller, and although the missile was guided, it was vulnerable to countermeasures, and the launch/escape profile meant that the last part of the flyout was unguided, with the missile holding its last course until the warhead fuzed, or the flight time ran out. The Genie, with no guidance, and a preset timer fuzing the warhead, was immune to countermeasures, and the larger warhead made it nearly impossible to evade.
A last point - the Nuke AAMs were intended as weapon killers, more than bomber killers. The radiation and neutron flux from their detonation was intended to spoil the fission primaries of the incoming bombs, causing them to fizzle. There was a lot of concern about Salvage Fuzing - setting up the bomber's bombs to go off if it was shot down, so that if it didn't get carried to the target, it would still wreak havoc.
 

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Does anyone know if there was ever a land based Sparrow (RIM-7) considered/proposed?
SparrowHawk was a project to stick nine Sparrows on a HAWK launcher, it saw some tests in the mid 80s. IIRC it was followed by HAWKRAAM, same launcher with eight AIM-120s

Jane's Land Based Air Defense 1994-95 has a little more on it, should be able to download it from Archive.com
 

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SparrowHawk was a project to stick nine Sparrows on a HAWK launcher, it saw some tests in the mid 80s.
Did it ever go into production?
Don't think so, but Italy has been successful is exporting their land based Aspide missile

 

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Where is that from?
I do believe that that page is from what was known as the Ault report about air-to-air combat in the Vietnam war in the late 60s, this report can be found over at the DTIC website.
 

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Where is that from?
I do believe that that page is from what was known as the Ault report about air-to-air combat in the Vietnam war in the late 60s, this report can be found over at the DTIC website.
Where is that from?
I do believe that that page is from what was known as the Ault report about air-to-air combat in the Vietnam war in the late 60s, this report can be found over at the DTIC website.
Red Baron report.
 

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Did any of the early Sparrow development work ever dabble in IR?

Sparrow-winder
Hello AN/AWW-14(V),
Is there more information about this?
Not OP, but the IR-homing development team at China Lake and the Sparrow team at Pt. Mugu historically didn't cross-paths too much. In the early days there were also concerns about either stealing business from the other. To date, the only acknowledged Sparrow IR-homing developments are the AIM-7R test vehicles.
 

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Did any of the early Sparrow development work ever dabble in IR?

Sparrow-winder
Hello AN/AWW-14(V),
Is there more information about this?
Not OP, but the IR-homing development team at China Lake and the Sparrow team at Pt. Mugu historically didn't cross-paths too much. In the early days there were also concerns about either stealing business from the other. To date, the only acknowledged Sparrow IR-homing developments are the AIM-7R test vehicles.
Thank you very much for your answer,
And where should I go to find information about the AIM-7R?
 

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We all agree that Sparrow was a high altitude bomber killer.

Wasn‘t Limited War supposed to have gotten higher priority under Kennedy/McNamara?
I don’t know of any new, more maneuverable air to air missile project started until ~1969.
Were they hoping a Limited War enemy would be flying TU-16s/22s?
The problem is that until your missiles actually meet the enemy's airplanes, there's no telling how well they will actually perform. Sure, Sidewinder was proven by the Taiwanese in 1958, but IIRC there was an element of surprise there, and both the launch platforms and their targets in that fight still belong properly to the classical dogfight era; they are the last gasp of the fighter philosophy which arose out of WW2. You can talk about being prepared to fight conventional wars all you like, but until you actually engage in the fight with planes that aren't dogfight-optimized and are suddenly, abruptly restricted by ROE, and find the current missiles don't work within those constraints, there's no perceived NEED for any new project.
 

Archamus33

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We all agree that Sparrow was a high altitude bomber killer.

Wasn‘t Limited War supposed to have gotten higher priority under Kennedy/McNamara?
I don’t know of any new, more maneuverable air to air missile project started until ~1969.
Were they hoping a Limited War enemy would be flying TU-16s/22s?
The problem is that until your missiles actually meet the enemy's airplanes, there's no telling how well they will actually perform. Sure, Sidewinder was proven by the Taiwanese in 1958, but IIRC there was an element of surprise there, and both the launch platforms and their targets in that fight still belong properly to the classical dogfight era; they are the last gasp of the fighter philosophy which arose out of WW2. You can talk about being prepared to fight conventional wars all you like, but until you actually engage in the fight with planes that aren't dogfight-optimized and are suddenly, abruptly restricted by ROE, and find the current missiles don't work within those constraints, there's no perceived NEED for any new project.
You also can't really live fire developmental products against threat representative targets, at least not at that time. Modern target drones make this more doable, but its still a challenge.

Also it has become clear that the Sparrow team did everything they could, but a lot of the missile's shortcomings in the early days of Vietnam were due to HMI issues. There was no clear indication that a target was in the missile's relatively tiny No-Escape Zone, or even in a good position for a shot. They had range, respective velocities, and other tools to estimate it, but the fire control computers controlling today's AAMs do unbelievable amounts of work to give a pilot a simple and accurate idea of how likely they are to achieve a kill if the missile is fired at that point.

@pathology_doc Unfortunately no ideas, everything I've seen about AIM-7R is locked up, so to speak.
 

Bruno Anthony

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We all agree that Sparrow was a high altitude bomber killer.

Wasn‘t Limited War supposed to have gotten higher priority under Kennedy/McNamara?
I don’t know of any new, more maneuverable air to air missile project started until ~1969.
Were they hoping a Limited War enemy would be flying TU-16s/22s?
The problem is that until your missiles actually meet the enemy's airplanes, there's no telling how well they will actually perform. Sure, Sidewinder was proven by the Taiwanese in 1958, but IIRC there was an element of surprise there, and both the launch platforms and their targets in that fight still belong properly to the classical dogfight era; they are the last gasp of the fighter philosophy which arose out of WW2. You can talk about being prepared to fight conventional wars all you like, but until you actually engage in the fight with planes that aren't dogfight-optimized and are suddenly, abruptly restricted by ROE, and find the current missiles don't work within those constraints, there's no perceived NEED for any new project.
They knew prior to Vietnam that Sparrow & Sidewinder (especially Sparrow) were not designed to shoot down maneuvering fighters.
 

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Bruno Anthony

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We all agree that Sparrow was a high altitude bomber killer.

Wasn‘t Limited War supposed to have gotten higher priority under Kennedy/McNamara?
I don’t know of any new, more maneuverable air to air missile project started until ~1969.
Were they hoping a Limited War enemy would be flying TU-16s/22s?
The problem is that until your missiles actually meet the enemy's airplanes, there's no telling how well they will actually perform. Sure, Sidewinder was proven by the Taiwanese in 1958, but IIRC there was an element of surprise there, and both the launch platforms and their targets in that fight still belong properly to the classical dogfight era; they are the last gasp of the fighter philosophy which arose out of WW2. You can talk about being prepared to fight conventional wars all you like, but until you actually engage in the fight with planes that aren't dogfight-optimized and are suddenly, abruptly restricted by ROE, and find the current missiles don't work within those constraints, there's no perceived NEED for any new project.
You also can't really live fire developmental products against threat representative targets, at least not at that time. Modern target drones make this more doable, but its still a challenge.

Also it has become clear that the Sparrow team did everything they could, but a lot of the missile's shortcomings in the early days of Vietnam were due to HMI issues. There was no clear indication that a target was in the missile's relatively tiny No-Escape Zone, or even in a good position for a shot. They had range, respective velocities, and other tools to estimate it, but the fire control computers controlling today's AAMs do unbelievable amounts of work to give a pilot a simple and accurate idea of how likely they are to achieve a kill if the missile is fired at that point.

@pathology_doc Unfortunately no ideas, everything I've seen about AIM-7R is locked up, so to speak.
Fire control systems for the F-4 were optimized to take on high altitude bombers that wouldn’t be pulling much G. Also good against non maneuvering fighters.
I’m not blaming the missile for not being something it wasn’t initially designed to be.

See Steve Fino’s Tiger Check.
 
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