INTERCEPT PROCEDURES TEXTBOOK
IP-14: AIM-9 SIDEWINDER MISSILE INTRODUCTION
The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a short-range, all-aspect, heat-seeking missile. The Sidewinder has
proven itself to be the weapon of choice because of its simplicity, reliability, and high probability
of kill. Throughout its history, the Sidewinder has seen vast improvements in its basic design.
However, it remains limited to the in-close, visual combat arena.
The AIM-9 missile project was initiated in the early 1950s and the production models entered
operational service in 1956. The first guided missile kill occurred in September 1958 when
employed by the Chinese Nationalists (Taiwan) against the Communist Chinese during the
Formosa Straits conflict. It was also during this conflict that an unexploded AIM-9 was
recovered by the Communists, and eventually turned over to the Soviets, who exploited the
technology to develop the AA-2 Atoll.
The early Sidewinders suffered from poor seeker head discrimination (i.e. could not
distinguish one heat source from another) and a very limited firing envelope. During the
Vietnam War, the Sidewinder received improved seeker head capabilities with Sidewinder
Expanded Acquisition Mode (SEAM), which enabled the missile to have a wider field of view
for acquiring targets.
During the 1970s, the Sidewinder received a new seeker head, fuse, and warhead
combination that gave it all-aspect capability. Since then, additional improvements have included
better turn performance, flare rejection capabilities, and smokeless motors.
The AIM-9 is a small, lightweight, low-cost missile. Although it still carries a price tag of
$100,000, this is relatively economical when compared to its radar-guided big brothers. The
Sidewinder has four major sections: guidance, fuse, warhead, and rocket motor.