Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sidewinder Overview Part III: AIM-9E

The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a common missile that can be found on almost any Western jet aircraft from the late 1950's to today. That it is found so regularly on many subjects and the fact that it has been produced in several different variants can lead to some confusion for us modelers. These posts are meant to reduce the confusion and hopefully ensure you get the right missile on the right aircraft. If you're just joining this study, I suggest checking out my previous posts covering the AIM-9B and AIM-9D/G/H.


In the late 1960's, the United States was elbow deep in South East Asia and the US Air Force was struggling in air-to-air combat with the resources they had against North Vietnamese MiGs. The Navy had recognized the need to improve upon the disappointing performance of the AIM-9B and conjured up the AIM-9D. Though the Navy's new missile would prove more successful, the Air Force never made use of it and ventured into their own development program.
What came out of it was the AIM-9E, an improved version of the B in that it had larger canards, better aerodynamics, and an upgraded rocket motor. Performance was increased with a higher tracking rate and thermoelectric cooling kept the seeker from overheating. The AIM-9E is differentiated from the AIM-9B by the longer, conical seeker head.
The AIM-9E was introduced to the operational Air Force in 1967 and it soon saw use over Vietnam, accounting for six MiG-21 kills, fired from F-4D and F-4E fighter aircraft.

Two AIM-9E's on an F-4 Phantom in South East Asia.

A-7D armed with an AIM-9E at Korat AB, Thailand.

Air crew standing in front of their F-4 Phantom loaded with a pair of AIM-9E's in South East Asia. Note the two yellow bands aft of the seeker head denoting the high explosive hazard of the warhead and the brown band further aft denoting the low explosive hazard of the rocket motor.

F-4E with a full load of AIM-9E's over South East Asia. Notice the positions and color of the bands on these missiles. Two yellow bands near the seeker indicating the warhead, and a single black band just aft. In the modern Air Force, a brown band is used to indicate the low explosive hazard of the rocket motor. I can only assume the black band here indicates the same.

This dude is obscuring the shot of an AIM-9E on this F-4 Phantom parked at Udorn AB, Thailand. You can see another AIM-9E on the right wing station as well.

Another Udorn F-4 Phantom with a full load of AIM-9E's. 

An F-4 Phantom of the Oregon Air National Guard out of Kingsley Field carrying one Captive Air Training Missile (CATM) AIM-9E.

F-104 sporting an inert, as indicated by the blue body, AIM-9E.
124th TFS A-7 from the Iowa ANG carrying a CATM AIM-9E.

An A-7 of the Arizona ANG loaded with an AIM-9E.

A-7D based at Davis-Monthan AFB with an inert (most likely a load crew trainer) AIM-9E.
USAF aggressors employed the CATM AIM-9E regularly as you can see on this F-5E. This one is all white except for the blue bands around the missile body.

Aggressor with CATM AIM-9E.

Aggressor with CATM AIM-9E's.

A flight of USAF aggressor F-5E's with CATM AIM-9E's.

Beyond the USAF...

Finding examples of the AIM-9E was difficult enough just for its use with the Air Force let alone with foreign air forces. It had a relatively short lifespan, one reason being that it still had to be fired at the rear quarter of the target being engaged. It accounted for very few kills in the Vietnam War and would soon give way to the first true dogfight version of the Sidewinder, the AIM-9J.  
Though the USAF would show the AIM-9E the door by the early 1970's, a few other countries employed it.

South Korean F-5's carrying AIM-9E's. The yellow bands near the seeker denote the live explosive in the warhead, with the black band just aft.

Another South Korean F-5 with live AIM-9E's.

A Mexican Air Force AIM-9E on an F-5. This is inert, likely a load crew trainer. Note there are no rollerons on the tail fins.

AIM-9E's on a Swiss F-5.

A Closer Look...

A museum example. This appears to be a CATM AIM-9E. In this case, there is no rocket motor or warhead but the seeker would still function allowing the pilot to train with the missile during mock dogfights. The umbilical between the two forward fins connects to the launcher and is the interface between the aircraft and missile prior to launch. The metallic wedges on the rear fins are called rollerons and help stabilize the missile in flight.

Another museum example mounted on an F-4. This has a more modern look, uncharacteristic of the AIM-9E in that there is only a single yellow band for the high explosive warhead, rather than two. Note there are no rollerons on the rear fins.

What You Need to Know...

The AIM-9E was used for a short period of time, from roughly 1967 to the mid 1970's, and saw limited action in the Vietnam War.
In US service, the missile was only used by the United States Air Force. 
The live AIM-9E had a white body and seeker head. The seeker was never painted another color, nor was it anodized as far as I can tell. An inert AIM-9E could have a completely blue body with a white seeker and fins, or a light gray body with a single blue band.

Where to Source AIM-9E's...

As can be expected, Eduard Model Accessories has the AIM-9E covered in 1/48 and 1/72.

And though I have yet to hear anything about them, Armory Models Group has two sets of AIM-9E's in 1/48 - one for F-4 Phantoms and another with adapters for F-105's.

Up Next...

The US Navy would spend the late 1960's and early 1970's honing the AIM-9D into the AIM-9G and H. In the mean time, the US Air Force would improve upon their AIM-9 with partial solid state electronics and enhanced agility, giving them a missile with increased lethality in the air-to-air arena. This Sidewinder would be known as the AIM-9J.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sidewinder Overview Part II: AIM-9D/G/H

If you missed Part I, I suggest you check out my last post for information on the AIM-9B.

D to the G to the H...

The AIM-9B did not enjoy much success in the skies over Vietnam. Even prior to its poor showing in South East Asia the Navy was already working on a replacement and developed the AIM-9D. Though the Air Force and the Navy had jointly operated the AIM-9B, the Delta would be the first in a series of Sidewinders that would only be compatible with Navy aircraft. 

AIM-9B on the top, AIM-9D in the center. Note the obvious external differences. The AIM-9C is on the bottom and covered in Part I.

The external differences between the AIM-9B and D are obvious in comparison. The Delta's new optical system was more compact, allowing it to fit in a ogival nose section and the fins were much larger. It was given a smaller magnesium fluoride dome window and a nitrogen cooling system. The missile was more maneuverable and boasted a higher tracking rate granting it a much better kill probability over its predecessor. 
The AIM-9D would enter Navy service in 1965 and would see extensive use in Vietnam accounting for at least 31 of the Navy's 46 Sidewinder victories during the conflict.
But the US Navy wasn't finished. The Delta would be improved upon with the introduction of the AIM-9G in 1968. A more sensitive seeker and greater maneuverability made it a lethal killer during the later stages of the war. Then, in 1970 the AIM-9H, the final iteration of Navy Sidewinders in Vietnam, would enter service. The Hotel's guidance package was built entirely with semiconductors, making it the first solid state electronic Sidewinder. Despite its improved performance, the AIM-9H entered the war late and did not see significant use.
Neither the AIM-9D, the G or the H would see service with the Air Force though they would be put to use by a handful of other countries, like the UK, which will be referenced below. Furthermore, there are no real noticeable variations between the three versions which makes identifying the correct version in a photograph difficult. But for the modeler, narrowing down the specific version is hardly important since their appearance is identical. Therefore, I will generally be referring to each example as AIM-9D/G/H unless I can tell with relative certainty what it is. 

The D/G/H in use with the US Navy

Early in its life, the AIM-9D was painted white, including the seeker head, like the AIM-9B had been. It would not be until later that the seeker would be anodized, giving it a metallic finish we are more familiar with.

AIM-9D on an F-8 Crusader

AIM-9D loaded on the bottom station of a Crusader along with an AIM-9C

AIM-9D loaded on a Crusader beneath an AIM-9C

An AIM-9D/G/H on an F-104 during evaluation of the aircraft for Navy use

Testing at China Lake. The AIM-9D is on top, AIM-9C on the bottom.

The AIM-9D is the top most missile on the cart in front of this F-8
During Vietnam, the AIM-9D/G/H seekers would receive their metallic finish. It is not uncommon for modelers to mistake this finish for flat black and paint their missiles the wrong color. 

An AIM-9D/G/H sits above an AIM-9L in a museum. Its difficult to tell if the seeker is a dark metallic or if the museum has painted it black.
The two photos below were taken in the same year, 1966, and quite possibly the same day. They show F-8 Crusaders with AIM-9D's loaded - one with a white seeker, the other with the anodized finish.

All white AIM-9D

AIM-9D with anodized seeker. Since the photo was taken in 1966, you can be relatively certain it is a D model.
Eventually, the stocks of all white AIM-9D's were depleted and the D/G/H models with anodized seeker heads became more prevalent. US Navy and Marine Corps jets will be the most common users of these Sidewinders. Here are a few photo's for reference.

F-8 Crusader of VF-24 returning to the USS Hancock with an AIM-9D/G/H in the early 1970's

F-8 Crusader sporting a pair of AIM-9D/G/H's. Note the location of the color bands - dark brown denoting the low explosive hazard of the rocket motor is just forward of the tail fins while the yellow indicating high explosive hazard is aft of the seeker on the warhead section.

F-4 ready to launch with an AIM-9D/G/H

Ordnancemen handling a cart full of AIM-9D/G/H's. Here the brown low explosive hazard stripe has moved forward. You can see it below the right arm of the crewman in the middle.

An F-4 recovers with AIM-9D/G/H and B's

An A-7A of VA-147 with an AIM-9D/G in 1968-69.

AIM-9D/G/H being moved across the flight deck. Note the brown low explosive hazard stripe clearly visible near the fins. Yellow stripe is obsured by the cart's tie down straps.

An F-4 of VF-111 dropping bombs over Vietnam while carrying an AIM-9D/G/H

F-14 with AIM-9D/G/H. Note the color bands.

Ordnancemen preparing to load an AIM-9D/G/H on an A-7 loaded with CBU's. Here the color bands are closer to the seeker head.

F-8 with an AIM-9D/G/H

F-4 of VF-114 cruises with an AIM-9D/G/H

F-4 from the Sundowners loaded with bombs and an AIM-9D/G/H.

F-4 above the clouds with a pair of AIM-9D/G/H's.

F-4J of VF-114 loaded with an AIM-9D/G/H between 1970-71.

An F-8 loaded with two AIM-9D/G/H's. Both color bands are completely visible for reference.

Another great color photo showing the location of the color bands on the AIM-9D/G/H on this F-8. The seeker head looks dark but remember it is not black. Its metallic.
F-8 from VF-24 on the Bon Homme Richard, 1967, with an AIM-9D

F-8 on the Bon Homme Richard with an AIM-9D/G/H. The photo is from 1970.

This F-8 from VF-24 is on the USS Hancock, loaded with an AIM-9D/G/H in the early 1970's

An interesting load for this VF-147 A-7 which includes an AIM-9D/G/H.

AIM-9D/G/H on a heavily armed A-7 from VA-147.
Beautiful close up of an AIM-9G/H on a brightly colored Tomcat

This Tomcat is carrying two different versions of the AIM-9, a G/H on the left wing pylon and an L/M on the right

An F-14 from VF-211 Fighting Checkmates with an AIM-9G/H and a Sparrow

Important points to remember...

The AIM-9D/G/H would most commonly be used on Navy and Marine aircraft that flew during the Vietnam war from 1965 until the early 1970's. Initially, the Delta was painted all white like the AIM-9B but that was soon changed. The missile would be given an anodized seeker head which was suppose to help prevent corrosion. You can see in the photos that it can appear very dark but keep in mind, it is not flat black as is a common mistake on models.
The D/G/H was never used by the United States Air Force as it was not compatible with their Aero-III missile launchers and worked only with the Navy's LAU-7A. Never the less, it was employed by a few air forces and navies from around the world.

Other users...

United Kingdom

The Royal Navy started receiving the AIM-9D in the mid 1960's. By the late 1970's and early 1980's they were replacing the Delta version with the AIM-9G. British Harriers were armed with the AIM-9 during the Falklands campaign.

AIM-9D/G on a Harrier

Waiting to be loaded during the Falklands campaign

They would also find use on their Phantoms...

AIM-9D/G's sit in front of an already loaded Phantom

Four AIM-9D/G's on a British F-4
A Phantom fully loaded with four AIM-9D/G's and AIM-7 Sparrows


The Israeli's used the AIM-9D on their Mirages and Kfirs after receiving them in the early 1970's. They were also part of an aid package during the October War.

Isreali Kfir with four AIM-9D's

Israeli Mirage with two AIM-9D's


I have no information on when Zimbabwe received their AIM-9's but this Zimbabwean Aero Macchi is on static display with several sitting in front of it.


Likewise, my information regarding Brazilian acquisition of the AIM-9D is lacking but they seemed to use them on their A-4's.

New Zealand

New Zealand received AIM-9H's apparently in 1970 for its A-4K's and other aircraft.

RNZAF Bluntie looking more dangerous with an AIM-9H on board

RNZAF TA-4K with an AIM-9H

Another RNZAF A-4K with a CATM AIM-9H


Unfortunately I could not find a photograph of Kuwaiti aircraft bearing the AIM-9H's they would have received in 1977 for their A-4M's.

A closer look...

Note the anodized seeker on this AIM-9G...not flat black.
An inert AIM-9H on an A-4. The blue missile body indicates that it is inert.

Inert AIM-9D/G/H on a British Phantom. The blue bands around the missile body say "drill", indicating it is inert.

Where to source the AIM-9D/G/H...

If you're going to use AIM-9D's on your next project but don't want to use the missiles out of the box, there are several places you can locate them in the aftermarket.

Eduard Model Accessories has a set of four missiles in 1/72 scale as well as 1/48 but nothing as yet in 1/32.

Eduard Brassin AIM-9D's

For the larger scale you can turn to Zactomodels which produces a finely detailed version of the AIM-9D in 1/32 which includes the umbilical.

Zactomodels AIM-9D

If you have good eyes and a steady hand, you can find the AIM-9D in 1/144 scale from Shelf Oddity.
1/144 AIM-9D from Shelf Oddity

At one point, Cutting Edge Modelworks produced a set of AIM-9D's in 1/48 but I do not see them listed on their website any more.

Up next...

Building upon the shortcomings of the AIM-9B, the US Navy would part ways with the Air Force and develop probably the most successful short range air-to-air missile of the Vietnam era in the AIM-9D/G/H. In Part III we'll take a look at how the Air Force attempted to improve their own dogfighting capability by creating the AIM-9E.