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.