The Hughes AIM-4 Falcon was the first operational guided air-to-air missile of the United States Air Force. Development began in 1946; the weapon was first tested in 1949. The missile entered service with the USAF in 1956.
Produced in both heat-seeking and radar-guided versions, the missile served during the Vietnam War with USAF McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II units. Designed to shoot down slow bombers with limited maneuverability, it was ineffective against maneuverable fighters over Vietnam. Lacking proximity fusing, the missile would only detonate if a direct hit was scored. Only five kills were recorded.
With the AIM-4's poor kill record rendering the F-4 ineffective at air-to-air combat, the fighters were modified to carry the USN-designed AIM-9 Sidewinder missile instead, which was already carried on USN and USMC F-4 Phantom II and F-8 Crusader jet fighters. The Sidewinder was much more effective and continues to serve the armed forces of the United States and numerous allied nations to this day.
|Place of origin||United States|
|In service||1956-1988 (AIM-4F/AIM-4G)|
|Length||1.98 m (6 ft 6 in)|
|Diameter||163 mm (6.4 in)|
|Warhead||3.4 kg (7.5 lb)|
|Wingspan||508 mm (20.0 in)|
|Propellant||solid fuel rocket|
|9.7 km (6.0 mi)|
|semi-active radar homing and Tail-chase engagement infrared homing|
Development of a guided air-to-air missile began in 1946. Hughes Aircraft was awarded a contract for a subsonic missile under the project designation MX-798, which soon gave way to the supersonic MX-904 in 1947.
The original purpose of the weapon was as a self-defense weapon for bomber aircraft, which would carry a magazine of three missiles in the rear fuselage, and fire them through a long tube that led through the area that normally held the tail turret. In the case of the B-52, the missile contained a tuner for the bomber's A-3 rear-facing radar, and would follow the signal being reflected off the target aircraft using a semi-active radar homing (SARH) system.
At the same time that the original MX-798 had been released, a specification for a forward-firing missile for fighter aircraft had been released as MX-799. This had progressed to the point of testing prototype rounds, as the AAM-A-1 Firebird, when its subsonic speed and manual guidance were realized to be serious problems.
The project was cancelled, and the recently released MX-904 was redirected to replace Firebird in the anti-bomber role. At this stage the weapon was still designed to be fired out of a tube, now leading from a weapon bay behind the nose-mounted radar with the launch tube exiting below the radar antenna. Instead of a magazine with multiple missiles, three missiles were placed in the tube tip-to-tail.
Housing in a tube presented several problems, but primary among them was that there was no way for the missile's seeker to lock-on before launch. The original concept would be firing against interceptor aircraft that were slowly approaching the B-52 and would be somewhere fairly close to directly behind the aircraft. In the case of a fighter, the target might not be so conveniently located, and with no way to know if it could see the target while inside the tube, this meant it might never lock-on properly.
Eventually, it was decided to abandon the tube-launched concept and mount the missile on the wings or in weapon bays that would point the missile at the target prior to launch. This change also allowed the seeker to use infrared homing as well as SARH. Interchangeable seekers were developed, allowing an aircraft to carry either type, or both. Additionally, freed from the tube, the missile's wings were allowed to grow larger and took on the long delta form that it and its various descendants would carry into the 2000s.
The first test firings took place in 1949, at which time it was designated AAM-A-2 and given the popular name Falcon. A brief policy of awarding fighter and bomber designations to missiles led it to be redesignated F-98 in 1951. In 1955, the policy changed again, and the missile was again redesignated GAR-1.
The initial GAR-1 and GAR-2 models entered service in 1956. It armed the Northrop F-89 Scorpion, McDonnell F-101B Voodoo and Convair F-102 Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart interceptors. The only other users were Canada, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, whose CF-101 Voodoo, Saab 35 Draken and Dassault Mirage IIIS carried the Falcon. Canada also hoped to use them on the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow interceptor; however, this was never realized because of the Arrow's cancellation.
Fighters carrying the Falcon were often designed with internal weapons bays for carrying this missile. The Scorpion carried them on wingtip pods, while the Delta Dagger and Delta Dart had belly bays with a trapeze mechanism to move them into the airstream for launch. The F-101B had an unusual bay arrangement where two were stored externally, and then the bay door would rotate to expose two more missiles. It is likely the General Dynamics F-111's internal bay would have accommodated the missile as well, but by the time of service the Air Force had already dropped the Falcon for use against fighters, as well as the idea of using the F-111 as an air combat fighter.
The GAR-1 had semi-active radar homing (SARH), giving a range of about 5 mi (8.0 km). About 4,000 missiles were produced. It was replaced in production by the GAR-1D (later AIM-4A), with larger control surfaces. About 12,000 of this variant were produced, the major production version of the SARH Falcon.
The GAR-2 (later AIM-4B) was a heat-seeker, generally limited to rear-aspect engagements, but with the advantage of being a 'fire and forget' weapon. As would also be Soviet practice, it was common to fire the weapon in salvos of both types to increase the chances of a hit (a heat-seeking missile fired first, followed moments later by a radar-guided missile). The GAR-2 was about 1.5 in (40 mm) longer and 16 lb (7 kg) heavier than its SARH counterpart. Its range was similar. It was replaced in production by the GAR-2A (later AIM-4C), with a more sensitive infrared seeker. A total of about 26,000 of the infrared-homing Falcons were built.
All of the early Falcons had a small 7.6 lb (3.4 kg) warhead, limiting their lethal radius. Also limiting them tactically was the fact that Falcon lacked a proximity fuze: the fuzing for the missile was in the leading edges of the wings, requiring a direct hit to detonate.
In 1958, Hughes introduced a slightly enlarged version of the Falcon, initially dubbed Super Falcon, with a more powerful, longer-burning rocket engine, increasing speed and range. It had a larger warhead (28.7 lb / 13 kg) and better guidance systems. The SARH versions were GAR-3 (AIM-4E) and the improved GAR-3A (AIM-4F). The infrared version was the GAR-4A (AIM-4G). About 2,700 SARH missiles and 3,400 IR Super Falcons were produced, replacing most earlier versions of the weapon in service.
The Falcon was redesignated AIM-4 in September 1962.
The final version of the original Falcon was the GAR-2B (later AIM-4D), which entered service in 1963. This was intended as a fighter combat weapon, combining the lighter, smaller airframe of the earlier GAR-1/GAR-2 weapon with the improved IR seeker of the GAR-4A/AIM-4G.
An effort to address the limitations of AIM-4D led to the development in 1970 of the XAIM-4H, which had a laser proximity fuze, new warhead, and better maneuverability. It was cancelled the following year without entering service.
A larger version of the Falcon carrying a 0.25-kiloton nuclear warhead was developed as the GAR-11 (later designated the AIM-26 Falcon), while a long-range version was developed for the North American XF-108 Rapier and Lockheed YF-12 interceptors as the GAR-9 (later AIM-47 Falcon).
The Air Force deployed AIM-4 in May 1967 during the Vietnam War on the new F-4D Phantom II, which carried it on the inner wing pylons and was not wired to carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder. The missile's combat performance was very poor. The Falcon, already operational on Air Defense Command aircraft, was designed to be used against bombers, and its slow seeker cooling times (as much as six or seven seconds to obtain a lock on a target) rendered it largely ineffective against maneuvering fighters. Moreover, it could only be cooled once. Limited coolant supply meant that once cooled, the missile would expend its supply of liquid nitrogen in two minutes, rendering it useless on the rail. The missile also had a small warhead, and lacked proximity fusing. As a result, only five kills were scored, all with the AIM-4D version. (The Falcon was also experimentally fired by the F-102 Delta Dagger against ground targets at night using its infrared seeker.)
The weapon was unpopular with pilots from the onset and was supplemented or partially withdrawn in 1969, to be replaced in the F-4D by the Sidewinder after retrofitting the proper wiring. Colonel Robin Olds, USAF, commanding the F-4D-equipped 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, was an outspoken critic of the missile and said of it:
By the beginning of June, we all hated the new AIM-4 Falcon missiles. I loathed the damned useless things. I wanted my Sidewinders back. In two missions I had fired seven or eight of the bloody things and not one guided. They were worse than I had anticipated. Sometimes they refused to launch; sometimes they just cruised off into the blue without guiding. In the thick of an engagement with my head twisting and turning, trying to keep track of friend and foe, I'd forget which of the four I had (already) selected and couldn't tell which of the remaining was perking and which head was already expiring on its launch rail. Twice upon returning to base I had the tech rep go over the switchology and firing sequences. We never discovered I was doing anything wrong.
Colonel Olds became exasperated with the Falcon's poor combat performance. He ordered his entire fighter wing to rewire the F-4Ds to carry more reliable AIM-9 Sidewinders. Although it was an unauthorized field modification, the entire air force eventually followed his example.
Used from 1965 through 1972 in Vietnam, Falcons achieved their only kills during Operation Rolling Thunder (1965–68) during which time only 5 successful hits were scored from 54 launchings during aerial combat.
|Date||Missile Firing Aircraft||AIM-4 Falcon Model||Downed Aircraft||Operating Unit|
|26 Oct 1967||F-4D Phantom II||AIM-4D||MiG-17||USAF 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS)|
|17 Dec 1967||F-4D||AIM-4D||MiG-17||13th TFS|
|03 Jan 1968||F-4D||AIM-4D||MiG-17||435th TFS|
|18 Jan 1968||F-4D||AIM-4D||MiG-17||435th TFS|
|05 Feb 1968||F-4D||AIM-4D||MiG-21||13th TFS|
The AIM-4C was also produced as the HM-58 for the Swiss Air Force for use on the Dassault Mirage IIIS, and license-manufactured in Sweden for the Swedish Air Force (as the Rb 28) to equip the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen. The seeker of the missile was also re-designed.
The AIM-4F/AIM-4G Super Falcon remained in USAF and ANG service, primarily with Convair F-102 Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart interceptors, until the final retirement of the F-106 in 1988. These aircraft had been designed to carry the weapon and could not be easily converted to carry larger weapons like the Sidewinder or AIM-7 Sparrow, which were much longer.
The AGM-65 Maverick is an air-to-ground missile (AGM) designed for close air support. It is the most widely produced precision-guided missile in the Western world, and is effective against a wide range of tactical targets, including armor, air defenses, ships, ground transportation and fuel storage facilities.
Development began in 1966 at Hughes as the first missile to use an electronic contrast seeker. It entered service with the United States Air Force in August 1972. Since then, it has been exported to more than 30 countries and is certified on 25 aircraft. The Maverick served during the Vietnam, Yom Kippur, Iran–Iraq, and Persian Gulf Wars, along with other smaller conflicts, destroying enemy forces and installations with varying degrees of success.
Since its introduction into service, numerous Maverick versions had been designed and produced using electro-optical, laser, and imaging infrared guidance systems. The AGM-65 has two types of warhead: one has a contact fuze in the nose, the other has a heavyweight warhead fitted with a delayed-action fuze, which penetrates the target with its kinetic energy before detonating. The missile is currently produced by Raytheon Missile Systems.
The Maverick shares the same configuration as Hughes's AIM-4 Falcon and AIM-54 Phoenix, and measures more than 2.4 m (8 ft) in length and 30 cm (12 in) in diameter.AIM-26 Falcon
The AIM-26 Falcon was a larger, more powerful version of the AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missile built by Hughes. It is the only guided American air-to-air missile with a nuclear warhead to be produced, although the unguided AIR-2 Genie rocket was also nuclear-armed.AIM-47 Falcon
The Hughes AIM-47 Falcon, originally GAR-9, was a very long-range high-performance air-to-air missile that shared the basic design of the earlier AIM-4 Falcon. It was developed in 1958 along with the new Hughes AN/ASG-18 radar fire-control system intended to arm the Mach 3 XF-108 Rapier interceptor aircraft and, after its cancellation, the YF-12A. It was never used operationally, but was a direct predecessor of the AIM-54 Phoenix.AIM-95 Agile
The AIM-95 Agile was an air-to-air missile developed by the United States. It was developed by the US Navy to equip the F-14 Tomcat, replacing the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Around the same time, the US Air Force was designing the AIM-82 to equip their F-15 Eagle, and later dropped their efforts to join the Agile program. In the end, newer versions of Sidewinder would close the performance gap so much that the Agile program was cancelled.AIM-9 Sidewinder
The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a short-range air-to-air missile which entered service with the US Navy in 1956 and subsequently was adopted by the US Air Force in 1964. Since then the Sidewinder has proved to be an enduring international success, and its latest variants are still standard equipment in most western-aligned air forces. The Soviet K-13, a reverse-engineered copy of the AIM-9, was also widely adopted by a number of nations.
Low-level development started in the late 1940s, emerging in the early 1950s as a guidance system for the modular Zuni rocket. This modularity allowed for the introduction of newer seekers and rocket motors, including the AIM-9C variant, which used semi-active radar homing and served as the basis of the AGM-122 Sidearm anti-radar missile. Originally a tail-chasing system, early models saw extensive use during the Vietnam War but had a low success rate. This led to all-aspect capabilities in the L version which proved to be an extremely effective weapon during combat in the Falklands War and the Operation Mole Cricket 19 ("Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot") in Lebanon. Its adaptability has kept it in service over newer designs like the AIM-95 Agile and SRAAM that were intended to replace it.
The Sidewinder is the most widely used air-to-air missile in the West, with more than 110,000 missiles produced for the U.S. and 27 other nations, of which perhaps one percent have been used in combat. It has been built under license by some other nations including Sweden, and can even equip helicopters, such as the Bell AH-1Z Viper. The AIM-9 is one of the oldest, least expensive, and most successful air-to-air missiles, with an estimated 270 aircraft kills in its history of use. When firing a Sidewinder, NATO pilots use the brevity code FOX-2.
The United States Navy hosted a 50th-anniversary celebration for the Sidewinder in 2002. Boeing won a contract in March 2010 to support Sidewinder operations through to 2055, guaranteeing that the weapons system will remain in operation until at least that date. Air Force Spokeswoman Stephanie Powell noted that due to its relatively low cost, versatility, and reliability it is "very possible that the Sidewinder will remain in Air Force inventories through the late 21st century".Aerospace
Aerospace is the human effort in science, engineering, and business to fly in the atmosphere of Earth (aeronautics) and surrounding space (astronautics). Aerospace organizations research, design, manufacture, operate, or maintain aircraft or spacecraft. Aerospace activity is very diverse, with a multitude of commercial, industrial and military applications.
Aerospace is not the same as airspace, which is the physical air space directly above a location on the ground. The beginning of space and the ending of the air is considered as 100 km above the ground according to the physical explanation that the air pressure is too low for a lifting body to generate meaningful lift force without exceeding orbital velocity.B-17 Flying Fortress units of the United States Army Air Forces
This is a list of United States Army Air Forces B-17 Flying Fortress units of the United States Army Air Forces including variants and other historical information. Heavy bomber training organizations primarily under II Bomber Command in the United States and non-combat units are not included.
The B-17 Flying Fortress was perhaps the most well-known American heavy bomber of the Second World War (1939/41-1945), . It achieved a fame far beyond that of its more-numerous contemporary, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. The first pre-production Y1B-17 Fortress was delivered to the 2d Bombardment Group, Langley Field, Virginia on 11 January 1936; the first production B-17B was delivered on 29 March 1939 also to the 2nd Bombardment Group. A total of 12,677 production Fortresses was built before production came to an end. In August 1944, the Boeing B-17 equipped no less than 33 overseas combat groups.
The last Boeing-built B-17G was delivered to the USAAF on 13 April 1945. Following the end of World War II, the Flying Fortress was rapidly withdrawn from USAAF service, being replaced by the B-29 Superfortress. Literally thousands of Fortresses used in combat in Europe by Eighth or Fifteenth Air Force or in the United States by II Bomber Command training units were flown to various disposal units. A few were sold to private owners, but the vast majority were cut up for scrap
Aircraft in the final early 1945 production manufacturing block by Boeing or Lockheed-Vega (Block 110) were converted to the B-17H search and rescue model, being modified to carry a lifeboat under the fuselage. Postwar B-17s were used by the Military Air Transport Service Air Rescue Service, in 1948 being re-designated SB-17G. Some RB-17Gs were also used by the MATS Air Photographic and Charting Service (APCS). A few SB-17s were used by the Air Rescue Service in Japan during the Korean War (1950–1953), but all of the postwar B-17s were retired from MATS by the mid-1950s, becoming Air Proving Ground Command QB-17 Drones or DB-17 Drone directors. The drones were operated primarily by the 3205th Drone Group, Eglin AFB, Florida.
The last operational USAF B-17 mission was on 6 August 1959, when DB-17P 44-83684 (Originally a Douglas/Long Beach B-17G-90-DL) directed QB-17G 44-83717 which was expended as a target for an AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missile fired from an F-101 Voodoo, near Holloman AFB, New Mexico. 44-83684 arrived at Davis-Monthan AFB for storage a few days later. The few DB-17P remaining operational drone controllers remaining on Air Force rolls afterward were transferred to various museums in 1960.Convair F-102 Delta Dagger
The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger was an American interceptor aircraft that was built as part of the backbone of the United States Air Force's air defenses in the late 1950s. Entering service in 1956, its main purpose was to intercept invading Soviet strategic bomber fleets (primarily the Tupolev Tu-95) during the Cold War. Designed and manufactured by Convair, 1,000 F-102s were built.
A member of the Century Series, the F-102 was the USAF's first operational supersonic interceptor and delta-wing fighter. It used an internal weapons bay to carry both guided missiles and rockets. As originally designed, it could not achieve Mach 1 supersonic flight until redesigned with area ruling. The F-102 replaced subsonic fighter types such as the Northrop F-89 Scorpion, and by the 1960s, it saw limited service in the Vietnam War in bomber escort and ground-attack roles. It was supplemented by McDonnell F-101 Voodoos and, later, by McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs.
Many of the F-102s were transferred from the active duty Air Force to the Air National Guard by the mid-to-late 1960s, and, with the exception of those examples converted to unmanned QF-102 Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) drones, the type was totally retired from operational service in 1976. The follow-on replacement was the Mach-2 Convair F-106 Delta Dart, which was an extensive redesign of the F-102.De Havilland Firestreak
The de Havilland Firestreak is a British first-generation, passive infrared homing (heat seeking) air-to-air missile. It was developed by de Havilland Propellers (later Hawker Siddeley) in the early 1950s and was the first such weapon to enter active service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Fleet Air Arm, equipping the English Electric Lightning, de Havilland Sea Vixen and Gloster Javelin. It was a rear-aspect, fire and forget pursuit weapon, with a field of attack of 20 degrees either side of the target.The Firestreak was the third heat seeking missile to enter service, after the AIM-4 Falcon and AIM-9 Sidewinder which both entered service the previous year. In comparison to those designs, the Firestreak was much larger and heavier, carrying a much larger warhead. It had otherwise similar performance in terms of speed and range. Limitations of the design led to an improved version, the Hawker Siddeley Red Top, but this never completely replaced Firestreak. Firestreak remained in service until 1988, when it was retired along with the last RAF Lightnings.Gordon P. Saville
Gordon Philip Saville (September 14, 1902 – January 31, 1984) was a United States Air Force major general who was the top authority on US air defense from 1940 to 1951. Blunt and direct in manner, Saville had been an outspoken proponent of tactical aviation in the 1930s against a brotherhood of airmen who promoted strategic bombing.
Saville succeeded Claire L. Chennault as America's leading fighter aircraft tactician. With Benjamin S. Kelsey, Saville co-wrote the technical specifications which led to the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and the Bell P-39 Airacobra fighters. In 1949 he selected the North American F-86 Sabre as America's main defense fighter, and in 1950 he approved a guided air-to-air missile system that would be carried aboard the proposed supersonic 1954 interceptor; the missile produced was the AIM-4 Falcon.
Saville was a technical and scientific-minded leader who helped pioneer advanced mathematics for operations research, and computer systems for centralized coordination of air defense. He advocated the expansion of radar installations to create an unbroken air defense network. He explored the concept of a military aircraft designed around an integrated electronics fire-control system built by various subcontractors. After retiring from the military, Saville worked in the defense industry.Hughes Aircraft Company
The Hughes Aircraft Company was a major American aerospace and defense contractor founded in 1932 by Howard Hughes in Glendale, California as a division of Hughes Tool Company. The company was known for producing, among other products, the Hughes H-4 Hercules Spruce Goose aircraft, the atmospheric entry probe carried by the Galileo spacecraft, and the AIM-4 Falcon guided missile.Hughes Aircraft was acquired by General Motors from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1985 and was put under the umbrella of Hughes Electronics, now known as DirecTV, until GM sold its assets to Raytheon in 1997.List of aircraft weapons
This is a list of weapons (aircraft ordnance) carried by aircraft.McDonnell F-101 Voodoo
The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo is a supersonic jet fighter which served the United States Air Force (USAF) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
Initially designed by McDonnell Aircraft as a long-range bomber escort (known as a penetration fighter) for the Strategic Air Command (SAC), the Voodoo was instead developed as a nuclear-armed fighter-bomber for the Tactical Air Command (TAC), and as a photo reconnaissance aircraft based on the same airframe. An F-101A set a number of world speed records for jet powered aircraft, including fastest airspeed, attaining 1,207.6 miles (1,943.4 km) per hour on 12 December 1957. They operated in the reconnaissance role until 1979.
Delays in the 1954 interceptor project led to demands for an interim interceptor aircraft design, a role that was eventually won by the B model of the Voodoo. This required extensive modifications to add a large radar to the nose of the aircraft, a second crewmember to operate it, and a new weapons bay using a rotating door that kept its four AIM-4 Falcon missiles or two AIR-2 Genie rockets hidden within the airframe until it was time to be fired. The F-101B entered service with Air Defense Command in 1959 and the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1961. US examples were handed off to the Air National Guard where they served until 1982. Canadian examples remained in service until 1984.R.530
The Matra R.530 is a French medium to short range air-to-air missile.
It was available in infrared homing and semi active radar homing as the main armament of the Mirage III which was able to carry a single missile in the centerline, the Mirage F1, which carried two (one of each type) under the wings, and the F-8 Crusader in French Navy service.Republic XF-103
The Republic XF-103 was an American project to develop a powerful missile-armed interceptor aircraft capable of destroying Soviet bombers while flying at speeds as high as Mach 3. Despite a prolonged development, it never progressed past the mockup stage.TDU-12/B Skydart
The TDU-12/B Skydart was an unguided target rocket built by Curtiss-Wright for use by the United States Air Force. It was used operationally from the late 1950s to the mid 1960s.W54
The W54 was one of the smallest nuclear warheads deployed by the United States. It was a very compact implosion-type nuclear weapon design, designed for tactical use and had a very low yield for a nuclear weapon, in the range of 10 to 1,000 tons TNT equivalent.
Its original use was in the Davy Crockett short-range rocket, but it was later adapted as a man-portable Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM), and later as the basis of nuclear-tipped air-to-air missiles. A later development was the W72, which were rebuilt W54's used with the AGM-62 Walleye guided bomb. The W72 was in service until 1979.WS-201
WS-201A, informally known as the 1954 interceptor, was a US Air Force project to develop a dedicated interceptor aircraft that would enter service in 1954. Several aircraft were developed as part of the project, leading to the F-102 Delta Dagger, F-106 Delta Dart, XF-103 Thunderwarrior and, indirectly, the F-101B Voodoo and F-104 Starfighter. The electronics and weapons developed for the program would become common on US designs, including the AIM-4 Falcon missile and a variety of Hughes Aircraft-supplied radar and fire control systems. The project also led, eventually, to the upgrading of the SAGE battle control computers to directly control the interceptors for much of their flight. Although greatly delayed, the resulting systems operated for approximately 20 years, into the 1980s.
1955–1962 United States Air Force rocket and missile designations
United States Air Force rocket and missile designations 1947–1951