AIM-54 Phoenix

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An AIM-54 Phoenix
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An AIM-54 Phoenix
The AIM-54 Phoenix was a long-range air-to-air missile, carried in clusters of up to six missiles on the F-14 Tomcat, the only aircraft capable of carrying it.

The Phoenix missile was the US Navy's only long-range air-to-air missile. It is an airborne weapons control system with multiple-target handling capabilities, used to kill multiple air targets with conventional warheads. Near simultaneous launch is possible against up to six targets in all weather and heavy jamming environments. The improved Phoenix, the AIM-54C, was developed to better counter projected threats from tactical aircraft and cruise missiles.

The AIM-54 Phoenix was retired from USN service on 30 September 2004.

Contents

Versions

AIM-54A: The original version to become operational, in 1974.

AIM-54C: Improved version, better able to counter cruise missiles. Superseded the AIM-54A from 1986.

AIM-54 ECCM/Sealed: Improved to include electronic counter-countermeasure capabilities, does not require coolant conditioning during captive flight. Used from 1988 onwards.

Because the AIM-54 ECCM/Sealed receives no coolant, Tomcats carrying this version of the missile may not exceed a certain airspeed. In recent years, Iran is said to have developed its own version of the Phoenix.

Combat performance

Reports of use of the 285 missiles supplied to Iran [1] (http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/planes/q0077.shtml) during the Iran-Iraq War, from 1980-88, vary, with some sources claiming as many as 25 kills with it [2] (http://www.iiaf.net/aircraft/jetfighters/F14/f14.html) and others suggesting sabotage of the aircraft making it impossible to fire the missile or no kills for other reasons. It is generally reported that the primary use of the F-14 was as an airborne early warning aircraft, guarded by other fighters.

The Gulf of Sidra incident (1981), in which American F-14s shot down 2 Libyan Su-22s is sometimes thought to have involved AIM-54. However, the engagement was conducted at short ranges using the AIM-9 Sidewinder. The other US F-14 fighter to fighter engagement, the Gulf of Sidra incident (1989) used AIM-7 Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles, not the Phoenix.

In training, the Phoenix hit a target drone at a range of 212 km (in January 1979, in Iran).

Actual ranges at which the Phoenix has successfully hit targets in tests:

  • longest shot to kill: ~ 140 km
  • average engagement ranges: 20 to 70 km
  • the shortest shot to kill: 7.5 km

Other than the possible Iranian firings, the only confirmed combat use of the Phoenix was the use of it by 2 F-14Ds engaging Iraqi MiG-25s. Both missiles missed. One reportedly followed a Mig-25 into the ground that possibly crashed when it ran out of fuel.

Characteristics

  • Primary function: Long-range air-launched air intercept missile
  • Contractor: Hughes Aircraft Company and Raytheon Corporation
  • Unit cost: US$ 477,131
  • Power Plant: Solid propellant rocket motor built by Hercules
  • Length: 3.9 m (13 ft)
  • Weight: 460 kg (1,024 lb)
  • Diameter: 380 mm (15 in)
  • Wing span: 900 mm (3 ft)
  • Range: >210 km (125 miles, 110 nautical miles)
  • Speed: >1300 m/s (3,000 mph)
  • Guidance system: Semi-active and active radar homing
  • Warheads: Proximity fuse, high explosive
  • Warhead weight: 60 kg (135 lb)
  • Users: USA (US Navy), Iran
  • Date deployed: 1974
  • Date retired (US): Sep 30th 2004

See also


Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

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