Contractor: Raytheon Co.
Power Plant: Hercules MK-58 solid-propellant rocket motor
Length: 12 feet
Diameter: 8 inches
Wingspan: 3 feet, 4 inches
Warhead: Annular blast fragmentation warhead
Launch Weight: 500 pounds
Guidance System: Raytheon semi-active on either continuous wave or pulsed Doppler radar energy
Date Deployed: AIM-7F, 1976; AIM-7M, 1982
The AIM-7 Sparrow is a radar-guided, air-to-air missile with a high-explosive warhead used by all of the U.S. military’s fighter and attack aircraft. The versatile Sparrow has all-weather, all-altitude operational capability and can attack high-performance aircraft and missiles from any direction. It is a widely deployed missile used by U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces.
The missile has four major sections: guidance section, warhead, control and rocket motor. It has a cylindrical body with four wings at mid-body and four tail fins. Although external dimensions of the Sparrow remained relatively unchanged from model to model, the internal components of newer missiles represent major improvements with vastly increased capabilities.
The AIM-7F joined the Air Force inventory in 1976 as the primary medium-range, air-to-air missile for the F-15 Eagle.
The AIM-7M, the only current operational version, entered service in 1982. It has improved reliability and performance over earlier models at low altitudes and in electronic countermeasures environments. It also has a significantly more lethal warhead. The latest software version of the AIM-7M is the H-Build that has been produced since 1987 and incorporates additional improvements in guidance. The F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters carry the AIM-7M Sparrow. U.S. and NATO navies operate a surface-to-air/surface version of this missile called the RIM-7F/M Sea Sparrow.
In the Persian Gulf War, the radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow proved to be a potent air-to-air weapon used by Air Force fighter pilots. Twenty-two Iraqi fixed-wing aircraft and three Iraqi helicopters were downed by radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missiles.