AIM-7 Sparrow

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The AIM-7 Sparrow is a radar guided air-to-air missile. It first entered service in 1958. The missile guidance system requires the launch aircraft to reflect radar energy off the target, and the missile homes in on the reflected energy. This means that the launch aircraft has to remain in straight and level flight, which is a disadvantage in a dogfight. The Sparrow was built for the F-4 Phantom to carry. However, it is carried by many other fighters, such as the F-15 Eagle , which typically carries four Sparrows at all times, whatever other payload it carries. It also is carried on the F-18 Hornet, and the British Sky Flash is based on its design.

Raytheon Sparrow

Powerplant: One Hercules Mk 48 or Areojet Mk 65 solid propellant rocket motor

Performance: Cruising speed- Mach 4. Maximum range—62 miles. Usual range—20 miles or less

Weight: 500 lbs

Dimensions: Span—3 ft 3 in. Length—12 ft. Diameter—8 in.

Warhead: Continuous rod, 88 lbs.

The Sparrow was first used in the Vietnam War, but had problems with reliability. Performance improved, and in the Gulf War, 24 out of the 31 air-to-air victories scored by F-15s were brought down by AIM-7s.[1]


  1. F-15C Eagle Units in Combat, by Steve Davies, Osprey Publishing, 2005