Warplanes: September 1, 2001

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The U.S. Sidewinder heat seeking air-to-air missile has been in service for over forty years. It has knocked down more warplanes (at least 270) than any other air-to-air missile. It's first kills were by Taiwanese pilots fighting Chinese MiGs in 1958 (four confirmed kills). Next came the Vietnam war (1965-73) with 82 kills. Then there was the Six Day war in 1967, with at least 20 kills. The Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 resulted in three kills. The October War (Middle East) of 1973 resulted in at least 75 Sidewinder kills. In 1981, the US Navy took down two Libyan jets with Sidewinders. In 1982, Britain downed 18 Argentine warplanes with Sidewinders. Later in that year, there was a short war between Syria and Israel which saw 51 Syrian warplanes downed by Sidewinders. In 1991, Iraq lost 12 warplanes to Sidewinders and over Bosnia in 1994, Yugoslavia lost three aircraft. The Sidewinder has been constantly upgraded over the years. The current model (AIM-9X) can turn and chase a passing aircraft. During recent tests, a pilot fired an AIM-9X against a passing drone. The pilot was surprised to see the missile pass less than a hundred feet in front of him as it chased down the drone. It's this kind of capability that is causing the U.S. Air Force to get away from short range missiles like Sidewinder. Longer range missiles are now preferred, and they have had a good record in the last few years. But it will be a long time, if ever, that one missile matches the record of the Sidewinder. 

 


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