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Edwards Test Team Fires F-16's First AIM-9X Sidewinder

Edwards Test Team Fires F-16's First AIM-9X Sidewinder

By Leigh Anne Bierstine, 416th Flight Test Squadron.

Edwards Air Force Base, California -- (AFPN) April 16, 2004 -- A test team from the Global Power Fighters Combined Test Force fired the newest variant of the AIM-9 Sidewinder, the X variant, for the first time from an F-16 Fighting Falcon here April 9.

Edwards AFB, California -- A pilot from the 416th Flight Test Squadron successfully fires the newest variant of the AIM-9 Sidewinder for the first time from an F-16 Fighting Falcon on April 9. U.S. Air Force photo by Tom Reynolds.

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A pilot from the 416th Flight Test Squadron successfully fires the newest variant of the AIM-9 Sidewinder for the first time from an F-16 Fighting Falcon on April 9. U.S. Air Force photo by Tom Reynolds.

U.S. Air Force photo by Tom Reynolds

The Sidewinder is a supersonic, heat-seeking, air-to-air missile carried by fighter aircraft. Before this, the AIM-9X had been fired only from F-15 Eagles and U.S. Navy F-18 Hornets.

The test mission is part of the F-16 M4-plus test project currently going on here. The project tests an improved avionics system that will be used to upgrade about 600 active-duty F-16 aircraft.

This was the first firing in a series of tests designed to clear the new variant for use on the F-16, said Capt. Chad Hale, 416th Flight Test Squadron operations engineer for the project. The initial flights are designed to validate the effects predicted by its contracted developer.

The team's first two firings are unguided, and the flight profiles will build up to three guided firings against subscale drones, Captain Hale said.

In its first test, after clearing the aircraft, the missile was programmed to perform a high-G dive into the ground. Maj. Ray Toth, 416th FLTS test pilot, fired the new Sidewinder.

"The test went as planned, and there were no surprises," said Major Toth, who fired the missile over a test range at nearby China Lake Naval Air Weapons Center.

The team also evaluated how the new Sidewinder variant works with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System. It is compatible with the system, which is designed to acquire targets easier and decrease aircrew workload.

Results of the tests will have big payoffs for combat pilots, said Maj. Monte Cannon, a project pilot and 416th FLTS F-16 chase pilot for the mission.

"The AIM-9X test marks a tremendous increase in combat capability for the F-16," Major Cannon said. "Together, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System and the missile will provide a lethal combination for pilots who find themselves in visual engagements."

The latest variant has the same rocket motor and warhead as the AIM-9M, which is the most current operational variant of the missile. However, the AIM-9X has major changes from previous versions including increased flight performance.

The Sidewinder was originally developed by the Navy for fleet air defense and was later adapted by the Air Force for use on fighter aircraft. Early versions of the missile were used in the Vietnam War.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).