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F-98 / GAR-1 / AIM-4 Falcon

The F-98 Falcon was the initial designation for the unpiloted interceptor missile--GAR-1 (Guided Air Rocket). In the 1962 tri-service rationalization of the US Forces the Falcon was redesignated the AIM-4 Falcon. The project under the name "Dragonfly" was begun in 1947, but quantity production of the missile didn't begin until 1954. In 1956 the AIM-4 Falcon missile became the world's first fully guided Air-to-Air missile to enter operational service.

The GAR-1 was guided by steerable vanes in the exhaust of the solid-rocket motor which powered the missile to speeds approaching Mach 2. The GAR-1D used radar guidance while the next generation missile, GAR-2A used infra-red tracking--it locked on to the target aircraft's engine exhaust.

Entering operation service in 1963, over 12,000 AIM-4D's were produced. 4,000 of these were new-built and more than 8,000 others remanufactured from AIM-4A and AIM-4C missiles. This version was optimized for the air-combat role. It was a hybrid version, combining the small airframe of the earlier Falcon's with the more powerful rocket motor and advance infrared seeker of the larger AIM-4G. This created a short-range but very fast missile.

The AIM-4F was the first air-to-air guided weapon to enter service with the U.S. Air Force, becoming operational in 1955. Production began in 1952, and ten versions were produced for use on F-89, F-101, F-102, F-106, and F-4 aircraft. Over 50,000 Falcons had been built when production ended in 1963. The Super Falcon series was developed to meet mission requirements of the F-106 interceptor. A small number of interim AIM-4E missiles entered service in 1958. These were replaced by the AIM-4F and AIM-4G which were introduced simultaneously in 1960.

The AIM-4G is the infrared-seeking counterpart to the AIM-4F, with a more effective infrared detector. AIM-4F/G missiles weigh 150 pounds, with a length of seven feet and a wingspan of 2 feet. They were carried in mixed loads on U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard F-106 aircraft. The F-106 and AIM-4F/G were retired from service in 1988.

On July 19, 1957, a Genie test rocket was fired from an F-89J, the first time in history that an air-to-air rocket with a nuclear warhead was launched and detonated. Three hundred and fifty F-89Ds were converted to "J" models which became the Air Defense Command's first fighter-interceptor to carry nuclear armament.

It was originally developed for the F-89H Scorpion interceptor, and then adapted for use by the F-101, F-102, F-106, and F-4. The Falcon had been paired up with different versions of the Hughes Fire Control system in such aircraft as the F-89H Scorpion, F-101 Voodoo, F-102 Delta Dagger and the F-106 Delta Dart.

During the course of the F-89D's development and production run, a proposal was made by Northrop outlining a program wherein a number of F-89Ds would be modified to carry the then state-of-the-art Hughes Falcon air-to-air missile. This missile was considered the most effective weapon of its kind in the world at the time, and until the advent of the F-89, an effective delivery vehicle had not been found for it. The Falcon/Scorpion integration program was initiated in January 1954, approved the next month, and terminated in March. It would soon be reinstated under the F-89H program.

Armament for the standard F-89 consisted primarily of fifty-two 2.75" folding-fin air-to-air rockets in each wingtip pod or provision for three Hughes GAR-1, GAR-2, GAR-3, or GAR-4 Falcon air-to-air missiles in each of these same pods. Early F-89A models had provision for six 20-mm T-31 (M-24) guns in the nose with 200 rounds per gun. It was also possible to mount external free-falling stores under the wings of most F-89 models.

The effectiveness of the Hughes Falcon series in the air-to-air combat role was very questionable throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, when it first entered operational service. Dependability was marginal, at best, and the sensitivity of its optional guidance systems to countermeasures was extreme. In retrospect, it is not unfair to say that the missile would have proved itself almost completely ineffective in a real-war scenario. Of all types of weapons, the AIM-9 Sidewinder proved the most effective missile, the AIM-4 Falcon the least, in Vietnam combat.



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