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The AA-11 NATO Archer is a short-range infrared guided missile system employed by the MIG-29 and the SU-27. Its advanced control surfaces and thrust vectoring, coupled with excellent off-boresight capability and the pilot's helmet-mounted sight may give it unparalleled performance in the close-in, visual dogfight.

As the Soviet Union fell behind the West in the fields of electronics and computational power, their ability to field advanced radar systems declined. As a result, the Soviets increasingly relied on more reliable, easier to design, computationally simpler, and tougher-to-jam IR systems, which surprised Western intelligence agencies. For example, when the MiG-29 Fulcrum aircraft was fielded in the 1980s, its radar system and associated missile were impressive by Soviet standards but at least a generation behind Western systems. However, it also had a bump on the nose, which was not an electronic warfare antenna as first suspected, but an Infrared Search and Track System (IRST), which was the first to be fielded in an operational fighter.

Once merged with a laser range finder, the IR system could detect aircraft and provide targeting data at longer ranges without alerting the target aircraft that it had been detected. Even if a target aircraft suspected it was being tracked, there is no practical way to jam this IR system. The MiG-29s IR system was integrated with the improved IR missile, known as the AA-11 Archer, which not only had the all-aspect feature of the latest Sidewinders, but it also had off-boresight capability meaning that the missile could look to its left and right to see target aircraft.

Thus, the pilot could fire a missile without pointing the aircraft nose at the target aircraft, as Sidewinder equipped pilots must do. This expands the firing envelope for the missile, saves precious seconds in a dogfight, and compliments the maneuverability of a fighter because it is much easier to maneuver the fighter into a firing position. In addition, Russian pilots had a helmet-mounted thermal sight which permitted them to aim the missile merely by looking at the targeted aircraft, in effect giving them an IR heads-up display wherever they looked, not just on the front of the instrument panel, as in Western cockpits. The details of this system did not fully emerge until the East German MiG-29s became part of the unified Germanys Luftwaffe. Once they did, it was clear that an IR-equipped MiG-29, flown by a skilled pilot, had an advantage, and the AA-11 Archer missile seriously challenges the technological primacy of the Sidewinder.

Currently the R-73 is the best Russian short range air-to-air missile. Apart from an exceptional maneverability, this missile is also directly connected to the pilot's helmet, which allows engagement of targets lateral to the aircraft, which cannot be engaged by missiles with a traditional system of targeting and guidance. The R-73A, an earlier variant of this missile, has a 30 km range, while the most recent R-73M can hit targets at a distance of 40 km.

The R-73 short-range, close-combat standardized missile was developed in the Vympel Machine Building Design Bureau, and became operational in 1984. The R-73 is included in the weapon complex of MiG-23MLD, MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters and their modifications and also of Mi-24, Mi-28 and Ka-50 helicopters. It also can be employed in flying craft which do not have sophisticated aiming systems.

The missile is used for engaging modern and future fighters, attack aircraft, bombers, helicopters, drones and cruise missiles, including those executing a maneuver with a g-force up to 12. It permits the platform to intercept a target from any direction, under any weather conditions, day or night, in the presence of natural interference and deliberate jamming. It realizes the "fire and forget" principle.

The missile design features a canard aerodynamic configuration: control surfaces are positioned ahead of the wing at a distance from the center of mass. The airframe consists of modular compartments accommodating the homing head, aerodynamic control surface drive system, autopilot, proximity fuze, warhead, engine, gas-dynamic control system and aileron drive system. The lifting surfaces have a small aspect ratio. Strakes are mounted ahead of the aerodynamic control surfaces. The combined aero-gas-dynamic control gives the R-73 highly maneuverable flight characteristics. During flight, yaw and pitch are controlled by four aerodynamic control surfaces connected in pairs and by just as many gas-dynamic spoilers (fins) installed at the nozzle end of the engine.

Control with engine not operating is provided by aerodynamic control surfaces. Roll stabilization of the missile is maintained with the help of four mechanically interconnected ailerons mounted on the wings. Drives of all missile controls are gas, powered from a solid-propellant gas generator.

The passive infrared homing head supports target lock-on before launch. Guidance to the predicted position is by the proportional navigation method. The missile's combat equipment consists of an active proximity (radar or laser) fuze and impact fuze and a continuous-rod warhead. The engine operates on high-impulse solid propellant and has a high-tensile steel case.

Russia's Vympel weapons designers have developed a one-of-a-kind air-to-air missile, which NATO has dubbed as AA-11, for use on foreign fighter planes. Techically and militarily the new missile, meant for quick-action dogfights, leave its foreign analogues far behind. Vympel experts have also made it possible for the new missile to be easily installed on all available types of aircraft. The AA-11 can also be used on older planes which will now be able to effectively handle the US' highly maneuverable F-15 and F-16 jets. The AA-11 missile is based on all-new components, use new high-energy solid fuel and an advanced guidance and control system which has made it possible to minimize their size. Their exceptionally high accuracy is ensured by the missile's main secret, the so-called transverse control engine, which rules out misses during the final approach trajectory. The transverse control engine is still without parallel in the world.

Russia has offered the export-version R-7EE air-to-air missile system for sale so that it can be fitted to foreign-made fighter aircraft. Developed by the Vympel state-sector engineering and design bureau, the R-7EE is designed for close-quarters aerial combat. Vympel specialists have developed a way of ensuring that the missile system can be fitted to virtually any type of aircraft. It can be fitted to older aircraft, which feature heavily in third-world countries' air forces.

Russias new short-range maneuverable combat air-to-air missiles based on the R-73 short-range missile have begun being delivered to the military, the general director of the Duks designing company told Sputnik 02 June 2016. Yuri Klishin said that the new missile should have an infrared precision navigation warhead and its capabilities would be expanded for its attack angle, payloads, lock-on navigation warhead, as well as increasing its survivability from various types of tracking, increased reliability, anonymity, and its uniqueness. He said that the missiles effectiveness would also be increased by 25-30 percent.

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Page last modified: 02-06-2018 18:25:43 ZULU