- The first truly effective air-to-air missile.
- Began development in 1946 at the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS), Inyokern, California, now the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California
- Uses an effective, yet simple detection and guidance system.
The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a heat-seeking short-range, air-to-air missile carried by fighter aircraft and recently, certain gunship helicopters. It is named after the Sidewinder snake, which detects its prey via body heat and also because of the peculiar snake-like path of flight the early versions had when launched.The Sidewinder was the first truly effective air-to-air missile, widely imitated and copied; yet its variants and upgrades remain in active service with many air forces after five decades. When a Sidewinder missile is being launched, NATO pilots use the brevity code Fox two in radio communication, as with all "heat seeking" missiles.
The development of the Sidewinder missile began in 1946 at the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS), Inyokern, California, now the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California as an in-house research project conceived by William Burdette McLean. McLean initially called his effort "Local Fuze Project 602" using laboratory funding, volunteer help and fuze funding to develop what it called a heat-homing rocket. It did not receive official funding until 1951 when the effort was mature enough to show to Admiral "Deak" Parsons, the Deputy Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance (BUORD). It subsequently received designation as a program in 1952. The Sidewinder introduced several new technologies that made it simpler and much more reliable than its United States Air Force (USAF) counterpart, the AIM-4 Falcon that was under development in the same time period. After disappointing experiences with the Falcon in the Vietnam War, the Air Force replaced its Falcons with Sidewinders.
The primary advantage to the Sidewinder is its effective, yet simple target detection and guidance system.