Preferred weapon against unknown objects: Sidewinder Missile
Preferred weapon against unknown objects: Sidewinder Missile

Recently F-22 fighter jet Shot down UFOs with AIM-9X Sidewinders missiles. A Chinese balloon entered the sky over North America. Military experts said that destroying balloons is actually quite dangerous and complicated, and the Sidewinder missile is currently the best option.

Business Insider reported that military balloons have a long history, with observation balloons dating back to the Napoleonic Wars. By the early days of World War I, balloons were still the main observation tool.

 Shooting down balloons is as respectable as shooting down enemy planes. For example, Frank Luke in the United States shot down 14 balloons during the war.

During the First World War, those old-fashioned “balloon buster” biplane fighters used machine guns to shoot balloons, usually equipped with incendiary bombs in the machine gun bullets, to ignite the hydrogen in the balloons.

After successful ignition, it will produce a huge explosion in the air, The debris and steel cables flying around are fighter jet killers, so the fighter jets must be avoided in time.

Since hydrogen is flammable and explosive, subsequent balloons are filled with non-flammable helium, but the risks and challenges of shooting down balloons still exist. Glen VanHerck, the head of NORAD, said: “The U.S. Air Force did consider using guns to shoot down balloons, but the pilots felt that the risk of a gun attack was too great.”

“It’s very slow, whereas the plane is very fast. It’s a flight safety issue; you must be close to the object to see it. If you use a cannon, the firing time is very short, and even if you shoot it down, there may not be enough escape time.”

So, how about using a medium-range missile like the AIM-120? Feng Hanke also thinks that the AIM-120 is not suitable. “Balloons have a very small radar echo cross-section, and it is very difficult to keep track of radar,” he said. “So, using a radar-guided missile like the AIM-120 has a lower success rate.”

What remains is the AIM-9X, the latest version since the Sidewinder. The earlier Sidewinder had a range of only 5 kilometers, but some sources have determined that the AIM-9X has a range of more than 30 kilometers.

 The first generation of Sidewinder missiles came out in the 1950s. It is a heat-seeking missile with an engine sprayed with high-temperature gas, which is very suitable for tracking targets, so it does not require additional lighting for the pilot. “Forget it,” missile.

The Sidewinder is the ingenious creation of the talented engineer William B. McLean. McLean is actually a physicist specializing in nuclear physics. Received a master’s degree from Caltech in 1935 and joined the U.S. National Bureau of Standards in 1940.

 At this time, the Pacific War broke out, so the main business was ordnance equipment testing, during which he came into contact with the design of proximity fuzes. In 1945, he moved to the Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, Canada, where he was responsible for developing thermal fuzes and successfully developed the lead sulfide proximity fuze.

 By 1946, it was heard that the U.S. military was bidding for a new generation of air-to-air weapons, namely radar-guided air-to-air missiles. However, the electronic components at that time were quite large, and with the technology of the time, air-to-air missiles would be extremely bulky.

McLean reasoned that if proximity fuzes could read infrared traces to initiate detonation, they should also be able to track infrared signals, allowing for the development of small, lightweight frame finders.

 Initially, the military did not pay much attention to his opinions but still allocated him a research grant and a laboratory, and he recruited researchers. The project was called “Local Fuze Project No. 602” (Local Fuze Project 602). others jokingly called it “McLean’s whim.”

By 1951, McLean’s research had achieved a small success, and he also came up with a suitable name for this missile-“rattlesnake .”At this time, this is a poisonous snake that can sense body temperature to detect prey, which is quite appropriate.

 After submitting to the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Ordnance (BUORD), General “Deak” Parsons (“Deak” Parsons), the general was quite satisfied with this research and got the opportunity to trial development. 

Soon in 1952 and 1953, it numbered XAAM – N-7’s experimental Sidewinder missile, which successfully shot down the first targeted drone, demonstrating the effectiveness of the concept. Later, this batch of pre-production models was changed to GAR-8 (GAR is the abbreviation of “guided air-launched rocket”) and then changed to AIM-9A, and the Sidewinder officially came out.

The first actual combat of Sidewinder missiles took place on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. On September 24, 1958, a large-scale air battle broke out over Wenzhou Bay in Zhejiang Province. The Air Force’s F-86 fighter planes sent 12 aircraft, 4 of which carried Sidewinder missiles. Sidewinder missiles shot down four Communist fighter planes. 

However, some missiles that did not hit fell into the sea and were picked up by the mainland. After research by Soviet experts, they became the first-generation air-to-air missile R-13 in the communist world.