Yea, that's the interesting part, I'd like to know what the enemy aircraft were doing.
Did early export Soviet era RWR not work so well? Perhaps they didn't know they were locked up by the AWG-9, and only knew when the AIM-54A went active??
Who knows, but it's a rather interesting record using the first version of the Aircraft+missile combo in an operational evironment against real piloted aircraft, many of which aren't the large bomber sized ones this missile was supposed to destroy.
Found a few first hand accounts, it seems the Iranians didn't really have more than 200 AIM-54's and most engagements seem to only fire one AIM-54, since I'm guessing it was a pretty important asset to not squander given their situation.
Edit: Had to dust off my membership at ACIG to find some more info, very interesting stuff regarding the Iranian AWG-9's and AIM-54A
According to my calculation, it includes a total of 54 firings of AIM-54s (that's roughly 70% of the total number we know was fired in combat). Accordingly, the current break-down of the results is as follows.
- total number of missiles fired: 52
- known to have missed/malfunctioned etc.: 2
- possible/unconfirmed kills: 8
Type and number of targets destroyed:
- MiG-21: 5
- MiG-23: 12
- MiG-25: 9
- MiG-27: 2
- Su-20/22: 4
- Mirage F.1EQ: 5
- Tu-22: 4
- H-6D: 1
- SA.321GV: 1
- unknown: 3
Now, as can be easily calculated, 46 conf. kills + 8 possible/unconfirmed + 2 clear misses makes a total of 56. This figure is higher than the number of AIM-54s I said above were known to have been launched.
The reason for this "discrepancy" is simple: in one case a single AIM-54 shot down three MiG-23BNs, and one possible. In another, a single AIM-54 is confirmed to have shot down two MiG-23s.
In addition we have meanwhile learned that during the war there was a total of seven known firings of AIM-54s and AIM-7s against anti-ship missiles (AM.39 Exocets and C.601s). We don't know the exact break-down of the Phoenixes and Sparrows, but know that in all but one case the missile failed to hit the target. The successfully intercepted target was a C.601, fired from a H-6D bomber in February 1988.
As a matter of fact, there were two kinds of engagements in which AIM-54s were used (and, bear in mind that the general order for Iraqi pilots was to avoid engagements with F-14s at any price):
a) long-range: in such cases the Iraqis, Soviets and others who flew for the IrAF at the time would have no clue about the attack, unless the AIM-54 hit home (or, in only four cases known: miss); the only exception in this rule were MiG-25s - equipped with an excellent RWR;
b) short range: here the opponent would know that the F-14 is nearby, yet - for different reasons - couldn't distance away in time and came under attack either while trying to do so, or continued to approach without any clue about the AIM-54 already being underway.
Of all such cases we know only about one where the target recognized the attack (after all, in that case the AIM-54 was fired from a range of only 8.000m, so the Iraqi pilot certainly noticed the white plume) and tried to maneuver. The missile locked on without problems and proxy-fuzed nevertheless, and there is a nice shot from the TISEO-camera of the accompanying F-4E, showing the AIM-54's detonation only few meters over that MiG-23. There was also one case in which the missile passed within the lethal distance of the target, but failed to detonate (that was against a Mirage running away from the Tomcat, in 1987).
We discussed this matter extensively with IRIAF F-14-pilots (regardless if retired or still active), and the general conclusion was that - except the Iraqi MiG-25-pilots - all the others they targeted had actually no clue about the attack. At best they recognized it only after it was too late and there was no time to initiate an evasion maneuver or do anything else.
I mentioned above that we know about 52 AIM-54s being launched (i.e. we know about more of them being launched, but for these 52 cases we know most of the details about the engagement, and the outcome): except in the case of that MiG-23 and most of the cases in which MiG-25s were engaged no target ever tried to maneuver, i.e. to avoid the shot.
In four cases not even the MiG-25s tried to do so, which points at a possible weakness in their RWR systems under specific conditions.
BTW, what I forgot to mention in the list above is that two other cases are known where the AIM-54 malfunctioned - i.e. the fuze failed to detonate: the first was in the case of a MiG-21 shot down in December 1980, where the missile hit home, failed to explode, but cut the target in two pieces; another is that of the engagement against a MiG-25RB, in May 1981, where the fuze malfunctioned, but the missile cut off parts of the fin and the horizontal stabilator away: that MiG came away.
let me add some more stuff, "just at random";
The missile goes auto-pilot, SARH, ARH, or ARH immediately upon launch if the target is too close (and, guess what, the target was - in several cases of the last mentioned I remember - a MiG-21).
The 'Stealth Twiz' is not _only_ the function of power, range, PRF and weapon guidance method, but also of the RWR. Considering the fact, that so many Soviet types were slow to get an RWR until the early 1980s, and that even then their RWRs/RHAWs were not showing more than 10-20 miles around the plane (with a "reserve" for perhaps 10 more miles) a shot from 50-60 miles would went unnoticed completely. And if, then there would be an "AWG-9 in PDSTT-mode" particular emission of some two-three seconds in endurance. Enough to alert anybody? Depends on the situation and range.
Re. F-14/AIM-54 launching speeds: let me just remark, that Iranians quite often went for Mach 1+ in such cases, and I know of cases in which even Mach 1.4 was reached before the launch. The F-14 has fat wings, that's right, but don't forget that the pilot can swing them back on manual, "unload" and pick up some speed at tremendous rates (was, BTW, also a favourite disengagement maneuver): I don't believe that even MiG-23 could match such capability.
Re. eventual additional upgrades to the AIM-54C;
there are indeed two sub-variants of this version, albeit, I don't know if they are separatedly designated:
- "early AIM-54C", with serials 80001 thru 83106, have liquid cooled avionics, just like the AIM-54A, and rely on continuous flow of chilled oil from the F-14 while being carried;
- "later AIM-54C", or "AIM-54C+" (first flight in August 1990) with serials from 83107 updwards, have that built-in closed-circuit cooling system (the situation went so far, that F-14Ds were not equipped with a cooling system for AIM-54s at all, so they cannot use older weapons), and also enhanced ECCM capabilities (no details known).
Furthermore, bearing in mind, that Iranian Tomcats flew most of their patrols alone, or - very seldom - in pairs, and had sometimes to fight against Iraqi strike packages of up to 12 aircraft, supported by heavy ECM, the use of AIM-54 - also at shorter ranges - was more than logical. If for no other reason, then because sometimes AWG-9s were able to "burn" through Iraqi jamming only at distances perhaps too short for the AIM-54s, but also not quite inside the ideal range of AIM-7E-4s (i.e.: between 15 and 25miles).
"In the early days of December 1980 a single F-14 took off from Khatami Air Base in Esfehan. The pilot was patrolling and scanning the sky over the Persian Gulf about 60 to 70 miles west of Bushehr at an altitude of about 3 to 4 thousand feet, when ground radar advised the him of multiple boogies closing fast toward him. His aircraft was too far out to send in any back up help, so ground radar told the pilot, "you are on your own, and good luck."
The pilot turned around towards them knowing he had a disadvantage in numbers. By now the F-14 and two boogies were head to head about 20 miles apart. The crew got a Phoenix Missile lock at about 10 miles, although it was a close range for phoenix. The pilot went ahead with "Fox 1", he fired an AIM-54 phoenix. Following the smoke path of the Phoenix he saw a ball of fire from the wing of MiG-21 that was breaking-up. Moments later a splash down from pieces of MiG-21 were visible in the ocean. Meanwhile the F-14-pilot observed the second MiG-21 doing a hard G-turn away from the fire ball since the 2 MiGs were flying close together. The Iraqi was going back toward Iraq. The F-14 in pursuit could not get any radar lock on the second MiG-21 before he went supersonic."
Basically, it could be said, that there were three phases of the AIM-54 use by the IRIAF. In the first phase, F-14s carried four or six such missiles and used them against small two- or four-ship Iraqi formations. Usually, a hit against one Iraqi aircraft was enough to send the rest of the formation back home, but there were several multiple firings the results of which were destruction of most or whole Iraqi formation.
In this phase, it seems that AIM-54s were used in all their available modes (and those available on AWG-9 system) and from distances as short as 15 and as far as 120 kilometers, but almost exclusively over the sea. Except in four or five cases, all the targets were low-flying tactical fighters.
Some problems were experienced by the high-PRF working mode of the AWG-9 (consequently, it seems that no kills were scored when AIM-54 was fired from the rear hemisphere). Additional problems were experienced with the fuzing, however even in the cases where the warhead failed to explode, AIM-54s guided precisely enough to score a direct hit and destroy the target.
From 1984 until early 1986 there are not many reports about any successes, although the AIM-54s were now carried only in pairs of single and used for opening the battle from relatively short distances (15-30 kms). The situation changed also in so far, that Iraqis now used to operate in packages of up to 16 aircraft (but in most cases 12), and that a single kill against one of them was not enough any more to send them back home.
To set things straight - again: the F-14A/AWG-9/AIM-54A Phoenix combinations WAS used in combat; in large numbers and successfully. It proved to be a reliable and exceptionaly effective system, especially against fighter-sized targets - at all possible ranges. This under very problematic and negative circumstances.
The problem is, that this happened in a war in which the USA were officially "not involved at all" and "neutral". Furthermore, there is a strong American reluctance to admit Washington's dramatic miscalculation regarding the viability, competence and capability of Iranians to maintain and operate their sophisticated US-supplied weapon systems following the Islamic revolution in 1979. With other words, for most Americans (but, it seems for many others in the West as well), "it's impossible that Mullahs flew and used F-14s and AIM-54s effectivelly, because they are dumb". Exactly such a miscalculation lead not only to the complete ignorance
of Iranian capabilities, competence and proficiency, but also to negation of the fact, that the F-14A/AWG-9/AIM-54A were used in combat.
Found Kurt Plummer is a member there too: His contribution to the discussion:
If yes, bear in mind, that the AWG-9 will get a glimpse of a target with RCS of 5sqm at something like 200-210km at best. But, the system can engage such a target if used in PDSTT (I don't mean the "Primary Designated STT", but "Pulse Doppler Single Target Track") mode only from a distance of some 110kms or so; besides, the high-PRF of the PDSTT will certainly scream any RWR/RHAW at 250-300km around. So, when a "stealthy" attack is the best solution, then the TWS will be much better, as the power-output is far lower, and the emission characteristics are almost the same as that of the search mode, while it still offers something like 160km detection range, with a max Phoenix-range of something like 90-95km. The difference for the RWR (in the best case for the target) is: the PDSTT means "attack underway"; the TWS means "somebody's looking at me; well, fine..."
The AIM-54 will use the TWS at least as well as the PDSTT, and "I" can even engage both of your fighters simultaneously (and four others, if I carry enough AIM-54s and AIM-7s): remember that there are nine guidance channels. It is certainly not an uplink weapon, but its is a SARH-weapon along the mid-course phase. You're right in one point, however: the initial guidance programms for the AIM-54 were not bringing the weapon close enough to the target before the DSQ-26 activated. This, however, was changed already by 1977 (i.e. also before the revolution).
Then the ECM: you can try deception, barrage, spot or overload jamming, but this would either not function, or if - then for such short periods of time, that it can't make any difference. Namely, even non-modified AWG-9s have a very good frequency agility, and this can be used as a main ECCM (simply by moving radar frequency away from that at which jammer signals are emitted), especially together with different scan patterns (remember, these range from 8 bars, 65° each 13 seconds down to 1 bar, 10° every quarter of second on AWG-9 - if that's not "sophisticated" for a late 1960s-system, I don't know what is). So, one is not only using different frequencies, but also different wavenlenghts. Guess which combination at which moment....
For evasion maneuvering (and here is the largest difference between exercises and the reality) only one thing functions for sure: turning the tail and running away below 100m at highest possible speed, all the time praying that this will break the AWG-9 lock on due to an eventual escape outside the scan volume (during the turn), ground clutter, and decrease of the doppler shift. The F-14-crew can then try to switch to medium-PRF, but this shortens the radar range usually by 20-22%; so, if the target is far away enough, there is a chance of escape.
What you were actually talking about with that "high speed" abeam maneuvers is better known as "close beam crossing" (i.e. "beamer"). Something like that could only be done when the opponent closes to inside any functional AIM-54-range (i.e. if he survived the AIM-54-attack), and would force the Tomcat-crew to switch to one of three close-in AWG-9-modes, which have relatively narrow scan volume (remember, the boresight of the AWG-9 in "pilot lock on" is only 2.3 to 2.4° with the range of only 9km, narrowing down to 1.1° at 4.5km; the vertical scan is somewhat better, with 4.8° in azimuth and +25°/-15° in elevation). The opponent then has two possibilities: either he's aggressive, has a speed of at least Mach 0.8, and moves at less than 100 meters, so he can turn left of right, break the radar lock on and deliver an attack, or he likes escaping more, turns left or right and escapes due to the the problematic use of the AWG-9 against pursuing targets.
The actual envelope of the AIM-54 appears to be completely unknown in the public. While usually even USN and Hughes people will say that it cannot hit anything beyond the range of 200km, the actual inofficial max-range kill record is 212km. While official soruces will deny it can target anything under 15kms (if I remember correctly, the USN teaches its pilot not to target anything closer than 15-20nm), the manual talks even about 4.4kms, while the shortest test-kill figure I know about was 7.75km. Speeds differ with the range to the target, which influences the trajectory: the usual figure is Mach 3.8, but also Mach 4.4 at over 24.000 meters was recorded.
Last, but not least: bear in mind that not only the technology, but also the psychology plays a significant role in any combat: battling a system which will probably detect you much earlier than you'll ever know, which is utterly problematic to jam or evade, which can shot you from a long range, shot you from the medium range, shot you from a short range, and even - if needed - turn with you and shot you at very close range, needs guts....
In essence: depending on RWR/RHAW system, the target will have between 0 and 10 seconds time to react. While it is impossible to say with 100% certainity if that is so (I haven't found anybody so far which survived an AIM-54-attack so I could ask), I'm not sure if anybody targeted by it ever really saw any AIM-54 closing. So I can't say if anybody tried to initiate a defensive maneuver only on that basis - and succeeded with it. What I know, however, is that extensive countermeasures were employed in order to spoil the possibility of being targeted by it - and that these were not especially successfull.
Let us take one of the cases of the F-14A downing a MiG-25RB as an example. The MiG was at more than 60.000ft, and Mach 2.3, and the F-14 was at 40.000ft, and Mach 0.4. Upon detection, the Tomcat accelerated to Mach 1.2, and launched a single AIM-54A from a range of more than 70km.
Upon the launch (which obviously haven't alerted the enemy), the F-14 turned some 55° to offset from the MiG's route, and decelerated to Mach 0.8, so not to come too close too fast, but also in order not to lose the radar lock-on (the AWG-9 can look up to 60° off-boresight without losing the lock-on). This was needed in order to supply the MCGU to the missile.
The missile impacted the MiG after crossing something like 36km.
In theory only in theory - one could use the AIM-54A in the way you suggested. But, this would decrease the PK considerably, and the AWG-9 is so powerfull and so flexible, that it either saturates the enemy RWRs, not revealing the Tomcat's position, or - if the RIO is good (and most are) - is not even revealing itself to enemy RWRs.
Finally, I can tell you, that in most combat situations the case was simply so, that the Tomcats would first attack with Phoenix and then "bore-in" in order to finish the enemy with Sparrows, Sidewinders or guns.
Regarding the three planes shot down with a single AIM-54A:
I have no exact idea, but it was certainly a very tight formation, with only something like 20-50 meters between single aircraft.
From what is known the missile impacted the leader that had a full load of bombs aboard, causing a tremendous explosion, which damaged the other three planes too. Two of these went down almost immediately: it could be their bombs were also ignited. It only remains unknown what happened with the fourth MiG-23.
The agility is really not a question here: when used during the IPGW the AIM-54 usually scored hits from such ranges and came as such a surprise that hardly any of the targets was maneuvering. And, in the cases of those that did - like several shots at (relatively) short ranges against MiG-21s - I don't know about a single case where the AIM-54 was outmaneuvered.
Finally, there at least three cases in which a single AIM-54 shot down more than one enemy fighters: specifically, in one case three or four, and in two cases two each Iraqi fighters were shot down by a single AIM-54 (for details, see here: http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_210.shtml ).
Regarding a 2004 AIM-54C test:
we have the permission from the USN to post their articles, under condition to state the full details about the owner. So, here the whole stuff:
CVW-7 Completes History-Making Missile Shoot
Story Number: NNS040317-06
Release Date: 3/17/2004 11:17:00 AM
By Journalist 1st Class Tracey Goff, USS George Washington Public Affairs
USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- Launching from USS George Washington's (CVN 73) flight deck on the afternoon of Feb. 25, aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 fired 17 live missiles onto a range over the Arabian Sea in two separate waves.
The history-making missile exercise took place during a routine deployment for the George Washington Strike Group, deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
The ordnance was delivered by Fighter Squadrons (VF) 11 and 143 flying F-14B Tomcats, and Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 131 and 136 in F/A-18C Hornets. Clearing the way for the fighter jets were the E2-C Hawkeye pilots of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121 and Sea Control Squadron (VS) 31 in the S-3B Viking.
Each squadron had its own responsibility to ensure a safe and successful exercise. A total of four F-14s and four F/A-18s left the ship in two separate waves on what may be one of the last live missile exercises for the F-14 Tomcat, which proved it could still deliver a lethal blow to enemy targets.
“The theory was to prove that even though the Phoenix has been in the inventory for more than two decades, they are still capable of projecting power and showing that they remain a very viable option in the air-to-air regime,” said Lt.j.g. Matt Tallyn of VF-143 "Pukin' Dogs.”
The Hornets provided the targets. “We dropped two of the three tactical air launch decoys, or TALDs,” said Lt. Brian Larmon of VFA-131 "Wildcats." “It’s a type of ordnance that glides. It simulates the profile of an aircraft we would be shooting at. It can be set up to turn or go straight. We can pick it up on radar and shoot it.”
Once the Hornets dropped the TALDs, it was time for history to be made. The Tomcats and the Hornets fired their missiles: a total of 16 Phoenix missiles from the Tomcats and one Sparrow from the Hornets.
“It’s very rare that you’ll see eight Phoenix missiles shot off at the same time,” said Tallyn, a radar intercept officer in the second wave of aircraft. “They all worked perfectly, exactly as they were designed. We were excited and thrilled that we were able to go out there and prove that the system is fully functional, and get eight picture-perfect missile shoots. That’s as much as you can ask from a missile shoot.”
VF-11 "Red Ripper" Lt. Garrett Shook agreed. “It was a once-in-a-career opportunity for me, because we shot two at a time, which is pretty rare. In one hour, I doubled the number of missiles I’ve shot in my career.”
Lt. j.g. Mike Manicchia of VFA-136 got the rush of shooting the Sparrow. “It’s pretty out of the ordinary. We get to drop plenty of bombs at practice targets, but not fire missiles. That’s something we never do. Most guys might get to shoot one missile on their first sea tour, so this is a big deal.”
Working out the intricacies of a tactical exercise of this magnitude does not happen overnight. Lt. Mike Burks, the air-to-air weapons training officer from VF-11 who planned the missile exercise, said it was only through a culmination of efforts that this mission was a success.
“It was about a three-week process from start to finish,” he said. “It required the coordination of assets from all the squadrons in the air wing, as well as reserving both the air space and the sea space for the missile exercise."
Once the range was clear, it was time to let the beasts off the ship, or in this case, the Tomcats, the Hornets, the Sparrow and the Phoenix.
“The Hawkeyes and the Vikings were out there about three hours before the exercise began, clearing the space and establishing a good picture for all of us back here so we could start to build a game plan,” said Burks. “By the time the missile shoot was launched, we had a very good idea of what the sea space and air space looked like, so we didn’t encounter problems with range foulers.”
“We provide overall safety and a digital picture of what the battle space looks like,” said VAW-121's Air Control Officer, Lt. Chris Barker. “We paint a picture of the area with our over-the-horizon radar.”
This technology is used to make sure the area is clear of any civilian traffic, or range foulers, which could slow down or halt the exercise. “We ensured there were no commercial airliners or any ships that are non-military, such as cargo ships and oil tankers, in the area of the missile exercise,” Barker said. “If there are, we then provide steering courses for the S-3s to relay to the ships.”
The VS-31 "Topcats" then used their aircraft’s unique ability to fly low and slow as a means of contacting ships straying into the reserved sea space. “We are in charge of range clearance,” said Lt.j.g. Brad Beall, a naval flight officer for the "Topcats." "We call them on a maritime common frequency to let them know they are in a military live fire exercise. We ask them to alter their course and get them out of danger.”
But the aviators are quick to mention they couldn’t do it without the help of other ship and squadron personnel. The squadron's ordnance personnel got a unique opportunity to use the skills they've trained so hard to hone. “They get to load live ordnance that they don’t usually get to see,” said Manicchia.
“There are always a lot of people that go and really make it work," Tallyn said. "We tell them this is what you do all the hard work for; this is why it’s so important to keep doing it. We’re just the ones who pull the trigger.”
Once all the aircraft returned to the ship, the reality of the accomplishment set in. “You really only get one opportunity to do this,” said Burks. “Making sure all the players know their role is the number one key to a good missile exercise. It’s a matter of briefing everybody and making sure that all the players know their responsibilities and also all the back-up plans so if we need to move to a back-up plan, it’s smooth and efficient, and people aren’t having to ask a lot of questions.”
Shook backed Burks up. “For a missile exercise, it went real smooth. The coordination, the planning and the cooperation between squadrons all went smooth enough to get the missiles off on the first try.
“When we do a missile exercise from the beach, we’ll probably fly the missiles without shooting them at least once. We’ll practice once, then go out and shoot it. We’d never flown the missiles before. We’d never practiced the scenario. We just briefed it, and then went out and did it. It was real successful.”
BTW, has anybody noticed the part Eric posted? ALL the missiles worked exactly as advertised - and bear in mind what they fired here were AIM-54Cs, the supposedly "poorly manufactured" version...
This depends on the range. In general, from what I have learned to this topic so far, anything bellow Mach 1 is actually uselles. For example, a MiG-25 targeted from 90km turned away and escaped the first AIM-54 dashing to speed of Mach 2.2. Then it slowed down, but meanwhile the pusuing F-14 was at Mach 2.2 as well and it launched another AIM-54 from a range of almost 140km - against a MiG that was now underway at something like Mach 1.4 and still moving away from the point the AIM-54 was launched. Passing almost 200km the Phoenix killed that MiG too.
If such targets are closing - the faster they are that better for the range. A Mirage F.1 closing at Mach 1 was killed from a range of about 150km, just for example. Several MiG-25RBs and MiG-25BMs were killed from ranges between 70 and 110km. All of them were apporaching at speeeds over Mach 2, and they were not killed from longer ranges only because of their relatively late detection by Iranian ground-based radars. The "closest" kill against a MiG-25RB was from something like 35km.
Don't know who said that no kills were scored in pursuit, but I actually know only about three AIM-54s that missed pursuing targets, plus one that exploded near a target that turned away after the missile was launched.
One was against the MiG-25PD I mentioned above. In one case a MiG-25BM was damaged by AIM-54 while attempting to outrun an IRIAF F-14 - with the missile clipping off the fin and a part of horizontal stabilizer, and damaging the aircraft sufficiently that it crashed and was beyond repair in Iraq. In the other case the AIM-54 passed only few meters by a Mirage F.1 that was attempting to escape at low leve. AFAIK, in all three cases the fuse failed to explode and that was the actual reason the target was not shot down. In the fourth case the AIM-54 passed by a MiG-24RB that was racing away at Mach 2.8, but detonated at a distance that was not sufficient to bring the Foxbat down.
In all these cases, the Tomcats were usually at speeds around Mach 0.9 and Mach 1.4, and levels between 30.000 and 45.000ft.
Wow, so an entire chapter of Cold War history opens up that I never knew about before. Very cool stuff!! The engagements and ranges are facinating to read about.
< Message edited by AlmightyTallest -- 4/6/2014 3:52:07 PM >