AIM-54 Phoenix

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The AIM-54 Phoenix is a radar-guided, long-range air-to-air missile, carried in clusters of up to six missiles — formerly on the U.S. Navy's and currently on the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force's F-14 Tomcats: which are the only aircraft capable of carrying it. The Phoenix missile was the United States' only long-range air-to-air missile, and it is the first missile capable of multiple-launch against more than one target.



The AIM-54 was originally developed in the early 1960s for the canceled F-111B naval variant, and based on the AAM-N-10 Eagle project for the canceled F6D Missileer. Both were based on the idea of long-range, non-maneuvering missile carriers to counter long-range bombers carrying low-flying cruise missiles. The U.S. Navy began development on a new fighter design, the VFX, when the F-111B was cancelled. The winning design became the F-14 Tomcat and incorporated the F-111B's AWG-9/Phoenix weapons system.

Before the introduction of the Phoenix missile, most other U.S. aircraft relied on the smaller, less-expensive AIM-7 Sparrow; classified as a Medium Range Missile (MRM). Guidance for the Sparrow required that the launching aircraft use its radar to continuously illuminate a single target for the missile's "passive" seeker to track, or guidance would be lost. This method meant the aircraft no longer had a search capability while supporting the launched Sparrow, effectively reducing situational awareness.

The Tomcat's AWG-9 radar was capable of tracking up to 24 targets in Track-While-Scan mode, with the AWG-9 selecting up to six priority targets for potential launch by the AIM-54. The pilot or Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) could then launch the AIM-54 Phoenix missiles when launch parameters were met. The large Tactical Information Display (TID) in the RIO's cockpit gave an unprecedented amount of information to the aircrew (the pilot had the ability to monitor the RIO's display) and, importantly, the AWG-9 could continually search and track multiple targets after Phoenix missiles were launched, thereby maintaining situational awareness of the Battlespace.

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