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AIM-47 Falcon

An AIM-47A waiting to be loaded aboard a YF-12.

The Hughes AIM-47 Falcon, originally GAR-9, was a very long-range high-performance air-to-air missile that shared the basic design of the earlier AIM-4 Falcon. It was developed in 1958 along with the new Hughes AN/ASG-18 radar fire-control system intended to arm the Mach 3 XF-108 Rapier interceptor aircraft. It was never used operationally, but was a direct predecessor of the AIM-54 Phoenix.


Development for XF-108

In the early 1950s, the United States Air Force developed a requirements for a high speed, high performance interceptor aircraft, originally called the LRI-X. In 1957, Hughes won the contract to supply the weapons system for this aircraft. This system consisted of the GAR-X missile and the YX-1 radar and fire control system. The original missile design had a range of 15 to 25 miles (25 to 40 km), and could be equipped with a conventional warhead or a 0.25 kiloton version of the W42 nuclear warhead. When the North American XF-108 Rapier was announced as the winner of the LRI-X contest in April 1958, the Hughes entries were redesignated GAR-9 and AN/ASG-18 on the same day. The F-108 was cancelled in September 1959, but the Air Force decided to continue development of the missile system with both warheads.[1]

During its development, the capabilities of the new missile grew tremendously. Growing much larger, the missile's range was extended to 100 miles (160 km), using the Aerojet-General XM59 solid-fuel motor. Since this would be beyond the range of effective semi-active radar homing, a new active-radar terminal seeker was added to the missile. This seeker was a powerful system of its own, with no effective maximum range and the resolution to be able to lock onto a Script error: No such module "convert". target at 63 nm (116 km). Even the seeker was changed at one point, with the addition of a passive infrared homing seeker to improve terminal performance. However, that would have required the missile to grow by Script error: No such module "convert"., and in diameter by two inches, making it too large for the F-108's weapon bay. The W-42 nuclear version was dropped in 1958 in favor of a 100 pound high-explosive design.[1]

Problems with the motor during development led to the brief consideration of using a storable liquid-fuel rocket design, but was replaced instead by the Lockheed XSR13-LP-1 solid rocket. This lowered the top speed from Mach 6 to Mach 4. In this form the GAR-9 started ground firings in August 1961. For air-launch testing at supersonic speeds the Republic XF-103 had originally been proposed as a test platform, but this aircraft was cancelled before reaching the prototype stage. Instead, B-58 Hustler s/n 55-665 was modified to house the AN/ASG-18 radar in a large protruding radome that gave it the nickname "Snoopy", and in-flight launches started in May 1962.

Development for YF-12

In 1960 Lockheed started development of the Lockheed YF-12 interceptor, as a lower-cost replacement for the F-108. The GAR-9/ASG-18 were moved to this project. The F-12 would have featured four flip-open internal weapons bays on the chines behind the cockpit, one of these filled with electronics. The F-12B bays were too small for the GAR-9, so the GAR-9B was developed with flip-out fins to reduce its diameter. It weighed Script error: No such module "convert"..[2]

Test firings of the GAR-9A from the prototype F-12As resulted in six kills from seven launches, the lone miss due to a missile power failure (there were several non-guiding test launches as well). The missile was renamed AIM-47 in the fall of 1962 as part of the transition to common naming for aerospace vehicles across the U.S. Department of Defense in 1962. The last launch was from a YF-12 flying at Mach 3.2 and an altitude of 74,400 feet (22,677 m) at a QB-47 target drone 500 feet (152 m) off the ground.[3]

In 1966, the F-12 project was cancelled just as the F-108 had been. Another project which expressed an interest in the design was the XB-70 Valkyrie, a bomber which could have carried the AIM-47 for self-defense. This aircraft was also cancelled after Soviet deployment of effective high-altitude surface-to-air missiles made high-altitude attacks on the Soviet Union impractical.

In all, Hughes had built some 80 pre-production AIM-47 missiles.


The AIM-47 was used as a base for the AIM-54 Phoenix (originally the AAM-N-11), intended for the General Dynamics F-111B. This project was also canceled in 1968, but the weapon system finally found a home on the F-14 Tomcat, entering service in the early 1970s.

In 1966, the basic airframe was adapted with the seeker from the AGM-45 Shrike and the Script error: No such module "convert". warhead from the Mk. 81 bomb to create the high-speed AGM-76 Falcon anti-radar missile, although this did not see service.[4]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sean O'Connor, Hughes GAR-9/AIM-47 Falcon, Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, 2004
  2. "AIM-47 (GAR-9) Falcon long-range air-to-air missile". Retrieved 2015-01-25. 
  3. B. Rich, Skunk Works (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1994), p. 236
  4. Andreas Parsch, Hughes AGM-76 Falcon, Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, 2004

External links