TechIsrael's cost-effective defence strategy. Old missiles, new victories

Israel's cost-effective defence strategy. Old missiles, new victories

F-4 Phantom aircraft armed with three AIM-7 Sparrow missiles placed under the fuselage and two AGM-45A Shrike under the wings.
F-4 Phantom aircraft armed with three AIM-7 Sparrow missiles placed under the fuselage and two AGM-45A Shrike under the wings.
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8:40 AM EDT, April 20, 2024

Effective defense for Israel involves significant costs. It is estimated that thwarting an Iranian attack could have cost Israel around $1.2 billion. Yet, employing modern and expensive weaponry isn't always necessary, as evidenced by using the older AIM-7 Sparrow missiles.

The global admiration for the efficiency of Israeli weaponry is notable. Alongside the latest weapons, such as anti-ballistic systems, Israel has integrated older types of armaments into its defence strategy.

This approach reduces costs, conserves the stockpile of more advanced missiles, and efficiently disposes of older weapons that would otherwise require disposal.

Defence 24 underscores the involvement of F-15 aircraft armed with AIM-7 Sparrow missiles in countering the Iranian attack, despite other available options.

Effectiveness of the AIM-7 Sparrow Missiles

Introduced in the 1950s, the AIM-7 Sparrow had its combat initiation during the Vietnam War. Initially, its effectiveness was questionable; out of 600 missiles fired, only 16 percent hit their targets, with merely two achieving beyond-visual-range destruction.

Addressing these shortcomings led to the founding of the renowned Top Gun naval aviation school, revisions in missile deployment tactics, and the development of an enhanced version of the missile.

The improvements were significant – Sparrow missiles became formidable against Russian MiGs during later conflicts. In Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, of the 44 AIM-7 missiles launched, 30 successfully reached their targets, most beyond visible range.

Weapons from the 1950s

The AIM-7 Sparrow measures 11.8 feet in length, with an 8-inch diameter and a considerable wingspan – its aerodynamic surfaces span up to 31.5 inches. Weighing 469 pounds, it carries an 88-pound warhead, can reach speeds of Mach 4, and has a range of over 31 miles, with some sources indicating up to 43 miles.

Despite the Sparrow missile's semi-active radar homing — necessitating continuous radar tracking by the aircraft that launched it — Israel's use demonstrates its efficacy against simpler targets, including large cruise missiles.

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