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AIM-54 Phoenix Missile

 
Description
The Phoenix missile is the Navy's only long-range air-to-air missile. It is an airborne weapons control system with multiple-target handling capabilities, used to kill multiple air targets with conventional warheads. Near simultaneous launch is possible against up to six targets in all weather and heavy jamming environments. The improved Phoenix, the AIM-54C, can better counter projected threats from tactical aircraft and cruise missiles.
 
Features
Long-range air-to-air missile, carried in clusters of up to six missiles on the F-14 Tomcat.
 
Background
Chronology of Events- Beginning to End.

1960:
AIM-54 Phoenix long-range interception missile concept outlined using technology from the AIM-47 Falcon to arm the General Dynamics F-111B, a Navy variant of the F-111 (program cancelled in 1967); contract competition began. Originally known as the AAM-N-11 Phoenix. AIM-54 Phoenix was a product of two US missile programs – the Navy’s Bendix AAM-N-10 Eagle and the USAF’s Hughes GAR-9.

1962:
December 11 – Hughes selected to develop, fabricate and test F-111B guided missile system.

1963:
February – Navy named the program Phoenix, based on the bird of Egyptian religion. June – AAM-N-11 was redesignated the AIM-54A.

1965:
The first AIM-54A prototype flight tests conducted. Initial tests used unguided rounds.

1966:
October – First guided interception succeeded: An A-3A Skywarrior, equipped with a Phoenix missile and its control system, located, locked on at long range and launched the missile, scoring an intercept on a jet target drone. The event occurred over the Navy Pacific Missile Range near San Nicolas Island. Although the Phoenix had been launched successfully before, this was the first full-scale test employing all functions of the missile control system.

1967:
April – The first Phoenix launched from an F-111B scored a hit off Point Mugu, demonstrating the successful integration of the missile with the designated carrier platform.

April 27:
First unguided AIM-54 launched by A-3 Sky warrior.

1968:
January 18 – First supersonic launch by F-111B out of Pt. Mugu.

1969:
February 3 – The Naval Air Systems Command issued a contract to Grumman for development of the F-14A fighter and manufacture of six experimental aircraft. The F-14 would feature a variable-sweep wing and carry the Phoenix missile.
March 8 – Two missiles were launched from an F-111B aircraft, demonstrating the AIM-54/AWG-9’s near simultaneous dual-kill capability against two widely spaced drone targets for the first time. The two missiles located the target drones and scored assessed hits.
May 28 – The Navy bought the first missile under the test prototype program to be used in the flight test program at Pt. Mugu.

1970:
May – 29 missiles fired to date; 22 scoring direct hits or passing within lethal distance of their targets.
September – The first “live” Phoenix missile was launched. Launched from an altitude above the target, in a “look down, track-while-scan” mode, the missile passed close to the drone, destroying it after detonation of the warhead by its proximity fuze.
December – Production contract for AIM-54A awarded to Hughes.

1972:
The United States approves the sale of 274 Phoenix missiles to Iran for $150 million. [Note: Final delivery of this deal is in May 1979.]
AIM-54 entered full production.
April 28 – First AIM-54A launch from an F-14 Tomcat. The aircraft was flying from Point Mugu.
November – Navy breaks new ground with several first recorded during a single flight: This was the first multiple launch from an F-14A aircraft, and the first multiple launch against multiple targets by a military crew. The missile performed satisfactorily. LCDR Donald G. Klein and Lt. Jack H. Hawyer were the F-14A crew for the historic launch.
December 20 – An F-14 accomplished a 'four-for-four' AIM-54 test over the Pt. Mugu missile range. Flying at M0.7 and at 31,500 ft, the Tomcat launched four AIM-54s against five targets – three QT-33 and two BQM-34, each flying at M0.6 and at altitudes of between 20,000 ft and 25,000 ft. The missiles were fired at relatively short ranges, between 25 and 30 miles, and were launched in quick succession - not simultaneously. One missile scored a direct hit and the three others passed within the warheads’ lethal zones, thus scoring hits.

1973:
June – Hughes completed their testing program with a world record-setting performance; launched from an F-14A over Pt. Mugu, a Phoenix missile was launched against a BQM-34E Firebee drone at a distance of 110 nautical miles. This shattered the previous record of 76 nautical miles, which was achieved during the RDT&E phase. At the time the missile had achieved a 77% success rate, with 43 scored hits out of a total of 56 missiles launched from various aircraft.
November – AIM-54A Technical Evaluation completed. The first AIM-54A production units delivered for deployment on the new F-14A Tomcat.
November 21 – First Phoenix proves effectiveness in full-arsenal testing on an F-14 operating over the Pacific Missile Sea Test Range. The F-14 fired six Phoenix missiles over a 38-second period and guided them simultaneously at six separate targets 50 miles away, obtaining four direct hits. Flown by CDR John R. “Smoke” Wilson and LCDR Jack Hauver, the Tomcat was flying at speed of M0.78 and an altitude of 24,800 ft - while the target drones were flying at speeds of M0.6 to M1.1. This was the only time six Phoenix were launched by a single aircraft.
Phoenix testing was completed in 1973 after a program of 60 launches.
The AIM-54A entered service with the US Navy in 1973 and became operational in 1974. The Phoenix missile is only carried by the F-14 Tomcat.

1974:
November – AIM-54A Operational Evaluation completed.
AIM-54A deployed with the first F-14A squadrons, the VF-1 Wolfpack and the VF-2 Bounty Hunters, aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

1975:
January 28 – AIM-54 Phoenix missile received Approval for Service Use.
March 2 – F-14A Tomcat and the Phoenix Missile system received Approval for Service Use.
1976:
October – AIM-54C engineering development began for improved performance and reliability.
1977:
Development of the significantly improved AIM-54C began.
1979:
August – Hughes delivered first XAIM-54C prototypes.
1980:
Prototype AIM-54C delivery completed with 15 models to the US Navy.
First AIM-54C flight tests.
November 18 – After eight years and nine months of production, Hughes delivered the 2,505th (and last) AIM-54A Phoenix missile, Serial Number 79120. This signaled the end of one era and the beginning of another, with the start of production of the Improved Phoenix, the AIM-54C. In keeping with its mythical name, the AIM-54C was an old Phoenix that had been reborn, and was ready to live on.

1981:
Initial production ended in 1981 after 2,566 AIM-54A/B missiles had been built.
August 26 – The AIM-54C continued the tradition of high performance set by its predecessor. Despite an invisible barrier of electronic interference meant to confuse it, and AIM-54C missile scored a direct hit on a drone aircraft 70 miles away.
October – Pilot production for evaluation of 30 rounds began.
October 27 – The first production model of the AIM-54C was delivered to the Navy.
December – AIM-54C first prototype models delivered to US Navy.

1982:
Approximately 300 AIM-54Cs were delivered to the U.S. Navy over the period August 1982 to August 1986.
March – AIM-54C OPEVAL began.
May – AIM-54C TECHEVAL began.
November – TECHEVAL completed.

1983:
AIM-54C entered full production.
April – The first AIM-54C sample missiles from Hughes production lot FY 80-1 arrived at Pt. Mugu to undergo Government Lot Acceptance Test (GLAT).
August – AIM-54C OPEVAL completed.

1984:
AIM-54C reaches IOC.
January – Full Rate Production decision.

1985:
The AIM-54C was deployed to the fleet.
June – AIM-54C ECCM/Sealed Missile TECHEVAL completed. First AIM-54C+s delivered to Navy.
1986:
March – AIM-54C+ began production and delivery.
December – AIM-54C reaches Initial Operational Capability.

1987:
March 18 – The first missile launch of an AIM-54A Phoenix by a Naval Air Reserve squadron, VF-301, took place at the Pacific Missile Test Range, Point Mugu, CA.
August – AIM-54C+ full-scale development.

1988:
July – AIM-54C ECCM/Sealed variant reached IOC; entered service. AIM-54C missiles with improved ECCM are known in the U.S. Navy as AIM-54C ECCM/Sealed.

1989:
June 6 – First Raytheon-built AIM-54C flight test conducted.

1990:
August 14 – AIM-54C+ High Power Phoenix first flight test of fully upgraded missile scored a direct hit on a QF-4 drone, demonstrating unprecedented multi-shot launch and leave capabilities.
AIM-54C ECCM/Sealed testing started in 1990 and some missiles were retrofitted with modification kits as the AIM-54C Plus upgrade.

1991:
Production funding was deleted from the FY1991 budget request.

1992:
A planned replacement for the Phoenix, the Advanced Air-to-Air Missile (AAAM) was cancelled in early 1992.
September – The last production missile serial number 90420 was bought by the Navy and sent to NAWCWPS Pt. Mugu as part of GLAT Lot 90-8.

1993:
The AIM-54C production was completed, with an estimated 2,000 missiles built.

2002:
February – The U.S. Navy decided to divest the AIM-54 Phoenix from inventory beginning in FY04.

2003:
To allow for maximum expenditure, all non-deployed ready for inventory (RFI) Phoenix missiles were directed to Naval Air Station Oceana to assist with Ordnance and Aircrew training and readiness requirements. Thirty-four Non-RFI assets were officially transferred to NAS China Lake ordnance accounts on behalf of NASA for research use. Documents were completed to accomplish movement of all necessary assets to Letterkenny Army Depot for demilitarization.
June – Decision was made to complete Phoenix divestment by 30 September 2004. To ensure a smooth divestiture toward this date, a transition message that defined the required tasks was sent to all Phoenix activities.

2004:
February 25 – Fighter Squadrons VF-11 and VF-143, flying F-14B Tomcats, launched from USS George Washington's (CVN 73) flight deck during a routine deployment supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom to conduct an historic missile shoot. The Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 aircraft fired 17 live Phoenix missiles onto a range over the Arabian Sea in two separate waves.
July 15 – Last AIM-54 was shot by VF-213 Cag-8; Pilot- LCDR Mark Tankersley and RIO- LTJG Scott Timmester.
 
Point Of Contact
Public Affairs Office
Naval Air Systems Command
Washington, DC 20361-0701
 
General Characteristics
Primary Function: Long-range air-launched air intercept missile.
Contractor: Hughes Aircraft Co. and Raytheon Co.
Date Deployed: 1974.
Unit Cost: $477,131.
Propulsion: Solid propellant rocket motor built by Hercules.
Length: 13 feet (3.9 meters).
Diameter: 15 inches (38.1 cm).
Wingspan: 3 feet (.9 meters).
Weight: 1,024 pounds (460.8 kg).
Speed: In excess of 3,000 mph (4,800 kmph).
Range: In excess of 100 nautical miles (115 statute miles, 184 km).
Guidance System: Semi-active and active radar homing.
Warhead: Proximity fuse, high explosive. Warhead Weight: 135 pounds (60.75 kg).
 
Last Update: 10 March 2017
 
 
Photo: An F-14 test fires a Phoenix air to air missile