Vympel R-37M
NATO reporting name: AA-13 Axehead
R-37M (under the export designation RVV-BD) at 2013 MAKS Airshow
TypeLong range, hypersonic air-to-air BVR missile
Place of originRussia
Service history
In service2019
Used byRussian Aerospace Forces
Production history
DesignerTactical Missiles Corporation
ManufacturerVympel MKB
VariantsR-37M (export: RVV-BD)
Specifications (R-37M approximation)
Mass510 kilograms (1,120 lb)
Length4.06 metres (13 ft 4 in)
Diameter38 centimetres (15 in)
Wingspan72 centimetres (28 in)
WarheadHE, fragmention
Warhead weight60 kg (135 lb)

PropellantBoost-Sustain Solid Rocket
150–400 km (93–249 mi) [1]
Up to 200 kilometres (120 mi) (RVV-BD)
Maximum speed Mach 6 (7,400 km/h; 4,600 mph)
2,500 kilometres per hour (1,600 mph) (RVV-BD)
Inertial with mid-course update, semi-active and active radar homing

The Vympel R-37 (NATO reporting name: AA-13 "Axehead")[1] is a Russian hypersonic air-to-air missile with very long range. The missile and its variants also had the names K-37, izdeliye 610 and RVV-BD (Ракета Воздух-Воздух Большой Дальности (Raketa Vozduh-Vozduh Bolshoy Dalnosti), "Long range air-to-air rocket"), and the NATO codenames "Axehead" and "Andi".[2] It was developed from the R-33.

It is designed to shoot down tankers, AWACS and other C4ISTAR aircraft[1] while keeping the launch platform out of range of any fighters that might be protecting the target.

According to Janes there are two variants, the R-37 and the R-37M; the latter conceived as having a jettisonable rocket booster that increases the range to "300–400 km" (160–220 nm).[2] In 2023, Rosoboronexport introduced the export version of the R-37M, designated RVV-BD. It has a launch range of up to 200 kilometres (120 mi; 110 nmi) and maximum altitude of 25 kilometres (82,000 ft) with a 60 kilograms (130 lb) warhead. The missile is compatible with Sukhoi Su-57, Sukhoi Su-30, Sukhoi Su-35, Mikoyan MiG-31BM and Mikoyan MiG-35.[3][4]


The R-37 was developed from the R-33. For compatibility with aircraft that did not have the MiG-31's sophisticated radar, the semi-active seeker was replaced with a variant of the Agat 9B-1388 active seeker.[1] Similarly, folding tail controls allow semi-conformal carriage[1] on planes that are not as big as the MiG-31.

Mid-body strakes enhance lift[1] and hence increase range. According to Defence Today, the range depends on the flight profile, from 80 nautical miles (150 km) for a direct shot[1] to 215 nautical miles (398 km) for a cruise glide profile.[1]

The R-37M designation has since been used for a modernized variant of the missile, also known as RVV-BD (Raketa Vozduh-Vozduh Bolyshoy Dalnosty, or Long-Range Air-to-Air Missile). R-37M's range exceeds 200 km, and it is capable of hypersonic speeds (~Mach 5).[5] It will be carried by the modernized MiG-31BM interceptors and Su-35S and Su-57 multirole fighters.[6]

A further derivative designed for internal carriage in the Su-57, designated as Izdeliye 810, has folding rear fins, shorter strakes, and updated seeker and motor.[7]

The missile can attack targets at altitudes of 15–25 kilometres (49,000–82,000 ft), guided semi-actively or actively through the Agat 9B-1388 system.[8]


The missile was designed in the early 1980s and first flown in 1989.[2] Testing of the R-37 continued through the 1990s,[2] and in 1994, a trial round scored a kill at a range of 162 nautical miles (300 km).[1] However, the program appears to have been dropped around 1998 on grounds of cost.[2]

Work on the missile appears to have restarted in late 2006,[2] as part of the MiG-31BM program to update the Foxhound with a new radar and ground attack capability.[2]

In 2018, the R-37M had finished its operational validation tests.[9][10]

Zvezda TV reports have recorded the Su-35 carrying the R-37, apparently as part of an air combat loadout. In this configuration, the craft carries two R-73s in the central wing pylon, two R-77s slung underneath the engine nacelles, and two R-37s on the hardpoints between the engines, with an option to carry a few more missiles, such as a Kh-31 anti-radiation missile.

Operational history

The R-37M has, since October 2022, been the main threat against the Ukrainian Air Force.[citation needed] During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, MiG-31 aircraft have reportedly shot down several Ukrainian aircraft, mainly by using the long range R-37.[citation needed] By remaining at high speed and high altitude, MiG-31s have been able to operate virtually unopposed due to Ukrainian fighters lacking range, speed, or altitude necessary to engage the MiG-31.[11][12] The Ukrainian Air Force lacks fire and forget missiles. They relied on the R-27 missiles, both the R-27R and R-27ER. The Ukrainian pilot must illuminate the Russian aircraft with their radar to guide the missile to the target. Russian pilots firing active radar, fire and forget, R-77 give the Russian pilots the ability to launch their missiles and then take evasive action. Ukrainian pilots were forced to "exploit ground clutter and terrain-masking to get close enough to fire before being engaged".

A report by the Royal United Services Institute states that in October some six R-37Ms were being fired at the Ukrainian Air Force a day. The Su-35S is also used as a carrier for the R-37M. Four MiG-31 were also deployed to Crimea at the Belbek Air Base in mid 2022.[13]

In August 2022, Russian forces maintained a Combat Air Patrol of either a pair of Su-35S or MiG-31s on station to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft. The Royal United Services Institute stated: "The VKS has been firing up to six R-37Ms per day during October. The extremely high speed of the weapon, coupled with very long effective range and a seeker designed for engaging low-altitude targets, makes it particularly difficult to evade."[14][15][16][17][18]

In February 2023, Ukraine obtained wreckage of a R-37M which would be of interest to Ukraine and Western countries.[19][20]

According to a Russian source, the missile is carried by the Su-35S and Su-57 fighters, and the MiG-31BM interceptor.[21]

According to Ukrainian pilots, the R-37M isn't achieving a lot of "hard kills", the destruction of actual Ukrainian aircraft. However, their launch forces pilots to abandon their current mission and take evasive action.[22] Ukrainian pilots believe that the only defence is for their allies to supply them with F-16 fighter jets and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. While it won't close the distance, Ukrainian pilots hope that it will push back the effective range of missiles like the R-37.[23] However according to Ukrainian official, Ukraine is looking for opportunities to modernize the F-16 Block 20 MLU fighter jets planned for transfer. Early generation AN/APG-66 radar of older F-16 Block 20 MLU only has similar range of Ukrainian Mig-29s and poses no significant advantage compare to current Ukrainian fighters radar over the radar of current Russian fighters used in the war such as Irbis-E and N110M Bars-M.[24][25][26]

In August 2023, the National Police of Ukraine claimed that a R-37 missile had been used in an airstrike in Kramatorsk Raion.[27][dubiousdiscuss]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Missiles in the Asia Pacific" (PDF), Defence Today: 67, May 2005, archived from the original (PDF) on 26 January 2009
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "R-37, R-37M (AA-X-13) (Russian Federation), AIR-TO-AIR MISSILES - BEYOND VISUAL RANGE". janes.com. 12 January 2009. Archived from the original on 14 September 2008.
  3. ^ "RVV-BD Long-range air-to-air missile". YouTube. Rosoboronexport. 2023-08-25.
  4. ^ "RVV-BD Aircraft Guided Air-to-Air Missile". Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation (Russia). Retrieved 2023-10-10.
  5. ^ "The military tested a long-range missile for the Su-57 (In Russian)". N+1.
  6. ^ Newdick, Thomas (October 5, 2020). "Russian Air-To-Air Missile Tests Signal Potential New Capabilities For Flanker and Felon". The Drive.
  7. ^ Butowski, Piotr (7 February 2024). "Model Reveals New Russian Air-To-Air Missile For The Sukhoi Su-57". Aviation Week & Space Technology.
  8. ^ "Управляемая авиационная ракета класса "воздух-воздух" большой дальности РВВ-БД". missile.ru. October 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  9. ^ "New Russian long-range AAM integration to expand to four fighter models - Jane's 360". janes.com. 9 July 2018. Archived from the original on 13 July 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Какие разработки корпорации "Тактическое ракетное вооружение" скрывает фюзеляж Су-57 | Еженедельник "Военно-промышленный курьер"".
  11. ^ "The Russian Air War and Ukrainian Requirements for Air Defence". RUSI. 7 November 2022.
  12. ^ "Russia's MiG-31 Crews Are Shooting At Ukrainian Pilots From A Hundred Miles Away—And The Ukrainians Can't Shoot Back". Forbes. 8 November 2022.
  13. ^ Piotr Butowski; Thomas Newdick (10 November 2022). "Russia's MiG-31 Foxhounds Proving To Be A Threat To Ukrainian Aircraft". The Drive. Retrieved 20 May 2023.
  14. ^ Piotr Butowski, Thomas Newdick (10 November 2022). "Russia's MiG-31 Foxhounds Proving To Be A Threat To Ukrainian Aircraft". The Drive. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  15. ^ Forbes Staff (30 April 2022). "Ukraine's Pilots Are Flying Into Battle With Old, Dumb Missiles. It's One Reason They Get Shot Down". Forbes. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  16. ^ David Axe (10 November 2022). "Fly Low, Get Aggressive—How Ukrainian Pilots Fought The Russian Air Force To A Standstill". Forbes. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  17. ^ Sakshi Tiwari (10 November 2022). "Russia Is 'Outfoxing' Ukrainian Warplanes With Its Foxhounds; MiG-31s Prove Much Superior To Sukhoi Counterparts". EurAsian Times. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  18. ^ "It seems that the Russian Federation lost a rare MiG-31 with "Kinzhal" in the occupied Crimea, the pilot died". Sundires. 8 October 2022. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  19. ^ "Ukraine Acquires Wreckage of R-37M Russian Missile Used for Attack". hngn.com. 18 February 2023. Retrieved 20 May 2023.
  20. ^ "Ukraine Seizes 'Scary' Russian R-37M Missile Wreckage Used To Launch Deadly Strikes From Su-35, MiG-31 Fighters". Eurasian Times. 14 February 2023. Retrieved 20 May 2023.
  21. ^ "ЦАМТО / / Новая ракета Р-37М класса «воздух-воздух» показала в рамках СВО очень высокую вероятность поражения целей". armstrade.org.
  22. ^ David Axe (30 May 2023). "With F-16s, Ukrainian Pilots Could Finally Beat Back Russia's MiG-31s". Forbes.com.
  23. ^ "Ukraine Needs a Squadron of F-16s to Scare Away Russian Jets". Defense Mirror. 29 May 2023.
  24. ^ "Ukraine discusses F-16 modernization". Ukrainian Military Center. 23 November 2023. Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  25. ^ "Ukraine Wants Modern Radar, Latest Weapons in F-16s Jets". Defense Mirror. 23 November 2023. Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  26. ^ "Assessing Ukraine's Air Defense Deterrent – Analysis". Eurasia Review. 27 May 2023. Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  27. ^ "Шестеро поранених за добу. Поліцейські Донеччини зібрали докази воєнних злочинів росії проти цивільного населення" [Six wounded in a day. The police of Donetsk region collected evidence of Russian war crimes against the civilian population] (in Ukrainian). 25 August 2023. Retrieved 25 August 2023.