R-73
AA-11 Archer
A mock up of RVV-MD - the newest available export variant of the R-73
TypeShort-range air-to-air missile
Place of originSoviet Union
Service history
In service1984–present
Used bySee Operators
Production history
ManufacturerMoscow Kommunar Machine-Building Plant, Tbilisi Aircraft Manufacturing, TAM Management
Specifications
Mass105 kilograms (231 lb)
Length2.93 metres (9 ft 7 in)
Diameter165 millimetres (6.5 in)
Wingspan510 millimetres (20 in)
Warhead7.4 kilograms (16 lb)

EngineSolid-fuel rocket engine
Operational
range
  • R-73A, R-73E: 30 kilometres (19 mi)[1][2]
  • R-73M, RVV-MD: 40 kilometres (25 mi)[1][3]
Maximum speed Mach 2.5
Guidance
system
All-aspect infrared homing
Launch
platform

The Vympel R-73 (NATO reporting name AA-11 Archer) is a short-range air-to-air missile developed by Vympel NPO that entered service in 1984.[5]

Development

The R-73 was developed to replace the earlier R-60 (AA-8 'Aphid') weapon for short-range use by Soviet fighter aircraft. Work began in 1973, operational in 1982 and the first missiles formally entered service in 1984.[5]

The R-73 is an infrared homing (heat-seeking) missile with a sensitive, cryogenic cooled seeker with a substantial "off-boresight" capability: the seeker can detect targets up to 40° off the missile's centerline.[6] It can be targeted by a helmet-mounted sight (HMS) allowing pilots to designate targets by looking at them. Minimum engagement range is about 300 meters, with maximum aerodynamic range of nearly 30 km (19 mi) at altitude. The weapon is used by the MiG-29, MiG-31, Su-27/33, Su-34 and Su-35, and can be carried by newer versions of the MiG-21, MiG-23, Sukhoi Su-24, and Su-25 aircraft.[7]

Shortly after German reunification in 1990, Germany and other ex-Warsaw Pact countries found themselves with large stockpiles of the R-73 missiles or AA-11 Archers as designated by NATO, and had concluded that the R-73/AA-11's capabilities had been noticeably underestimated by the west.[8] In particular, the R-73 was found to be both far more maneuverable, and far more capable in terms of seeker acquisition and tracking than the latest AIM-9 Sidewinder.[9] This realization started the development of newer missiles to help compete, including the ASRAAM, IRIS-T and AIM-9X.

According to an interview with a Ukrainian pilot, the R-73 does not track well in clouds. This makes the missile difficult to use against Shahed-136 drones, forcing pilots to rely on their 30 mm cannon.[10]

From 1994, the R-73 has been upgraded in production to the R-73M standard, which entered Russian service in 1997. The R-73M has greater range and a wider seeker angle (to 60° off-boresight), as well as improved IRCCM (Infrared Counter-Counter-Measures). Further developments include the R-74 (izdeliye 740) and its export variant RVV-MD. These are expected to supplement previous variants of the R-73 in service.[11]

An improved version of the R-74, the K-74M (izdeliye 750) features fully digital and re-programmable systems, and is intended for use on the MiG-35, MiG-29K/M/M2, Su-27SM, Su-30MK and Su-35S. A further upgrade, known as the K-74M2 (izdeliye 760), is intended for the fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 aircraft. This missile has reduced cross-section to fit in internal weapon bays and will match the performance of the AIM-9X and the ASRAAM. A clean sheet design, the K-MD (izdeliye 300), will supersede the K-74M2 in the future.[12][13]

Operational history

On 24 February 1996, two Cessna 337s of the Brothers to the Rescue were shot down while flying over international waters 10 nautical miles outside of Cuban airspace by a Cuban Air Force MiG-29UB.[14] Each of the aircraft was downed by an R-73 missile.[15]

During the Eritrean-Ethiopian War from May 1998 to June 2000, R-73 missiles were used in combat by both Ethiopian Su-27s and Eritrean MiG-29s. It was the IR-homing R-60 and the R-73 that were used in all but two of the kills.

On 18 March 2008, a MiG-29 Fulcrum of the Russian Air Force intercepted a Georgian Elbit Hermes 450 UAV over Abkhazia. The MiG-29 destroyed the UAV with an R-73 missile.[16]

On 27 February 2019, Indian officials claims that an IAF MiG-21 Bison had successfully engaged and shot down a Pakistani F-16 with an R-73E missile during the 2019 Jammu and Kashmir airstrikes.[17] Pakistan denied the loss of its aircraft.[18]

On 7 May 2022, Colonel Igor Bedzay was killed when his Mi-14 was shot down by a Russian Su-35. It is reported that after missing its first shots using its 30 mm cannon, the Su-35 resorted to launching an R-73, which destroyed the helicopter.[19][20]

Use as a surface to air missile

These missiles have been used as a surface to air missile. In 1999 R-73s were adapted by Serb forces for surface to air missiles. The Houthi movement's Missile Research and Development Centre and the Missile Force have tried to fire R-27/R-60/R-73/R-77, from Yemeni Air Force stocks, against Saudi aircraft. The issue for the R-27R and R-77 is the lack of a radar to support their guidance to the target. However the R-27T, R-73 and R-60 are infra-red heat seeking missiles. They only require power, liquid nitrogen "to cool the seeker head", and a pylon to launch the missile. These missiles have been paired with a "US made FLIR Systems ULTRA 8500 turrets". However the drawback is that these missiles are intended to be fired from one jet fighter against another. So the motors and fuel load are smaller than a purpose built surface to air missile. Only one near miss has been verified and that was a R-27T fired at Royal Saudi Air Force F-15SA.[21]

Variants

Operators

Map with R-73 operators in blue with former operators in red

Current operators

Former operators

References

  1. ^ a b "AA-11 ARCHER R-73". Global Security. Retrieved 3 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b "R-73E". Rosoboronexport. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  3. ^ "RVV-MD". Rosoboronexport. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  4. ^ "IAF's French Mirages Fly with Russian Missiles, Thanks to Israeli 'Jugaad'".
  5. ^ a b "Striving for a Safer World Since 1945".
  6. ^ Reed Business Information Limited. "Vympel reveals previously classified air-to-air missiles". Retrieved 23 December 2014. ((cite web)): |author= has generic name (help)
  7. ^ "uuaz.ru - Su-25UB Combat-trainer aircraft - Armament". Archived from the original on 31 May 2009.
  8. ^ Menon, KB (17 July 2012). "Evolution of the Air-To-Air Missiles: Options for the IAF". Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  9. ^ "Locking range". Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  10. ^ "Ukrainian MiG-29 Pilot Talks About AGM-88 HARM & Shahed-136 UAVs; Explains Why Is It Hard To Counter Iranian Drones". 13 December 2022. Retrieved 22 December 2022.
  11. ^ Barrie, Douglas and Pyadushkin, Maxim. "R-77, R-73 Missile Upgrades Emerge". Aviation Week. 13 August 2009
  12. ^ Butowski, Piotr. Russia and CIS Observer. 17 June 2007.
  13. ^ "Vympel plans to develop air-to-air missiles for Russia's PAK FA fighter". Jane's Missiles and Rockets. 19 May 2006
  14. ^ University of Minnesota Human Rights Library (1999). "Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Costa, Mario de la Pena y Pablo Morales v. Republica de Cuba, Case 11.589, Report No. 86/99, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.106 Doc. 3 rev. at 586 (1999)". Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Cuba11.589". Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  16. ^ "Russian jet shoots Georgian drone © Reuters". YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  17. ^ "R-73 missile: The weapon with which Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman brought down Pakistan's F-16 jet but they couldn't supply any evidences to support their claims, U.S. count shows no Pakistan F-16s shot down in Indian battle". Zee News India. Essel Group. 2 March 2019. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  18. ^ Indian Radar Data That Supposedly Proves They Downed An F-16 Is Far From "Irrefutable", 8 April 2019, The War Zone
  19. ^ "Russian Sukhoi Fighter 'Hunts Down' A Ukrainian Mi-14PS Chopper; Incident Gets Caught On Camera — Watch". www.eurasiantimes.net. 9 June 2022. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  20. ^ "A brave Ukrainian colonel died". www.thetimeshub.in. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  21. ^ Dario Leone (17 July 2019). "Here's how Houthis were able to deploy R-27/R-60/R-73/R-77 Air-to-Air Missiles as SAMs against Saudi-led Coalition Aircraft". theaviationgeekclub.com. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  22. ^ "Production". eng.ktrv.ru. Retrieved 2 October 2022.
  23. ^ "Weapon". Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  24. ^ a b "SIPRI Trade Register". Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h International Institute for Strategic Studies (2020). "Chapter Six: Asia". The Military Balance. 120 (1): 254. doi:10.1080/04597222.2020.1707967. S2CID 219627149.
  26. ^ "Twitter". Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  27. ^ "Balakchiev.com". www.balakchiev.com. Retrieved 15 January 2024.
  28. ^ "Egyptian MiG-29 deliveries concluded as Su-35 deliveries begin". 29 June 2021.
  29. ^ "Su-25KM SCORPION (It is made in Georgia)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  30. ^ Newdick, Thomas (27 October 2021). "Iranian MiG-29 Blasts Target Out Of Sky In Bonkers Low-Level Display (Updated)". The Drive. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  31. ^ Tincopa, Amaru (November–December 2021). "MiG-29 over the skies of the condor". Revista Pucará. No. 10. p. 20.
  32. ^ Butowski, Piotr; Newdick, Thomas (4 October 2022). "Russian Aggressor Squadron Gets Its First Su-35S Fighter Jets". The Drive.
  33. ^ Banković, Živojin (3 May 2022). "Kako je lovac postao višenamenski borbeni avion: Detalji novog naoružanja na premijeri modernizovanih MiG-ova 29SM". tangosix.rs.
  34. ^ Cooper, Tom; Weinert, Peter; Hinz, Fabian; Lepko, Mark (2011). African MiGs, Volume 2: Madagascar to Zimbabwe. Houston: Harpia Publishing. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-9825539-8-5.
  35. ^ Newdick, Thomas (April 2022). "Ukrainian MiG-29 Pilot's Front-Line Account Of The Air War Against Russia". The Drive. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  36. ^ Cooper, Tom (2018). Hot Skies Over Yemen, Volume 2: Aerial Warfare Over the South Arabian Peninsula, 1994-2017. Warwick, UK: Helion & Company Publishing. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-911628-18-7.
  37. ^ "Trade Registers". armstrade.sipri.org.

Further reading