How Sidewinder Missiles Work

An F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter fires an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile. See more Sidewinder missile pictures.
Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense

All of the expensive technology that goes into a fighter jet, attack helicopter or bomber wouldn't be much use on the battlefield without any ordnance. While they're not as expensive or complex as the military vehicles that carry them, guns, missiles and bombs are the end technology that finally gets the job done in combat. And most of today's missiles and bombs are pretty impressive aircraft in their own right. Smart weapons don't just sail through the air; they actually find their own way to the target.

Sidewinder Image Gallery 


In this article, we'll look at one of the oldest and most successful smart weapons in the U.S. arsenal, the legendary AIM-9 Sidewinder missile. As we'll see, the small and simple Sidewinder is a highly effective combination of electronics and explosive power, brought together with incredible technical ingenuity.