F-14; The Legendary Combination:
In the early 1960s, the U.S. Navy made the next interceptor attempt with the F-111B, and they needed a new missile design. At the same time, the USAF canceled the projects for their land-based high-speed interceptor aircraft, the North American XF-108 Rapier and the Lockheed YF-12, and left the capable AIM-47 Falcon missile at a quite advanced stage of development, but with no effective launch platform.
The AIM-54 Phoenix, developed for the F-111B fleet air defense fighter, had an airframe with four cruciform fins that was a scaled-up version of the AIM-47. One characteristic of the Missileer ancestry was that the radar sent it mid-course corrections, which allowed the fire control system to "loft" the missile up over the target into thinner air where it had better range.
The F-111B was canceled in 1968. Its weapons system, the AIM-54 working with the AWG-9 radar, migrated to the new U.S. Navy fighter project, the VFX, which would later become the F-14 Tomcat.
In 1977, development of a significantly improved Phoenix version, the AIM-54C, was developed to better counter projected threats from tactical anti-naval aircraft and cruise missiles, and its final upgrade included a re-programmable memory capability to keep pace with emerging ECM.
The AIM-54/AWG-9 combination had multiple track capability (up to 24 targets) and launch (up to six Phoenixes can be launched nearly simultaneously); the large 1,000 lb (500 kg) missile is equipped with a conventional warhead.
On the F-14, four missiles can be carried under the fuselage tunnel attached to special aerodynamic pallets, plus two under glove stations. A full load of six Phoenix missiles and the unique launch rails weighs in at over 8,000 lb (3,600 kg), about twice the weight of Sparrows, so it was more common to carry a mixed load of four Phoenix, two Sparrow, and two Sidewinder missiles.
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