It is not easy for an air-to-air missile to destroy a flying target, especially when today’s electronic suppression technology is developing extremely strongly.
Warheads of conventional air-to-air missiles are quite heavy. Small, short-range air-to-air missiles like the Sidewinder have a warhead weight of about 15 kg, while long-range air-to-air missiles like the AIM-54 Phoenix are much heavier, about 60 kg, weighing more than a 155mm shells. These warheads have also been optimized, the ability to destroy targets is not only by direct hits with kinetic energy, but the missile will be detonated within the effective range, even if the plane didn’t crash, it would be seriously damaged.
Military experts say that as long as it can be used effectively, the air-to-air missile will prove the worth of the fighter. But, although the performance of air-to-air missiles is constantly improving, they still have a problem with their hit rate. There is no missile in the world today that can guarantee its success rate of 100%. In addition, it also has to deal with highly maneuverable targets and self-defense systems on modern fighter generations.
Self-defense systems on today’s fighters have been constantly strengthened and improved. It has been upgraded from heat traps and jammers to a wide variety of active and passive jamming systems.
The design of early air-to-air missiles was primarily used to deal with less maneuverable targets such as bombers, patrol aircraft, etc. In those days, as long as the pilots detected an enemy missile launch, they could maneuver and release the jammer through great angles. Early missiles with poor maneuverability and anti-jammer led to easily missed targets.
According to statistics of the US military during the war in Vietnam, whether the AIM-9 Sidewinder was guided by infrared or the AIM-7 Sparrow was guided by semi-active radar, the results were very sad, with ten Missile launched, only one hit the target. Even today, with the rapid development of microelectronics technology, it is difficult for experienced pilots to ensure that the missile they launch can hit enemy aircraft 100%.
On the Syrian battlefield, an old-style Su-22 attack aircraft of the Syrian Air Force once approached a US military base. After the warnings were unsuccessful, the American Super Hornet launched a state-of-the-art AIM-9X towards the Su-22. The first missile missed, forcing the American pilot to fire another medium-range AIM-120 missile and it made direct contact and shot down the Su-22.
According to sources, it was surprising that the AIM-9X missed the target completely in an active position and the target had no defense system at all. It can be seen that the performance of the modern air-to-air missiles of the past and present, despite the great advancement in technology, they cannot be as successful in reality as in the movies that we see.