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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Development of a guided air-to-air missile began in 1946. Hughes Aircraft was awarded a contract for a subsonic missile under the project designation MX-798, which soon gave way to the supersonic MX-904 in 1947. The original purpose of the weapon was as a self-defense weapon for bomber aircraft, but after 1950 it was decided that it should arm fighter aircraft instead, particularly in the interception role.
The first test firings took place in 1949, at which time it was designated AAM-A-2 and given the popular name Falcon. A brief policy of awarding fighter and bomber designations to missiles led it to be redesignated F-98 in 1951. In 1955 the policy changed again, and the missile was again redesignated GAR-1.
The USAF deployed AIM-4 in May 1967 during the Vietnam War on the new F-4D Phantom II, which carried it on the inner wing pylons and was ostensibly not wired to carry the Navy-designed AIM-9 Sidewinder. The missile's combat performance was very poor. The Falcon, already operational on Air Defense Command aircraft, was designed to be used against bombers and its slow seeker cooling times requiring as much as 6 to 7 seconds to obtain a lock on a target rendered it largely ineffective against maneuvering fighters. Moreover it could only be cooled once. Limited coolant supply meant that once cooled, the missile would expend its supply of liquid nitrogen in two minutes, rendering it useless on the rail. The missile also had a small warhead, and lacked proximity fusing. As a result, only five kills were scored, all with the AIM-4D version. (The Falcon was also experimentally fired by the F-102 Delta Dagger against ground targets at night using its infrared seeker.)
An effort to address the limitations of AIM-4D led to the development in 1970 of the XAIM-4H, which had a laser proximity fuze, new warhead, and better maneuverability. It was cancelled the following year without entering service.
The AIM-4F/AIM-4G Super Falcon remained in USAF and ANG service, primarily with F-102 Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart interceptors, until the final retirement of the F-106 in 1988.