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The world’s most effective air-to-air missiles

Advanced air-to-air missiles (AAMs) such as the Meteor, IRIS-T and AIM-9X Sidewinder form the core weaponry used in a dogfight scenario. Airforce-technology.com lists the world’s ten most effective AAMs based on precision and engagement features

The Meteor is a next-generation beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) developed by MBDA for the common requirements of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The ability to counter the current and future combat threats makes it one of the best AAMs in the world.

The UK Ministry of Defence placed a contract, on behalf of six nations, for the Meteor missiles in December 2002. Development firing trials of the missile were successfully concluded by 2012. The missile will be integrated on modern combat aircraft such as Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen Dassault Rafale and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Meteor BVRAAM features a state-of-the-art active radar seeker, a two-way data link communication and a solid-fuelled Ramjet motor to engage a wide range of targets with pinpoint accuracy. It also carries a blast fragmentation warhead with proximity and impact fuses for optimum lethality. The missile has high countermeasure resistance and offers the biggest ‘no escape zone.’

IRIS-T (Infra Red Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled)

The IRIS-T (Infrared Imaging System – Tail/Thrust Vector Controlled) is a new generation short-range AAM produced by Diehl BGT Defence. The missile can engage aerial targets within a range of 25km.

The missile was developed by Germany-based Diehl in partnership with companies from Greece, Italy, Canada, Norway and Spain to replace the AIM-9L Sidewinder AAM. The first series production version of the IRIS-T was delivered to the German Air Force in December 2005.

The IRIS-T can destroy a wide variety of targets with its high-explosive fragmented warhead fitted with a proximity fuse. It is fitted as a standard weapon for Eurofighter Typhoon, F-16, EF-18, Tornado and Gripen fighter aircraft. It is equipped with imaging infrared (IIR) seeker for high accuracy and all-aspect capability in severe electronic countermeasure (ECM) environments. The solid-fuelled motor with thrust vector control ensures the engagement of highly manoeuvrable targets.


The MICA (Missile d’Interception, de Combat et d’Autodéfense) is a short and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) AAM system developed by MBDA for the Rafale and advanced variants of Mirage 2000 combat aircraft.

The system includes two variants, namely MICA (EM) RF featuring an active radio frequency seeker and MICA IR featuring a dual waveband imaging infrared seeker to defeat enemy countermeasures. A surface-launched version named VL MICA is also available for use by naval or ground-based air defence systems.

The MICA is fitted with a HE warhead focused on splinter fragments and compatible with any advanced fighter aircraft. Its lightweight and compact dimensions allow the integration of up to six missiles on medium to lightweight fighters.


The Python-5 from Rafael Advanced Defence Systems is a fifth-generation AAM designed to engage very short range and near BVR targets. It is the newest member of the Python missile range and one of the most advanced AAMs in the world.

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