A Chaparral missile launcher.
|Type||Mobile SAM system|
|Place of origin||United States|
|In service||1969-1998 (US)|
|Used by||See list of present and former operators|
|Unit cost||Launcher vehicle: US$1.5 Million|
Missile round: US$80,000
|Variants||See list of variants|
The MIM-72A/M48 Chaparral was an American self-propelled surface-to-air missile system based on the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile system. The launcher is based on the M113 family of vehicles. It entered service with the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps in 1969 and was phased out between 1990 and 1998. It was intended to be used along with the M163 VADS, the Vulcan ADS covering short-range short-time engagements, and the Chaparral for longer range use.
Starting in 1959 the U.S. Army MICOM (Missile Command) began development of an ambitious anti-aircraft missile system under their "Forward Area Air Defense" (FAAD) program, known as the MIM-46 Mauler. Mauler was based on a modified M113 chassis carrying a large rotating A-frame rack on top with nine missiles and both long-range search and shorter-range tracking radars. Operation was to be almost entirely automatic, with the operators simply selecting targets from the search radar's display and then pressing "fire". The entire engagement would be handled by the fire control computer.
In testing the Mauler proved to have numerous problems. Many of these were relatively minor, including problems with the rocket motors or fins on the airframe, but others, like problems with the fire control and guidance systems, appeared to be more difficult to solve. Army strategy from the mid-1950s PENTANA study was based on having embedded mobile anti-aircraft capability, and Mauler's delays put this entire program in question. More worrying, a new generation of Soviet attack aircraft was coming into service. For both of these reasons the Mauler program was scaled back in 1963 and alternatives were studied.
MICOM was directed to study whether or not the Navy's AIM-9D Sidewinder missile could be adapted for the ground-to-air role. Since the Sidewinder was guided by an infrared seeker, it would not be confused by ground clutter like the radar-guided Mauler. On the downside, the missile required some time to "lock on", and the current generation seekers were only able to lock onto the tail of an aircraft. MICOM's report was cautiously optimistic, concluding that the Sidewinder could be adapted very quickly, although it would have limited capability.
A new concept, the "Interim Forward Area Air Defense" (IFAAD) evolved around the Sidewinder. The main concern was that at shorter distances the missile would not have time to lock onto the target before it flew out of range, so to serve this need a second vehicle based around the M61 Vulcan cannon was specified. Both would be aimed manually, eliminating the delay needed for a fire control system to develop a "solution". Neither vehicle concept had room for a search radar, so a separate radar system using datalink was developed for this role.
The studies were completed in 1965 and the Chaparral program was begun. The first XMIM-72A missiles were delivered to the US Army in 1967. Ford developed the M730 vehicle, adapted from the M548, itself one of the many versions of the widely used M113. The first Chaparral battalion was deployed in May 1969.
A small target-acquisition area radar, the AN/MPQ-49 Forward Area Alerting Radar (FAAR), was developed in 1966 to support the Chaparral/Vulcan system, although the FAAR is transported by the Gama Goat and thus not suitable for use in the front line.
The MIM-72A missile was based on the AIM-9D Sidewinder. The main difference is that to reduce drag only two of the fins on the MIM-72A have rollerons, the other two having been replaced by fixed thin fins. The MIM-72's MK 50 solid-fuel rocket motor was essentially identical to the MK 36 MOD 5 used in the AIM-9D Sidewinder. The MIM-72 missile is launched from the M48 fire unit, consisting of a M730 tracked vehicle fitted with an M54 missile launcher capable of holding four missiles ready to fire. The M48 carries an additional eight missiles stowed.
The MIM-72A like the FIM-43 Redeye uses a first generation infra-red seeker, and can be fooled by flares and "hot brick" jammers, such as the L166 IRCM unit fitted to the Mi-24. Also the missile needs to be able to see the hot exhaust of an aircraft, making it a tail chase only missile. A similar B model for training was identical to the A model with the exception of a different warhead fuze.
The C version of the missile, from 1974, has an improved guidance section that gives the missile an all-aspect capability, as well as a new doppler radar fuze and an improved warhead. The fuze and warhead were adapted from the earlier Mauler program. C models were deployed between 1976 and 1981, reaching operational status in 1978. An experimental D model used the warhead from the C version with the seeker from the A model, but was not deployed.
The Chaparral system is manually fired by visually tracking the targets, slewing the missile carrier into the general direction, and waiting for the missile seekers to "lock on" to the target. It is not suitable for engaging helicopters "popping up" behind cover, for instance.
In 1977 Ford and Texas Instruments started a project to give the Chaparral a limited all-weather capability through the addition of a FLIR camera. The test firings in 1978 also used a new smokeless motor, which greatly improved visibility after firing and made it much easier to fire follow-up rounds. The testing proved successful, and the FLIR upgrades were carried out in September 1984. Existing missiles were upgraded with the new motor to become the MIM-72E, while new-build versions (otherwise identical) were known as the MIM-72F.
A final upgrade adapted the greatly improved seeker from the FIM-92 Stinger to the MIM-72, starting in 1980. The Stinger's seeker is considerably more capable in terms of off-axis "sighting," as well as being able to reject most common forms of jamming. Ford was contracted to deliver the resulting MIM-72G starting in 1982, and all existing missiles had been updated by the late 1980s. New-build G models followed between 1990 and 1991. By this point in time the system was already being removed from regular Army service, and being handed over to the National Guard.
Two export-only versions of the MIM-72 were also built, the MIM-72H which is an export version of the MIM-72F, and the MIM-72J, a MIM-72G with a downgraded guidance and control section.
The missile cost approximately $80,000 and M48 fire units $1.5 million.
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