The US always relies on this $439,000 missile to shoot down Chinese surveillance balloons or mysterious UFOs

Be it drowning three alleged Chinese ‘spy’ balloons or targeting unknown aerial objects over Alaska, Michigan and Canada, the United States has prominently used one particular missile to bring down anything that the country believes is a threat to its people. And that is the AIM-9X Sidewinder.

The American-made AIM-9X Sidewinder is a heat-seeking missile and has been one of the most widely used air-to-air missile types in aerial warfare for the last three decades.

It was first introduced in the 1950s, as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, and it has evolved over time. It is believed that the AIM-9X Sidewinder greatly influenced the design of most of the modern heatseekers, thanks to espionage efforts by China and the erstwhile Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In the aftermath of the Chinese balloon fiasco and shooting yet-to-be-known aerial object, the air-to-air missile has once again come to the spotlight.

Here’s what you need to know about it:

Who made them?

The missile is made by Virginia-based Raytheon Technologies Corp. This weaponry has been in the US arsenal for decades. While the weapons are primarily manufactured for US forces, the missile is also sold in large quantities to a range of American allies.

Chiến đấu cơ Mỹ bắn hạ khinh khí cầu 'do thám' của Trung Quốc

Sold to over 30 foreign partners

According to Raytheon, it is currently being sold to 31 foreign military partners, including countries like South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.

Though primarily an air-to-air weapon, the latest AIM-9X version can also be used from the ground and against land-based targets. It is widely deployable in a range of modern aircraft including the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor aircrafts.

This versatility has allowed the missile to break records by helping the advanced F-22 fighter jet score its first air-to-air kill.

US has not revealed the number of missiles it has, but it is believed to be on the higher side as according to Bloomberg, the US Air Force received its 100,000th such missile in 2021.

What is the cost

According to Bloomberg, the US Department of Defence is looking to purchase 255 such missiles for $111.9 million for the 2023 financial year. Which means that a missile costs about $439,000 each.

However, some countries have purchased in significant discounts while other countries usually pay for associated equipment, parts and training costs as well.

For example, Malaysia sought to procure just 20 AIM-9X-2 missiles for $52 million in 2011, after including such secondary costs.

How do they work?

The AIM-9X Sidewinder is a supersonic, heat-seeking, short-range missile. Among the main components are: an infrared homing guidance section, an active optical target detector, a high-explosive warhead and a rocket motor.

With the help of the infrared guiding system, the missile has the capability to lock in on targets in a range of settings at any time of the day.

Weighing around 186-pound (84 kg), this killing missile is powered by solid fuel, and it has a length of 9.9 feet (3 meters).

Raytheon Technologies Corp has also released a so-called Block II variant of the missile with enhanced features, including a lock-on-after-launch capability so the pilot shooting the device does not have to rely on just visual aiming.

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