Gimlet (rocket)

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For the missile code-named 'Gimlet', see 9K38 Igla.
Gimlet on F2H.jpg
Six-round Gimlet rocket launcher on a F2H Banshee
Type Unguided rocket
Place of origin United States
Production history
Designed 1954–1956
Manufacturer Naval Ordnance Test Station
Produced 1956–1957
Number built 15,000
Diameter 2 inches (51 mm)

Propellant Solid fuel

The Gimlet was an unguided air-to-air and air-to-surface rocket developed by the United States Navy during the early 1950s. Although it proved successful in testing and was ordered into large-scale production, the arrival of the guided missile as a practical and reliable weapon resulted in the cancellation of the Gimlet rocket in 1957.

Design and development[edit]

The development of the Gimlet rocket began in 1951, with the initiation of development of a 1.5-inch (38 mm) rocket for air-to-air use.[1] Work on the rocket was conducted at the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) at China Lake, California, and the project was begun at the behest of North American Aviation.[1] in addition, the 1.5-inch rocket was felt as the ideal caliber to 'fill in a gap' in the U.S. Navy's rocket inventory;[1] studies indicated that aircraft could carry six times the number of 1.5-inch rockets as opposed to the then-in-service 2.75-inch (70 mm) Folding Fin Aerial Rocket.[2]

In 1952, however, the Bureau of Ordnance decided that neither the 1.5-inch or 2.75-inch rocket was required; an earlier directive to develop a 2-inch (51 mm) rocket was still outstanding, and it was felt that standardizing on a single caliber of rocket would be in the Navy's best interest.[2] NOTS had initiated development of a rocket of the 2-inch caliber prior to the outbreak of the Korean War; the concept had been shelved with the war effort requiring higher-priority projects such as the Ram anti-tank rocket to be prioritized; now, however, the project was dusted off and development resumed under the name "Gimlet"[2] – a name that, it was said, meant the rocket was to be a "small anti-MiG" weapon; "Gim" being "MiG" backwards, with an added diminutive.[3]

Gimlet was primarily intended for use in the air-to-air role.[4] The rocket would use a modified version of the FFAR's fuse, reduced in size to fit the smaller rocket;[2] the warhead used for Gimlet took advantage of the latest advancements in explosives technology, and, combined with the advanced fuse, would detonate inside the target aircraft, instead of upon contact.[5] The rocket used a thin-walled aluminum body, also based on FFAR work;[2] the motor used an eight-point star configuration to ensure even burning.[6]

Operational history[edit]

A FJ-2 Fury launches a Gimlet rocket against a F6F target drone

Testing of the Gimlet began in 1954.[7] In the initial test, a FJ-2 Fury shot down a F6F Hellcat target drone, proving the rocket's effectiveness in the air-to-air role.[6] Early launchers carried four rockets, while seven- and 19-round models were developed as well.[8] A six-round clip capable of fitting the internal rocket bays of the F4D Skyray interceptor was also developed.[8]

Following a flyoff against the T-214 rocket, which indicated the necessity to modify the rocket motor to reduce the Gimlet's visual signature,[9] the Navy directed the development of a modified, 'hybrid' rocket, using the T-214's tail; this became known as "T-Gimlet".[9] The modified rocket was considered to be suitable for the Navy's purposes; both the original Gimlet and the T-Gimlet were ordered for production, a 5 million dollar USD contract being allotted to start production at the Shumaker Naval Ammunition Depot in Arkansas.[9]

Despite the seeming success, however, the Gimlet was already becoming obsolete; guided missiles were now considered to be the wave of the future. Production of Gimlet was cancelled in early 1957, after production of 15,000 rockets; that October, the T-Gimlet version was cancelled as well.[9] Although the missile age meant that Gimlet did not enter operational service, the production processes developed for the rocket would be modified and used in the production of the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Babcock 2008, p. 210.
  2. ^ a b c d e Babcock 2008, p. 211.
  3. ^ Babcock 2008, p. 536.
  4. ^ Carelone 1993, p. 39.
  5. ^ Babcock 2008, p. 212.
  6. ^ a b Babcock 2008, p.213.
  7. ^ Parsch 2007
  8. ^ a b Babcock 2008, p.214.
  9. ^ a b c d e Babcock 2008, pp.386–387.