R-40 (missile)

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AA-6 Acrid
Type Heavy Air-to-air missile
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1970–present
Used by Soviet Union, Syria, Iraq
Wars Iran–Iraq War, Gulf War, Operation Southern Watch
Production history
Designer OKB-4 MR Bisnovatyi
Designed 1959
Produced 1960s–1995
Variants R-40R / R-40T, R-40RD / R-40TD, R-40RD1 / R-40TD1 (radar and IR models)
Specifications (R-40RD)
Weight 475 kg (1,047 lb)
Length 6.23 m (20 ft 5 in)
Diameter 0.31 m (12 in)
Warhead blast fragmentation
Warhead weight 38–100 kg (84–220 lb)
Radar and active laser fuzes

Engine solid-propellant rocket motor
Wingspan 1.45 m (4 ft 9 in)
50–80 km (31–50 mi)[1]
Speed Mach 2.2-4.5[2]
Semi-active radar homing (R-40RD)
Infrared homing (R-40TD)
MiG-25, MiG-31

The Bisnovat (later Molniya then Vympel) R-40 (NATO reporting name AA-6 'Acrid') is a long-range air-to-air missile developed in the 1960s by the Soviet Union specifically for the MiG-25 interceptor, but can also be carried by the later MiG-31. It is the largest air-to-air missile in the world to ever go into production.


The development of the Mach 3+ North American XB-70 Valkyrie threatened to make the entire interceptor and missile force of the Voyska PVO obsolete at one stroke, thanks to its incredible speed and altitude performance. In order to counter this new threat, the MiG-25 was designed, but new air-to-air missiles were also required to enable the MiG-25 to engage its intended targets at the high speeds and altitudes dictated by the requirements. The Bisnovat design bureau began development of the long-range air-to-air missile in 1962. The resulting R-40 was initially matched with the Smerch-A ("Tornado-A") radar of the MiG-25. It was built in semi-active radar homing (R-40R) and Infrared homing (R-40T) versions.

In order to guarantee a kill at such high speeds and in the thin air, a large warhead was needed in order to have a sufficient blast effect. Large control fins were required to give the missile enough maneuvrability at high altitude. All this necessitated a very large missile and as a result, the R-40 is the largest air-to-air missile to ever enter production. It is slightly larger than the MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missile.

Following the defection of IA-PVO pilot Viktor Belenko in 1976 and the compromising of the MiG-25P's systems and the associated R-40s, Vympel developed an improved version of the missile with a better infrared countermeasures (IRCM) resistance and more sensitive seekers. The upgraded missiles were designated with the suffix -D (for 'development', "finalized"). Later -D1 versions were also developed.

Production of the R-40 ended in 1991, but it remains in limited service arming surviving MiG-25 and some MiG-31 interceptors.

Combat history[edit]

In Soviet service, the R-40 was never fired in anger. Standard PVO procedure was to fire a 2-missile salvo at a target; 1 heat-seeking R-40T missile followed by a SARH R-40R, in order to avoid the possibility of the heat-seeking missile locking-on to the radar-guided missile.

As the MiG-25 has been exported to various states in the Middle East, the R-40 has been used in combat by Iraq and probably by Syria and Libya too. Author Tom Cooper claims that Syrian Air Force achieved an air victory on 29 June 1981 when Syrian MiG-25PD ( unit 1 FIS SAF ) shot down an Israeli F-15.[3] This has not been confirmed.

A declassified document of the CIA reports that in the first day of Desert Storm, on 17 January 1991, Scott Speicher's F/A-18C was shot down by an R-40 fired from an Iraqi MiG-25.[4] It is the only confirmed air-to-air kill of the Iraqi Air Force during Operation Desert Storm.[citation needed]


Map with R-40 former operators in blue and current operators in red

Current operators[edit]

Retired in 2008, but recent photographs suggest the MiG-31 still operates with these missiles (2010) .

Former operators[edit]

Retired. 660 missiles originally delivered.
 Soviet Union
Passed on to successor states.
Libyan Air Force[clarification needed]



  • Gordon, Yefim (2004). Soviet/Russian Aircraft Weapons Since World War Two. Hinckley, England: Midland Publishing. ISBN 1-85780-188-1. 

External links[edit]