R-73 (missile)

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AA-11 Archer
R-73 NTW - 94.jpg
TypeShort-range air-to-air missile
Place of originSoviet Union
Service history
In service1984–present
Production history
ManufacturerMoscow Kommunar Machine-Building Plant, Tbilisi Aircraft Manufacturing, TAM Management
Mass105 kilograms (231 lb)
Length2.93 metres (9 ft 7 in)
Diameter165 millimetres (6.5 in)
Warhead7.4 kilograms (16 lb)

EngineSolid-fuel rocket engine
Wingspan510 millimetres (20 in)
  • R-73A, R-73E: 30 kilometres (19 mi)[1][2]
  • R-73M, RVV-MD: 40 kilometres (25 mi)[1][3]
Maximum speed Mach 2.5
All-aspect infrared homing

The R-73 (NATO reporting name AA-11 Archer) is a short-range air-to-air missile developed by Vympel NPO that entered service in 1984.[4]


The R-73 was developed to replace the earlier R-60 (AA-8 'Aphid') weapon for short-range use by Soviet fighter aircraft. Work began in 1973, and the first missiles entered service in 1984.[4]

The R-73 is an infrared homing (heat-seeking) missile with a sensitive, cryogenic cooled seeker with a substantial "off-boresight" capability: the seeker can detect targets up to 40° off the missile's centerline.[5] It can be targeted by a helmet-mounted sight (HMS) allowing pilots to designate targets by looking at them. Minimum engagement range is about 300 meters, with maximum aerodynamic range of nearly 30 km (19 mi) at altitude. The weapon is used by the MiG-29, MiG-31, Su-27/33, Su-34 and Su-35, and can be carried by newer versions of the MiG-21, MiG-23, Sukhoi Su-24, and Su-25 aircraft.[6] India is looking to use the missile on their HAL Tejas.[citation needed]

The R-73 missile with the infrared homing system is designed to kill enemy highly-agile manned and unmanned combat and recon aircraft in dogfights and in ranges as max as 40km, the missile is capable of doing that both during day and night and has the all aspect look-down/shoot-down capabilities. It can destroy its targets on the tail-chase and head-on courses in spite of heavy electronic countermeasures sures, the Missile boasts the canard configuration being mounted on nose-section, as well as aerogas-dynamic device controlling the engine's thrust vector and D/L capability. This enhances the missile's agility/manoeuvrability greatly thus enabling it to hit targets that are manoeuvring at 12G. Owing to its sensitive infrared devices, the R-73 is one of the first short range all-aspect air-to-air missiles across the world with both pursuit and collision-course attack capability. The R-73E homing device is fed target designation data through the Pilot's HMD, R-73 Air-to-Air Missiles are attached to the APU-73 launching adapters mounted on the outer wing hardpoints. The R-73 can also use its EOTS sensors to designate a target behind itself and fire a fox 2 via datalink.

Shortly after German reunification in 1990, Germany and other ex-Warsaw Pact countries found themselves with large stockpiles of the R-73 missiles or AA-11 Archers as designated by NATO, and had concluded that the R-73/AA-11's capabilities had been noticeably underestimated by the west.[7] In particular, the R-73 was found to be both far more maneuverable, and far more capable in terms of seeker acquisition and tracking than the latest AIM-9 Sidewinder.[8] This realization started the development of newer missiles to help compete, including the ASRAAM, IRIS-T and AIM-9X.

From 1994, the R-73 has been upgraded in production to the R-73M standard, which entered Russian service in 1997. The R-73M has greater range and a wider seeker angle (to 60° off-boresight), as well as improved IRCCM (Infrared Counter-Counter-Measures). Further developments include the R-74 (izdeliye 740) and its export variant RVV-MD.[9] Russia currently receives new improved air-to-air missiles on the basis of the R-73.[citation needed]

An improved version of the R-74, the K-74M (izdeliye 750) features fully digital and re-programmable systems, and is intended for use on the MiG-35, MiG-29K/M/M2, Su-27SM, Su-30MK and Su-35S. A further upgrade, known as the K-74M2 (izdeliye 760), is intended for the fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 aircraft. This missile has reduced cross-section to fit in internal weapon bays and will match the performance of the AIM-9X and the ASRAAM. A clean sheet design, the K-MD (izdeliye 300), will supersede the K-74M2 in the future.[10][11]

AA-11 Archer missile.PNG

Operational history[edit]

On 24 February 1996, two Cessna 337s of the Brothers to the Rescue were shot down while flying over international waters 10 nautical miles outside of Cuban airspace by a Cuban Air Force MiG-29UB.[12] Each of the aircraft was downed by an R-73 missile.[13]

During the Eritrean-Ethiopian War from May 1998 to June 2000, R-73 missiles were used in combat by both Ethiopian Su-27s and Eritrean MiG-29s. It was the IR-homing R-60 and the R-73 that were used in all but two of the kills.

On 18 March 2008, a MiG-29 Fulcrum of the Russian Air Force intercepted a Georgian Elbit Hermes 450 UAV over Abkhazia. The MiG-29 destroyed the UAV with an R-73 missile.[14]

On 27 February 2019, Indian officials claims that an IAF MiG-21 Bison had successfully engaged and shot down a Pakistani F-16 with an R-73E missile during the 2019 Jammu and Kashmir airstrikes.[15] Pakistan denied the loss of its aircraft.[16][17]

On 7 May 2022, Ukraine confirmed that Colonel Ihor Bedzay, the deputy head of the Ukrainian Navy, was killed when his Mi-14 was shot down by a Russian Su-35. The cannon was used by a Russian Su-35 to try and shoot down the Mi-14PS however the helicopter appears to have evaded it, then the Su-35 has fired an R-73 missile that is reported to have shot it down.[18][19]


  • R-73 - Standard model with ±40° off-boresight.
  • R-73E - Export version of the standard model with ±45° off-boresight. The missile has a maximum range of 30 kilometres (19 mi) with 8 kg warhead.[2]
  • R-73M - Improved model.
  • R-74 (izdeliye 740) - Improved model with ±60° off-boresight.
  • RVV-MD - Export model of the R-74M with ±75° off-boresight. The missile has a maximum range of 40 kilometres (25 mi) with 8 kg warhead.[20]
  • R-74M (izdeliye 750) - Improved model with ±75° off-boresight.
  • R-74M2 (izdeliye 760) - Further improved variant with reduced cross-section for the Sukhoi Su-57. It serves as the Russian equivalent to the AIM-9X and ASRAAM.


Map with R-73 operators in blue with former operators in red

Current operators[edit]

Former operators[edit]



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  2. ^ a b "R-73E". Rosoboronexport. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  3. ^ "RVV-MD". Rosoboronexport. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Striving for a Safer World Since 1945".
  5. ^ Reed Business Information Limited. "Vympel reveals previously classified air-to-air missiles". Retrieved 23 December 2014.
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  8. ^ "Locking range". Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
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  10. ^ Butowski, Piotr. Russia and CIS Observer. 17 June 2007.
  11. ^ "Vympel plans to develop air-to-air missiles for Russia's PAK FA fighter". Jane's Missiles and Rockets. 19 May 2006
  12. ^ University of Minnesota Human Rights Library (1999). "Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Costa, Mario de la Pena y Pablo Morales v. Republica de Cuba, Case 11.589, Report No. 86/99, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.106 Doc. 3 rev. at 586 (1999)". Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  13. ^ "Cuba11.589". Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  14. ^ "Russian jet shoots Georgian drone © Reuters". YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  15. ^ "R-73 missile: The weapon with which Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman brought down Pakistan's F-16 jet but they couldn't supply any evidences to support their claims, U.S. count shows no Pakistan F-16s shot down in Indian battle". Zee News India. Essel Group. 2 March 2019. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  16. ^ Shinkman, Paul (11 December 2019). "State Department Reprimanded Pakistan for Misusing F-16s, Document Shows". U.S.News. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  17. ^ Indian Radar Data That Supposedly Proves They Downed An F-16 Is Far From "Irrefutable", 8 April 2019, The War Zone
  18. ^ "Russian Sukhoi Fighter 'Hunts Down' A Ukrainian Mi-14PS Chopper; Incident Gets Caught On Camera — Watch". www.eurasiantimes.net. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  19. ^ "A brave Ukrainian colonel died". www.thetimeshub.in. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
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  24. ^ "Twitter". Retrieved 24 May 2021.
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  26. ^ "Su-25KM SCORPION (It is made in Georgia)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  27. ^ Newdick, Thomas. "Iranian MiG-29 Blasts Target Out Of Sky In Bonkers Low-Level Display (Updated)". The Drive. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
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  29. ^ Cooper, Tom (2018). Hot Skies Over Yemen, Volume 2: Aerial Warfare Over the South Arabian Peninsula, 1994-2017. Warwick, UK: Helion & Company Publishing. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-911628-18-7.
  30. ^ "Trade Registers". armstrade.sipri.org.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gordon, Yefim (2004). Soviet/Russian Aircraft Weapons Since World War Two. Hinckley, England: Midland Publishing. ISBN 1-85780-188-1.
  • Yak-130 04. August 2013.

External links[edit]