R.550 Magic

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R550 Magic
TypeShort-range air-to-air missile
Place of originFrance
Service history
In service1968 (Magic) and 1986 (Magic 2)
Used bySee Operators
Production history
ManufacturerMatra, MBDA France
Unit cost90k USD
Mass89 kg (196 lb)
Length2.72 m (8 ft 11 in)
Diameter157 mm (6 in)
WarheadHigh explosive pre-fragmented 12.7 kg (28 lb) warhead
Contact and RF proximity fuzing

Enginesolid rocket motor
PropellantSolid fuel
10 km (6 mi) (Magic 1)
20 km (12 mi) (Magic 2)
Flight ceiling18,000 m (59,000 ft)
Maximum speed Mach 3 (Magic 1)
Mach 2 (Magic 2)
Infrared homing
British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS.51, Dassault Étendard IV, Dassault Mirage III, Dassault Mirage 5, Dassault Mirage F1, Dassault Mirage 2000, Dassault Super Étendard, Dassault Rafale, General Dynamics F-16, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 LanceR, SEPECAT Jaguar, Vought F-8E(FN).

The R.550 Magic (backronym for Missile Auto-Guidé Interception et Combat[1][2]) is a short-range air-to-air missile designed in 1965 by French company Matra to compete with the American AIM-9 Sidewinder, and it was made backwards compatible with the Sidewinder launch hardware.


On 11 January 1965, a Gloster Meteor of the centre for in-flight trials fired an R550 Magic and shot down a Nord CT20 target drone (unmanned aerial vehicle).

Mass-produced from 1967, the Magic was adopted by the French Air Force and Navy.

The Argentine Air Force received "Magic 1" for its Mirage IIIEA during the 1982 Falklands War.

The Argentine Navy received "Magic 1" for its Super Etendards after the 1982 Falklands War.

An upgraded version, the Magic 2, replaced the original model in 1986. In total, 11,300 Magic 2s were produced; they were exported, notably to Iraq and Greece, who used them in combat.

The Magic is still carried by the Dassault Rafale, Dassault Mirage 2000, F-16, Sea Harrier (FRS51), MiG-21 Lancer,[3][circular reference] Super Étendard, Mirage F1, Mirage 5, and Mirage III. It is gradually being replaced by the MBDA MICA.

Four hundred and eighty were sold to Taiwan and used by the Republic of China Air Force.

PL-7 is the PRC version of the R.550 Magic.


The Magic has four fixed fins, four movable fins directly behind the fixed fins, and four notched fins on the tail, which is mounted on a bearing and is free to rotate independently of the missile. This is in contrast with the AIM-9, which makes use of "rollerons," which are slipstream driven gyros mounted on the tail fins which stabilize the missile in three axes, and have no fixed fin "canards" forward of the moving fins. Its diameter is larger than the Sidewinder's, which is 5 inches (127 mm) and a legacy of the US Navy's five-inch rocket, from which the AIM-9 is derived; the larger diameter simplified engineering. It has a solid-fuel engine, and can engage the target independently from the firing aircraft with its passive infrared homing system.

The Magic 2 replaced the AD3601 seeking head by the all-aspect AD3633, allowing frontal fire on the target (the Magic 1 can only be fired from the rear on the target). The Magic 1 has a transparent dome on its nose, while the Magic 2 is opaque.


Map with R.550 operators in blue and former operators in red

Current operators[edit]

Former operators[edit]

Operational history[edit]


On 8 October 1996, 7 months after the escalation over Imia/Kardak a Greek Mirage 2000 fired an R550 Magic II and shot down a Turkish F-16D[14] over the Aegean Sea. The Turkish pilot died, while the co-pilot ejected and was rescued by Greek forces.[15][16] In August 2012, after the downing of a Turkish RF-4E on the Syrian Coast, in response to a parliamentary question, Turkish Defence Minister İsmet Yılmaz confirmed that Turkish F-16D Block 40 (s/n 91-0023) of 192 Filo was shot down by a Greek Mirage 2000 with an R.550 Magic II on 8 October 1996 in the disputed airspace near Chios island.[17]

South Africa[edit]

The South African Air Force (SAAF) received a number of R.550 missiles before a widespread international arms embargo took effect in 1977. SAAF Mirage F1 aircraft carried the R.550. South African Mirage F1s fired early generation R550 missiles in combat over Angola against MiG-21 and MiG-23 adversaries on a number of occasions. In all but one case, the missiles failed to damage or destroy the MiGs. In an engagement between a Mirage F1CZ and MiG-21 in October 1982, two R.550s were fired by SAAF Major Rankin and one of them damaged the FAPLA MiG-21.[18] The limited performance envelope of early generation R.550s led South Africa to begin developing an indigenous AAM called the V-3 Kukri.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "armement des avions". dan1959.centerblog.net.
  2. ^ "EC 2/13 Alpes jeunesse oblige". petaf-shop.e-monsite.com.
  3. ^ Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21#Romania
  4. ^ Som, Vishnu (26 March 2015). "The Mirage 2000 Upgrade: What Makes India's Fighter Jet Better". NDTV. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  5. ^ Cooper, Tom; Grandolini, Albert; Fontanellaz, Adrien (2019). Showdown in Western Sahara, Volume 2: Air Warfare Over the Last African Colony, 1975-1991. Warwick, UK: Helion & Company Publishing. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-912866-29-8.
  6. ^ Chenel, Liébert & Moreau 2014, p. 151
  7. ^ Tincopa, Amaru (May–June 2021). "Defending the skies of Peru". Revista Pucará. No. 7. p. 35.
  8. ^ Cooper, Tom (2018). Hot Skies Over Yemen, Volume 2: Aerial Warfare Over the Southern Arabian Peninsula, 1994-2017. Warwick, UK: Helion & Company Publishing. p. III. ISBN 978-1-911628-18-7.
  9. ^ Chenel, Liébert & Moreau 2014, pp. 247, 257, 261
  10. ^ Chenel, Liébert & Moreau 2014, p. 71
  11. ^ Cooper, Tom; Grandolini, Albert; Delalande, Arnaud (2016). Libyan Air Wars, Part 3: 1986-1989. Helion & Company Publishing. p. IV. ISBN 978-1-910294-54-3.
  12. ^ Fontanellaz, Adrien; Cooper, Tom; Matos, Jose Augusto (2021). War of Intervention in Angola, Volume 4: Angolan and Cuban Air Forces, 1985-1987. Warwick, UK: Helion & Company Publishing. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-914059-25-4.
  13. ^ Chenel, Liébert & Moreau 2014, p. 285
  14. ^ Turkish F-16 jet crashes after Greek interception. Chicago Sun-Times, October 9, 1996.
  15. ^ Anon. "F-16 Aircraft Database: F-16 Airframe Details for 91-0023". F-16.net. Retrieved: 18 May 2008.
  16. ^ Anon. "Greek & Turkish Air-to-Air Victories". Air Combat Information Group (ACIG), 18 September 2004. Retrieved: 16 May 2008.
  17. ^ "30 years later, Ankara admits Turkish Air Force jet was shot down by Iraq". 6 September 2012.
  18. ^ "Mirage F1 in SAAF Service by Paul Dubois". www.sa-transport.co.za.
  • Chenel, Bernard; Liébert, Michel; Moreau, Eric (2014). Mirage III/5/50 en service à l'étranger. Le Vigen, France: Editions LELA Presse. ISBN 978-2-914017-76-3.