Red Top (missile)
Red Top missile
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|In service||1964 - 1988|
|Used by||United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait|
|Manufacturer||Hawker Siddeley Dynamics|
|Warhead||31 kg (68.3 lb) annular blast fragmentation|
|Green Garland infrared proximity; secondary contact fuze|
|Engine||Linnet solid fuel motor|
|7.5 miles (12 km)|
|infrared homing, limited all-aspect|
The Hawker Siddeley (later British Aerospace) Red Top was the third indigenous British air-to-air missile to enter service, following the de Havilland Firestreak and limited-service Fairey Fireflash. Originally a modified version of the Firestreak, Red Top emerged as a much more capable weapon.
Red Top was originally a rationalised, upgraded version of the earlier Firestreak air-to-air missile. In 1956, de Havilland Propellers started work on the Blue Jay Mark 4 (its development codename) and Firestreak Mk. IV. Such were the changes that it was effectively a new missile. It arranged its components in more logical fashion than the Firestreak (which had its warhead in the tail), with an improved "Violet Banner" seeker, "Green Garland" IR fuze, and a more powerful "Linnet" booster rocket. It also had a larger warhead, at 31 kg (68.3 lb) against 22.7 kg (50 lb), and which was now an expanding rod type.
The Red Top was faster and had greater range and maneuvrability than the Firestreak, and its more sensitive infrared seeker enabled a wider range of engagement angles. Being more sensitive it could home in on a target that had been warmed by air friction heating. In the aftermath of the 1957 Defence White Paper, Red Top was initially seen to be a stopgap measure only until the Bloodhound Mk. II SAM came into service. This meant that some of the planned improvements to Red Top were never carried out, including all-aspect capability (as seen on the later AIM-9L/M Sidewinder). Red Top was only "capable of all aspect homing against super-sonic targets." "Unlike modern [1990s] missiles, Red Top and Firestreak could only be fired outside cloud, and in winter, skies were rarely clear over the UK."
The Red Top entered service in 1964, arming the English Electric Lightning and de Havilland Sea Vixen. It remained in limited service until the final retirement of the Lightning in 1988. Unusually, the missile that the Red Top was intended to replace – Firestreak – also remained in limited service on the Lightning until 1988.