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Molniya R-60
Aphid Missile.svg
Type Short-range Air to Air Missile
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1974- present
Production history
Manufacturer Vympel
Weight 43.5 kg (96 lb)
Length 2090 mm (6 ft 10 in)
Diameter 120 mm (4¾ in)

Warhead 3 kg (6.6 lb)

Engine solid-fuel rocket engine
Wingspan 390 mm (15¼ in)
8 km (5 mi)
Flight altitude 20,000 m (65,615 ft)
Speed Mach 2.7
infrared homing
MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-25, MiG-27, MiG-29, MiG-31, Su-15, Su-17, Su-20, Su-22, Su-24, Su-25, Yak-28, Yak-38, Yak-141, Mi-24, BAE Hawk

The Molniya (now Vympel) R-60 (NATO reporting name AA-8 'Aphid') is a lightweight air-to-air missile designed for use by Soviet fighter aircraft. It has been widely exported, and remains in service with the CIS and many other nations.



The R-60 was initially developed for the MiG-23. Work began on the weapon, under the bureau designation K-60 (izdeliye 62), in the late 1960s. Series production began in 1973. It entered service with the designation R-60 (NATO 'Aphid-A').

When introduced, the R-60 was one of the world's smallest air-to-air missiles, with a launch weight of 44 kg (97 lb). It has infrared guidance, with an uncooled Komar (Mosquito) seeker head. Control is by forward rudders with large rear fins. The distinctive canards on the nose, known as "destabilizers," serve to improve the rudders' efficiency at high angles of attack. The R-60 uses a small, 3 kg (6.5 lb) expanding-rod high explosive warhead. Two different types of proximity fuze can be fitted: the standard Strizh (Swift) optical fuse, which can be replaced with a Kolibri active radar fuse. Missiles equipped with the latter fuse were designated R-60K.[1]

According to Russian sources, practical engagement range is about 4,000 m (4,400 yd), although "brochure range" is 8 km (5 mi) at high altitude. The weapon was at until recently one of the most agile air to air missiles, and can be used by aircraft maneuvering at up to 9g against targets maneuvering at up to 8g. A tactical advantage is the short minimum range of only 300 m (328 yd).

Considering that Soviet practice was to manufacture most air-to-air missiles with interchangeable IR-homer and semi-active radar homing seekers, NATO speculated that there might have been a SARH version of the 'Aphid.' However, it is clear that the small size of the 'Aphid' makes a radar-homing version with an antenna of reasonable size impractical, and no such weapon appears to have been contemplated.

An inert training version, alternatively designated UZ-62 and UZR-60, was also built.

An upgraded version, the R-60M (NATO 'Aphid-B'), using a nitrogen-cooled seeker with an expanded view angle of ±20°, was introduced around 1982. Although its seeker is more sensitive than its predecessor, the R-60M has only limited all-aspect capability. Minimum engagement range was further reduced, to only 200 m (218.7 yd).[2] The proximity fuzes had improved resistance to ECM, although both optical and radar fuzes remained available (radar-fuzed R-60Ms with the Kolibri-M fuze are designated R-60KM). The R-60M is 42 mm (1.7 in) longer, and has a heavier, 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) continuous-rod warhead, increasing launch weight to 45 kg (99 lb). In some versions the warhead is apparently laced with about 1.6 kg (3.5 lb) of depleted uranium to increase the penetrating power of the warhead[3]

The inert training version of the R-60M was the R-60MU.


Since 1999, a modified version of the weapon has been used as a surface-to-air missile (SAM) as part of the Yugoslav M55A3B1 towed anti-aircraft artillery system. It has also been seen carried on a twin rail mount on a modified M53/59 armored SPAAG of (former) Czechoslovakian origin. These missiles have been modified with the addition of a first stage booster motor, with the missile's own motor becoming the sustainer. This was done in lieu of modifying the missile's motor for ground launch, as in the case of the US MIM-72 Chaparral.

The current Russian dogfight missile is the Vympel R-73 (AA-11 'Archer'), but large numbers of 'Aphids' remain in service.

Operational history

On 21 June 1978, a PVO MiG-23M flown by Pilot Captain V. Shkinder shot down two Iranian Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters that had trespassed into Soviet airspace, one helicopter being dispatched by two R-60 missiles and the other by cannon fire.

Several Russian reports affirm the AA-8 was widely used during the 1982 Lebanon war, and it was the main weapon used by the Syrians in air to air combat. Some Russian reports that are not acknowledged by the vast majority of western sources affirm that the R-60 was the most successful air to air missile deployed by the Syrians in Lebanon over the Bekaa Valley in 1982. According to Israeli reports, the vast majority of air to air combats consisted of visual range dogfights, and this has been also confirmed by Russian sources.

The Russian reports claimed several F-4s, IAI Kfirs as destroyed by R-60s among other aircraft. This has been denied by Israel and although Israel lost a few F-4s and Kfirs in 1982, the Israelis affirm that SAMs were the only weapons that shot down the few aircraft they acknowledge as lost.

In the Gulf War of 1990-1991, Iraqi Pilot Jameel Sayhood while flying a MIG-29, is claimed to have shot down a British RAF Tornado GR.1A piloted by Gary Lennox and Adrian Weeks, with a R-60MK missile. [4]

An Indian Air Force MiG-21s used infra-red homing R-60 to bring down the Pakistani Naval Breguet Atlantique in 1999, wreckage was found in Pakistani territory, this incident is widely known as the Atlantique Incident.


 North Korea
 Soviet Union


  1. ^ Gordon, Yefim, Soviet/Russian Aircraft Weapons Since World War Two (Hinckley, England: Midland Publishing, 2004), pp. 29-32.
  2. ^ Mladenov, Alexander, "Air-to-air missiles for the fighter 'Flogger,' International Air Power Review vol. 14, 2004, pp. 90-91.
  3. ^ "Health Risks of Using Depleted Uranium," Venik's Aviation, 2001.
  4. ^ "Iraqi air-air victories during the Gulf War 1991". 2004. Retrieved 2009-12-07.  

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