Toropol R-3 (K-15)

The Russian equivalent of the US Sidewinder Air-to-Air missile (the early models being almost identical to the AIM-9B Sidewinder) the K-13 family of missiles was first seen on Soviet fighters on the 9th of June 1961 during a Russian air display. Developed by the Toropol OKB, The K-13 (NATO Code Name AA-2 ‘Atoll’) would see much employment within the air forces of the Warsaw Pact, and was also exported to Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Cuba, Egypt, Finland, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Vietnam. In addition the missile was manufactured under license in India by Hindustan Aeronautics (from the 1970s) and (reportedly) also by the Chinese.

The missile was initially introduced as armament for the MiG-21F-13, which sacrificed one of its two cannon in order to carry two K-13s, but all subsequent variants of the MiG-21 would be equipped with launchers for the K-13 (commonly from two large adapter shoes (which housed the seeker cooling system) mounted on underwing pylons. In addition to the MiG-21, the K-13 was occasionally seen on the MiG-17PFU fighter-trainer as a substitute for the earlier AA-1 missile.

As with many Soviet AAMs of the Cold War era, the K-13 was built in two main variants. The R-3R semi-active radar homing model (SARH) with a range of 4.9 miles (8 km) and the IR-homing R-3S version (IRHM) which had a similar range and was also carried by the MiG-23S swept-wing fighter which lacked the of RP-23 radar to enable it to launch the intended R-23R (AA-7 Apex). A later version, the IR-Homing R-3M (NATO AA-2-2 ‘Advanced Atoll’) would have an increased range of 6.2-8.1 miles (10-13 km) and this version would make its debut on the MiG-21bis to augment the R-3R SARH.

These missiles have seen plenty of combat experience during conflicts in the Middle East, SE Asia and over India/Pakistan. Early results were not impressive. The pilot’s aural buzz, which changed to an increasingly urgent warbling as the missile seeker locked on to its target as the range closed, could not always be relied upon as proof of subsequent homing, but it is believed that this problem was later rectified by further development of the system.


Length: of 11.2 ft (3.42m)
Launch Weight: 183-lb (83-kg). (The R-3M was slightly heavier)
Warhead: 13.2 -lb BF Type with smooth exterior.

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