One of the "smart" weapons revolutionizing warfare is a new airplane missible that promise to change aerial dogfighting for all time.
The new missile is a major advance over the "smart" missile which sup-planted the machine gun and cannon as the major weapon in aerial combat. That "smart" missile has a drawback - a blind spot.
The pilot armed with today's Side-winder missile still has to maneuver to get on the enemy plane's tail before firing. The Sidewinder, if he does that, is supposed to home in on the heat from the other plane's engine and blow up inside it.
Toda's Sidewinner cannot be fired at an enemy plane flying directly at the American pilot. Life or death still depends largely on which pilot can maneuver best within close range of the other.
The new advance that has American fighter pilots excited is a Sidewinder that can fire from head-on, from the side of enemy plane of from the classis tail position. It promises quick kills without so much maneuvering.
Designated the AIM-9L Sidewinder, the missile is now in production and will soon be deployed on Air Force and Navy planes. One source said yesterday that the new Sidewinner is so deadly that military officials are reluctant to let it be sold overseas where Communist countries could capture one.
The new Sidewinder's heat-seekers are much more sensitive than today's version. Pentagon official said. The aircraft is enough for the new SideWinder to home in on.
Also, the new Sidewinner can outfly any plane in the sky today, according to military officers in charge of its development. There will be no way for today's fighter plane to escape if the Sidewinner looks on to it, they said.
During the Vietnam war, American pilots managed to foil the Soviet anti-aircraft missiles partly by making steep dives and sharp turns to outma-neuver the pursuing missile.
Because the new Sidewinner is still aimed at any enemy airplane that's in the pilot's sights, the missile homes in only on the heat from it, not the launching aircraft.
Such "smart" weaponsas the new Sidewinder and cruise missile promise to change not only fighting tactics but future designs of planes, tanks and artillery. Future planes, specialists predict, will not have to be as smart or as expensive as today's versions because the missile can do the maneuvering and killing.
"The age of the smart weapon is here," said William J. Perry, Pentagon research director, in an interview with The Washington Post. He said smart weapins will "revilutionize warfare."