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While Phoenix is frequently claimed to have a range of "over 90 nautical miles" or even longer, those range figures refer to the range at time of launch against a target approaching head-on; the target is being kind enough in this case to close the range about 20nm over the flight time of the missile. A more realistic range figure for the AIM-54 would be about 70nm, and at the outer end of that range, the missile is coasting, and would have a rough time intercepting a nimble target like a fighter (though it might do well against a bomber or ASM, which is what it's designed to shoot at anyway).

The moral of the story is that you should turn away and run like hell when a Tomcat paints you with its radar.

One of the most powerful air to air missiles ever deployed: made by Hughes Aircraft and Raytheon for the F-14 Tomcat, first deployed in 1974. The Phoenix missile has a range of over 100 nautical miles, and delivers a sixty-kilogram high explosive warhead. An F-14 can carry up to six of them.

The Phoenix is radar guided. It was originally designed to target anti-ship cruise missiles such as those used by the Soviet Backfire and Badger bombers, but has found more common use as an anti-aircraft weapon. The newer AIM-54C model, first deployed in 1988, has targeting systems specifically designed for naval aviation targets.

The missile itself is thirteen feet long and fifteen inches in diameter, with a three-foot wingspan. It weighs one thousand pounds and costs about $475,000.

Thanks to dido for additions and corrections.

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