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M48 Chaparral Short-range air defense missile system

us army
M48 Chaparral  Short-range air defense missile system


Date: 2015-11-13
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The M48 Chaparral is a self-propelled short-ranged SAM system, employing a missile based on the Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile. It was the only truly mobile weapon of this class ever fielded by the US military (as the Avenger, LAV-AD, and Linebacker vehicles can only fight in a stationary position).

The US Army`s 1959 FAAD (Forward Area Air Defense) program was originally built around the MIM-46 Mauler SAM, but the Mauler`s numerous problems prompted the Army to pursue an interim system. As a result, the subsequent IFAAD (Interim Forward Area Air Defense) program was initiated in 1963, with the intent to create a "stop-gap" for the Mauler until its flaws could be corrected. The IFAAD program opted in 1965 for a missile based on the Sidewinder, carried by a launcher mounted on a tracked transport vehicle.

The resulting system was developed in 1967. It was comprised of four basic components; the MIM-72 Chaparral missile, the M54 launcher, and the M730 vehicle that carries them, which was derived from the M548. Collectively, these were also referred to as the M48 fire unit. Following approval and procurement by the US Army, the first Chaparral battalion was fielded in 1969. The Chaparrals were gradually transferred to the US Army National Guard in the late 1980s, and finally retired entirely by 1998, though the system remains in service with several other nations (see below). Ultimately, the Mauler system`s problems proved totally insurmountable, forcing the US Army to fully-adopt the "interim" Chaparral system instead.

Interestingly, because of its commonality with the AIM-9D, the early model Chaparral missiles were procured from the US Navy (the AIM-9D being a Navy variant of the Sidewinder). As the development of the Sidewinder and Chaparral diverged in the 1970s, later models were produced new by Ford Aerospace.

The first model of the missile, the MIM-72A, was directly derived from the AIM-9D Sidewinder. Its only significant structural differences from the AIM-9D are that only two of the fins on the MIM-72A have rollerons, while the other two are non-moving. The seeker head of the MIM-72A is derived from that of the FIM-43 Redeye MANPADS missile, and as a result, it is highly susceptible to flares, infrared jamming, and sun glare.

The MIM-72A is propelled by a Mk.50 solid-fuel rocket motor, and has a top speed of Mach 1.5, a ceiling of 3 000 m, and a maximum range of 9 000 m. Its warhead is a Mk.48 11kg continuous rod munition. Its minimum effective altitude and range are 25 m and 500 m, respectively.

The definitive model of the series is the MIM-72G. In addition to an M121 smokeless motor first introduced in the E model, and the new M817 directional doppler fuse and M250 blast fragmentation warhead first introduced in the C model, the G model also boasts the RSS (Rosette Scan Seeker) seeker head derived from that of the FIM-92B Stinger. The RSS seeker head substantially improved the Chaparral`s guidance and sensitivity, allowing for head-on engagements, and also giving this missile significant resistance against flares and infrared jamming systems. As a result, the MIM-72G is thus unquestionably the most capable Chaparral missile built.

The MIM-72G is propelled by the Hercules M121 smokeless solid-rocket motor. It has the same top speed and ceiling, but the range has been increased to 30 000 m. The new M250 warheads is a 12.6 kg annular blast munition. The minimum effective altitude and range of the MIM-72G remain unchanged from the MIM-72A.

Other variants and details of the Chaparral missile are outlined further below.

The launch vehicle for the Chaparral is the M730-based M48, as described above. It has mobility virtually equal to the M113 and M548 series vehicles it is derived from, including air transportability in a C-130H Hercules, and airdrop capability. It is fully-amphibious without preparation, and propelled through water by its tracks.

The cab and chassis of the M48 vehicle are armored, and protected from small arms fire, shell splinters, and blast overpressure, and most mines up to 6 kg anti-tank mine. A collective NBC system is standard.

The M54 launcher can traverse 360 degrees in 6 seconds, and can elevate to 90 degrees, or depress to -9 degrees. It is stabilized in 2 planes, allowing the M48 to launch while on the move. The sights are electro-optical, and in M48 vehicles manufactured from 1984 onward (and many older examples that were back-fitted), this was augmented with a FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) system and a laser rangefinder.

The MIM-72 Chaparral missiles are loaded onto the four launch rails manually, as this munition is light enough for two men to carry with their bare hands. Protective covers on both ends of the missile are removed and the fins manually installed prior to launch. Protective shutters are closed over the windscreen of the M48 fire unit prior to launch as well, due to the possibility of the Chaparral missile’s backblast shattering unprotected glass.

The M48 vehicle lacks either search or targeting radar, and relies on a separate radar set for long-range detection and tracking of aerial targets. It does however possess an IFF system.

It is unclear whether the Chaparral has ever been used in combat, though the US military has never launched one in anger. Though given the performance of the Vietnam War-era Sidewinder missiles, it would likely demonstrate a pK Ratio of at least 25% (which is exceptionally high for guided missiles; most missiles have pK Ratios of between 0.5% and 10%).

At one point, the Chaparral was to be replaced under a second FAAD program by a new SAM system in the 1980s. The ADATS was selected by the US Army, but it was found wanting in testing and development, and not procured by the US military. Deciding to procure the Stinger-launching M6 Linebacker and M1026 Avenger as replacements for the Chaparral, the Army ironically found itself back at square-one; buying an interim weapon to launch a surplus missile, because the preferred, newly-developed model was a failure.

The regular US Army formations began phasing-out the Chaparral in 1990, and Army National Guard formations began to follow suit in 1994. By 1998, the Chaparral was no longer in service with the US military, though the missiles and launchers remained in storage for some time (possibly into the present, pending export sales or disposal).

Approximately 600 M48 fire units and 21 000 MIM-72 Chaparral missiles have been manufactured. They have been operated by eight different nations; Chile, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Portugal, Taiwan, Tunisia, and the United States. As of 2015, it is known to remain operational in Portugal, Taiwan, and Tunisia. It is likely that these nations as well will have phased-out their Chaparrals by 2025.

The M48 fire unit has a unit cost of $1.5 Million, while each MIM-72G Chaparral costs $80 000. However, neither of these systems are in production, and neither are still offered new by the manufacturers.
The specifications of the M48 Chaparral Short-range air defense missile system
Entered service 1969
Crew 2 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight 12.83 t
Length 5.89 m
Width 2.68 m
Height 2.81 m


Missile length 2.9 m
Missile diameter 0.13 m
Missile weight 86 kg
Warhead weight 12.2 kg
Warhead type Annular blast
Range of fire 9 km
Altitude of fire 3 km
Guidance Infrared homing


Engine General Motors 6V53 diesel
Engine power 212 hp
Maximum road speed 56 km/h
Amphibious speed on water ~ 8 km/h
Range 483 km


Gradient 60%
Side slope 30%
Vertical step 0.61 m
Trench 1.68 m
Fording Amphibious

Missile Variants

MIM-72A: Original production model, converted from surplus AIM-9D Sidewinders. Produced from 1967 to 1975.

MIM-72B: Training version of the MIM-72A. Performs almost exactly the same as the MIM-72A, but has a different fuse. Produced alongside the A model.

MIM-72C Improved Chaparral: Has improved guidance system, fusing, and warhead. Produced from 1976 to 1981.

RIM-72C Sea Chaparral: Navalized MIM-72C. Used on Taiwanese warships.

MIM-72D: Hybrid model with the seeker head from the A model, and the warhead and fuse of the C model. Did not enter production.

MIM-72E: MIM-72Cs back-fitted with the M121 smokeless motor.

MIM-72F: Same as the MIM-72E, but factory-new rather than converted.

MIM-72G: The definitive model, essentially an MIM-72F with radically improved guidance. Produced from 1982 to 1991.

MIM-72H: Export model of the MIM-72F.

MIM-72J: Export model of the MIM-72G.

M30: Inert training round based on the MIM-72A.

Platform variants

M54: Four-rail launcher for the MIM-72 Chaparral. Can be mounted on vehicles, ships, trailers, and stationary sites.

M48: M730-based vehicle carrying the M54.

Antelope: Extremely similar system to the Chaparral, with a four-rail launcher for the Tien Chien 1 SAM, mounted on the flatbed of a Toyota 4x4 truck.

M48 Chaparral  Short-range air defense missile system M48 Chaparral  Short-range air defense missile system M48 Chaparral  Short-range air defense missile system M48 Chaparral  Short-range air defense missile system

Date: 2015-11-13
The Source:

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