If an F-16 is armed with AMRAAM and Sidewinder missiles, with regards to inertia and roll-rate, it would seem to make sense to mount the heavier AMRAAM closer to the fuselage, and the Sidewinder's IR sensor would have a smaller blind spot (created by the aircraft's fuselage) if the weapon were mounted farther away from the fuselage.

Why are AMRAAMs often mounted on the wingtip hardpoints (e.g. as in this picture), instead of the lighter and line-of-sight dependent Sidewinders?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm having trouble finding anything more authoritative than a forum post on this, so leaving a comment instead of an anser, but I've been told many times that having the heavier AMRAAMs on the wingtips reduces wing flutter: as the wings generate more lift, they tend to flex upward (and then rebound and vibrate), and wingtip weight counteracts that. $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Dec 17, 2020 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


The AIM-120 weighs in at about 335lb (152kg), and the AIM-9 at about 190lb (85kg). While heavier, the Stores Management System (SMS) and the Fire Control Computer (FCC) know what is installed where, and compensate/adjust flight characteristics as needed.

You put the most capable missile, the AIM-120, out the outboard stations. You'd use that first. Only later might you want to use the shorter range AIM-9. So, if you were to shoot the AIM-120 from Sta 2 (left inboard), you'd still have the AIM-9 out on the wingtip. Do it the other way around.

Also, the AIM-9 since the AIM-9G can slave the missile seeker head to the aircraft radar. Target acquisition is not solely dependent on the IR in the missile and line of sight.

The AIM-9G was the first version to include SEAM (Sidewinder Expanded Acquisition Mode), basically an improved AIM-9D seeker head, but was quickly made obsolete by the AIM-9H. The latter was the first model to offer limited all-weather capability, as well as solid-state electronics and double-delta control surfaces resulting in a superior maneuverability compared to older models. SEAM slaves the seeker head of the missile to the radar when in "dogfight" mode, which enables the seeker head to be uncaged, slewed toward a specific target by the aircraft radar, and made to track that particular target before being launched.

(from F-16.net - http://www.f-16.net/f-16_armament_article1.html)


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