What is the mechanism holding a missile onto the hard-point of a wing, and how does it smoothly release the missile when it's ready to fire? What about the electric cables that also need to detach without getting caught?

I just want to get an idea of how simple or complex it is. I hope it's not some hydraulic "nightmare" device.


1 Answer 1


AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 Scorpion are mounted on LAU-7 or LAU-127/8 launchers, known as "rails".

Upon signal from the pilot, the motor fires. The missile goes forward. The umbilical cable connecting the missile to the launcher breaks away as the missile moves forward.

As far as how they're held on, there is a spring loaded lock mechanism, that is overcome by the missile motor. pg 3-22 here: https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/navy/nrtc/14313_ch3.pdf

DETENT, DETENT LOCK, DETENT-LOCKSOLENOID, AND SNUBBERS.—The detent, detentlock, detent-lock solenoid, and forward snubbers (fig.3-18) make up an electromechanical system that restricts longitudinal and lateral motion of the mounted missile. This system prevents accidental launch or release during catapult takeoff or arrested landings. A slotted detent wrench/safety pin is installed through the mechanism assembly to prevent movement of the aft detent and to safe the launcher firing circuits. It is also used to raise the aft detent lug sufficiently to clear the missile hanger during loading. The slotted detent wrench/safety pin is removed before flight. When the detent is down (normal), the striker points make contact with the buttons (contacts) on the forward hanger of the missile. The forward striker point does not have a function for the missile; the aft striker point makes contact between the missile and the firing safety switch

Body mounted missiles such as an AIM 7 or AIM -120 on a F-15 are kicked out away from the fuselage a couple of feet before the missile motor activates. There is a long cable that breaks away once the missile starts to leave. The ejector foot is actuated by a small explosive charge.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting historical sidenote... A spring detent on the AIM-9 rail keeps sidewinders from freely sliding off the rail until sufficient rocket motor thrust can overcome the spring force, During late 70s, (or early 80s?), it happened that the manufacturer of these springs screwed up and released a large lot of them for F-15 fleet with too high a force, so high in fact that full rocket motor thrust was insufficient to overcome the restraining force. This had to be kept very secret whilst a corrected batch of replacement springs was manufactured and delivered to the fleet. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2021 at 14:58

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