R.550 Magic

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Matra R550 Loaded on Pylon of Mirage 2000-5EI 2046 20120811.jpg
R550 Magic
TypeShort-range air-to-air missile
Place of originFrance
Service history
In service1975 (Magic) and 1986 (Magic 2)
Used bySee Operators
Production history
ManufacturerMatra, MBDA
Mass89 kg
Length2.72 m
Diameter157 mm
Warhead13 kg fragmentation

0.3 to 15 km
Flight altitudeup to 11 km
Infrared homing
Dassault Rafale, Dassault Mirage 2000, F-16, Sea Harrier(FRS51), Super Étendard, Mirage F1, Mirage 5, Mirage III.

The R.550 Magic ("Backronym" for Missile Auto-Guidé Interception et Combat[1][2]) is a short-range air-to-air missile designed in 1968 by French company Matra to compete with the American AIM-9 Sidewinder, and it was made backwards compatible with the Sidewinder launch hardware.


On 11 January 1972, a Gloster Meteor of the centre for in-flight trials fired the R550 Magic and shot down a Nord CT20 target drone (unmanned aerial vehicle).

Mass-produced from 1976, the Magic was adopted by the French Air Force and the Navy.

The Argentine Air Force received "Magic 1" for its Mirage IIIEA during the 1982 Falklands War.

The Argentine Navy received "Magic 1" for its Super Etendards after the 1982 Falklands War.

An upgraded version, the "Magic 2", replaced the original model in 1986. 11,300 Magic 2 were produced; it was exported, notably to Iraq and Greece, who used it in combat.

The Magic is still carried by the Dassault Rafale, Dassault Mirage 2000, F-16, Sea Harrier (FRS51), Super Étendard, Mirage F1, Mirage 5, and Mirage III, it is gradually being replaced by the MBDA MICA.

480 were sold to Taiwan and used by the Republic of China Air Force.


The Magic has 4 fixed fins, 4 movable fins directly behind the fixed fins, and 4 notched fins on the tail, which is mounted on a bearing and is free to rotate independently of the missile. This is in contrast with the AIM-9, which made use of "rollerons," which were slipstream driven gyros mounted on the tail fins which stabilized the missile in three axes, and had no fixed fin "canards" forward of the moving fins, its diameter is larger than the Sidewinder's, which is 5 inches (127mm) and a legacy of the US Navy's five inch rocket, from which the AIM-9 is derived; the larger diameter simplified engineering. It has a solid-fuel engine, and can engage the target independently from the firing aircraft with its passive infrared homing system.

The Magic 2 replaced the AD3601 seeking head by the AD3633, allowing frontal fire on the target (the Magic 1 could only be fired from the rear on the target). The Magic 1 has a transparent dome on its nose, while the Magic 2 is opaque.


Map with R.550 operators in blue and former operators in red

Current operators[edit]

Former operators[edit]

Operational history[edit]


On 8 October 1996, 7 months after the escalation over Imia/Kardak a Greek Mirage 2000 fired an R550 Magic II and shot down a Turkish F-16D[3] over the Aegean Sea; the Turkish pilot died, while the co-pilot ejected and was rescued by Greek forces.[4][5] In August 2012, after the downing of a Turkish RF-4E on the Syrian Coast, in response to a parliamentary question, Turkish Defence Minister İsmet Yılmaz confirmed that Turkish F-16D Block 40 (s/n 91-0023) of 192 Filo was shot down by a Greek Mirage 2000 with an R.550 Magic II on 8 October 1996 after violating Greek airspace near Chios island.[6]

South Africa[edit]

The South African Air Force (SAAF) received a number of R.550 missiles before a widespread international arms embargo took effect in 1977. SAAF Mirage III and Mirage F1 aircraft carried the R.550. South African Mirage F1 aircraft fired early generation R550 missiles in combat over Angola against MiG-21 and MiG-23 adversaries on a number of occasions. In all but one case, the missiles failed to damage or destroy the MiGs. In an engagement between a Mirage F-1CZ and MiG-21 in October 1982, two R.550s were fired by SAAF Major Rankin and one of them damaged the FAPLA MiG-21.[7] The limited performance envelope of early generation R.550s led South Africa to begin developing an indigenous AAM called the V-3 Kukri.

See also[edit]