ROKAF F-4E Phantom Fires Live AIM-7M Sparrow Missile

A ROKAF F-4E fires an AIM-7M Sparrow. (Image credit: ROKAF)

The last South Korean F-4Es took part in a live firing exercise that saw one Phantom fire an AIM-7M Sparrow Air-to-Air Missile.

Between Mar. 11 and 15, 2024, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) conducted live air-to-air and air-to-ground firing training that involved about 40 aircraft of all types, including the F-35A, F-15K, KF-16, F-16, FA-50, and F-4E, as well as U.S. F-16s.

The exercise saw the aircraft tasked with the interception of low-flying cruise missiles launched by the enemy and then with precision air strikes on the origin of the enemy’s firepower: a scenario that simulated the possible escalation of the long standing crisis between South and North Korea.

When the “air-to-air missile live-fire training target”, acting as an enemy cruise missile, was launched, the F-15K, F-35A, FA-50, KF-16, F-16, and F-4E each launched air-to-air missiles to hit the target. The F-35A fired the AIM-9X so as the F-15K fired; the KF-16 fired the AIM-9L and the AIM-120B air-to-air missiles; the F-16 employed the AIM-120B; the FA-50 used the AIM-9L whereas the F-4E  fired an old AIM-7M air-to-air missile.

After the enemy launched long-range artillery, ROKAF F-15K, KF-16, and F-16 jets launched air-to-ground missiles and dropped PGMs against the enemy launch sites: the F-15K used the AGM-84H air-to-ground missile and the GBU-31/38 JDAMs; the KF-16 fired the AGM-65G Maverick, the SPICE-2000 air-to-ground bomb as well as the GBU-31/38s; the F-16s dropped the GBU-31; the FA-50 fired the AGM-65G.

The video below shows the South Korean fighters employ a wide array of weapons during the drills. Remarkable, is the segment showing the Phantom firing an AIM-7M, the latest variant of the radar-guided, air-to-air missile Sparrow introduced in 1982 and featuring improved reliability and performance over earlier models (dating back to the mid 1970s) at low altitudes and in electronic countermeasures environments.

The F-4Es are about to be retired from active service after a 47-year career within ROKAF: the first of 94 Phantoms were inducted into active service in 1977. The service also operated the F-4D and RF-4C which have already been retired, respectively in 2010 and 2014. Both the F-4E and the F-5 fleets will be replaced with F-35A Lightning IIFA-50 Golden Eagle and KF-21 Boramae combat aircraft.

The ROKAF F-4Es are based Suwon Air Base located about 20 miles to the south of Seoul. Suwon is the homebase of the 10th Fighter Wing, the parent unit to the 153rd Fighter Squadron, flying the F-4E Phantom.

Only a dozen F-4Es and about 20 F-5s were still in service at Suwon AB last year.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.