For more than 40 years, the AIM-7 Sparrow was one of the U.S. Navy’s two most widely used air-to-air missiles (the AIM-9 Sidewinder was the other). It was also adopted by the U.S. Air Force and many foreign militaries. Though conceived in 1946, it is still in service more than 70 years later, albeit in several substantially different forms. The missile’s history exemplifies the Navy’s very successful spiral approach to developing weapons, which improves established systems step by step, rather than by inventing whole new weapons.
Armaments and Innovation -The 70-Year History of the Sparrow Missile
By Norman Friedman