MIM-72 Chaparral

The MIM-72A/M48 Chaparral was an American self-propelled surface-to-air missile system based on the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile system. The launcher is based on the M113 family of vehicles. It entered service with the United States Army in 1969 and was phased out between 1990 and 1998. It was intended to be used along with the M163 Vulcan Air Defense System, the Vulcan covering short-range short-time engagements, and the Chaparral for longer range use.

Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1969
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Chile View
Egypt View
Israel View
Morocco View
Portugal View
Tunisia View
United States of America 1969 1998 View
Taiwan View


Starting in 1959 the U.S. Army MICOM (Missile Command) began development of an ambitious anti-aircraft missile system under their "Forward Area Air Defense" (FAAD) program, known as the MIM-46 Mauler. Mauler was based on a modified M113 chassis carrying a large rotating A-frame rack on top with nine missiles and both long-range search and shorter-range tracking radars. Operation was to be almost entirely automatic, with the operators simply selecting targets from the search radar's display and then pressing "fire". The entire engagement would be handled by the fire control computer.

In testing the Mauler proved to have numerous problems. Many of these were relatively minor, including problems with the rocket motors or fins on the airframe, but others, like problems with the fire control and guidance systems, appeared to be more difficult to solve. Army strategy from the mid-1950s PENTANA study was based on having embedded mobile anti-aircraft capability, and Mauler's delays put this entire program in question. More worrying, a new generation of Soviet attack aircraft was coming into service. For both of these reasons the Mauler program was scaled back in 1963 and alternatives were studied.


MICOM was directed to study whether or not the Navy's AIM-9D Sidewinder missile could be adapted for the ground-to-air role. Since the Sidewinder was guided by an infrared seeker, it would not be confused by ground clutter like the radar-guided Mauler. On the downside, the missile required some time to "lock on", and the current generation seekers were only able to lock onto the tail of an aircraft. MICOM's report was cautiously optimistic, concluding that the Sidewinder could be adapted very quickly, although it would have limited capability.

A new concept, the "Interim Forward Area Air Defense" (IFAAD) evolved around the Sidewinder. The main concern was that at shorter distances the missile would not have time to lock onto the target before it flew out of range, so to serve this need a second vehicle based around the M61 Vulcan cannon was specified. Both would be aimed manually, eliminating the delay needed for a fire control system to develop a "solution". Neither vehicle concept had room for a search radar, so a separate radar system using datalink was developed for this role.

The studies were completed in 1965 and the Chaparral program was begun. The first XMIM-72A missiles were delivered to the US Army in 1967. Ford developed the M730 vehicle, adapted from the M548, itself one of the many versions of the widely used M113. The first Chaparral battalion was deployed in May 1969.

A small target-acquisition area radar, the AN/MPQ-49 Forward Area Alerting Radar (FAAR), was developed in 1966 to support the Chaparral/Vulcan system, although the FAAR is transported by the Gama Goat and thus not suitable for use in the FEBA.

Type Mobile SAM system
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1969–1998 (US)
Used by See list of present and former operators
Production history
Designed 1965
Unit cost Launcher vehicle: US$1.5 Million
Missile round: US$80,000
Produced 1967
Variants See list of variants

End notes