R.550 Magic

The R.550 Magic is a short-range air-to-air missile designed in 1968 by French company Matra to compete with the American AIM-9 Sidewinder.

R.550 Magic
Class Missile
Type Air to Air
Manufacturer Matra
Origin France
Country Name Origin Year
France 1975
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
France 1975 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Matra View

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. However, they were procured 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 have used it in actual combat.

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

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


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 over the Aegean Sea. The Turkish pilot died, while the co-pilot ejected and was rescued by Greek forces. In August 2012, after the downing of a RF-4E on the Syrian Coast, in response to a parliamentary question, Turkish Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz 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.

South Africa

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. The limited performance envelope of early generation R.550s lead South Africa to begin developing an indigenous AAM called the V-3 Kukri.

Type Short-range air-to-air missile
Place of origin France
Service history
In service 1975 (Magic) and 1986 (Magic 2)
Used by See Operators
Production history
Manufacturer Matra, MBDA
Weight 89 kg
Length 2.72 m
Diameter 157 mm
Warhead 13 kg fragmentation
Engine solid
0.3 to 15 km
Flight altitude up to 11 km
Infrared homing
Dassault Rafale, Dassault Mirage 2000, F-16, Sea Harrier(FRS51),Super √Čtendard, Mirage F1, Mirage 5,Mirage III.

End notes