The R-60 was initially developed for the MiG-23. Work began on the weapon, under the bureau designation K-60 (izdeliye 62), in the late 1960s. Series production began in 1973. It entered service with the designation R-60 (NATO 'Aphid-A').
When introduced, the R-60 was one of the world's lightest air-to-air missiles, with a launch weight of 44 kg (97 lb). It has infrared guidance, with an uncooled Komar (Mosquito) seeker head. Control is by forward rudders with large rear fins. The distinctive canards on the nose, known as "destabilizers," serve to improve the rudders' efficiency at high angles of attack. The R-60 uses a small, 3 kg (6.6 lb) tungsten expanding-rod surrounding a high explosive fragmentation warhead. Two different types of proximity fuze can be fitted: the standard Strizh (Swift) optical fuse, which can be replaced with a Kolibri active radar fuse. Missiles equipped with the latter fuse were designated R-60K.
According to Russian sources,[which?] practical engagement range is about 4,000 m (4,400 yd), although "brochure range" is 8 km (5.0 mi) at high altitude. The weapon was up until recently[when?][clarification needed] one of the most agile air-to-air missiles, and can be used by aircraft maneuvering at up to 9g against targets maneuvering at up to 8g. A tactical advantage is the short minimum range of only 300 m (330 yd).
Soviet practice was to manufacture most air-to-air missiles with interchangeable IR-homer and semi-active radar homing (SARH) seekers – however, a SARH version of the R-60 was never contemplated due to the small size of the missile which makes a radar-homing version with an antenna of reasonable size impractical.
An inert training version, alternatively designated UZ-62 and UZR-60, was also built.
An upgraded version, the R-60M (NATO 'Aphid-B'), using a nitrogen-cooled seeker with an expanded view angle of ±20°, was introduced around 1982. Although its seeker is more sensitive than its predecessor, the R-60M has only limited all-aspect capability. Minimum engagement range was further reduced, to only 200 m (220 yd). The proximity fuzes had improved resistance to ECM, although both optical and radar fuzes remained available (radar-fuzed R-60Ms with the Kolibri-M fuze are designated R-60 km). The R-60M is 42 mm (1.7 in) longer, and has a heavier, 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) continuous-rod warhead, increasing launch weight to 45 kg (99 lb). In some versions the warhead is apparently laced with about 1.6 kg (3.5 lb) of depleted uranium to increase the penetrating power of the warhead
Since 1999, a modified version of the weapon has been used as a surface-to-air missile (SAM) as part of the Yugoslav M55A3B1 towed anti-aircraft artillery system. It has also been seen carried on a twin rail mount on a modified M53/59 Praga armored SPAAG of (former) Czechoslovakian origin. These missiles have been modified with the addition of a first stage booster motor, with the missile's own motor becoming the sustainer. This was done in lieu of modifying the missile's motor for ground launch, as in the case of the US MIM-72 Chaparral.
The current Russian dogfight missile is the Vympel R-73 (AA-11 'Archer'), but large numbers of R-60 missiles remain in service.