The AIM-7 sparrow is a medium/beyond medium range developed for the USAF and USN, most famous for its service during the Vietnam war. In War Thunder, this missile is present on several aircraft, at the time of writing including the F-4E, F-4C, FG.1 FGR.2 and F-104S. The missile is guided with radar, unlike most AAMs in War Thunder. This means that you must use, for a SARH, your aircraft’s radar to lock and guide the missile to a target, but allows for resistance to flares, all aspect locks, and relatively long-range engagement. This versatility is what makes the F-4 one of the best aircraft in the game.


To use the AIM-7, some controls are necessary, and some are recommended. All of these can be found in the Multifunction menu.

The Radar section of the multifunction menu

All of these can be bound individually in the controls menu to hotkeys as well. The necessary keys are Switch radar on/off, select radar target to lock, lock radar target on, and close/long range combat. In addition to this, it is recommended to set up secondary weapon selection if you have not already.


Start by turning your aircraft radar on. You should see this icon.

The radar icon for the F-4E Phantom II

The SRC means your radar is in Search mode, and the 19km means it is displaying out to 19km of space in front of you. The gridded green area is where you will detect enemies, and the ungridded area is the gimbal limit of your radar once you do lock an enemy. You can extend this range with the Change radar scope bind, but this is not necessary in most cases.  When you detect an enemy with your radar it will spike it on your display with this symbol.

An enemy registered on the radar

The Phantom radar also has IFF. This is a system that does not allow you to radar lock friendly targets on the radar. They will show as 2 green lines layered over one another and will not have the 2 lines on either side.

If multiple enemy spikes show up on your radar, you may cycle through them with the Select radar target key. Which one you have currently selected will be indicated by the two lines on either side of the spike. Once you have your desired target selected, press your Lock radar target key. The target will now have a green box displayed around them, and your radar display will change.

An enemy locked, as indicated by both the HUD and radar icon

Now you will be able to point your nose in any direction as long as it is within the gimbal limit of your radar without losing lock. The box on the enemy aircraft displays ranging, closure, and heading information. On your radar display, you will notice 3 items. The first is the dot with a box around it. This is the locked target in relation to your aircraft. The second and third are two curves. These both have to do with your selected weapon. To ensure you have the AIM-7 selected, set up secondary weapon selection and select it with your desired binds.

The AIM-7 sparrow being indicated as selected

The first curve on the radar, the one closest to you, is the burn range of your missile. The second curve, farther from you, is the range of your missile calculated for the target you have locked. This range is computed by your fire control system/radar and considers closure, angle, and altitude. For the ideal sparrow launch, you want the target between these two curves. This will allow your missile both maximum terminal energy and maximum maneuverability.

An ideal launch situation

As the range will auto compute, under some circumstances it will be longer or shorter range. To extend the range of your sparrows, use them at higher altitude and on targets with a high closure rate. The optimal use is a high-altitude target going head on with you and firing at high speed. as this will use both advantages.  


Once you have the missile locked on a target you will use your hopefully already bound Air to Air missile lock key.

Weapon lock keybind names

This will initiate the ~1 second warm-up period, and then you will see the normal AAM missile HUD, except there is something different about the Sparrow HUD.  It will automatically radar slave the seeker head to your locked target, but you will notice that the sparrow has 2 circles around the target. The first is the indicator of where the seeker is aiming, which is there for all missiles. The second, however, is your lock strength indicator. The fuller it is, the better chance your have that your Sparrow will track. Also notice that the sparrow indicator will only go red if it is able to track after launch.  To properly lead a sparrow, you must aim ahead of the target to where it will be in approximately 1.5 seconds, as this is when the seeker activates after launch. You must also slightly lift the nose of your aircraft, as the Sparrow drops from the bottom of the Phantom, and points downwards in doing so.

A good lock to launch on
The white lock indicator means your sparrow will not track, and if you fire it will detonate after about 1.5 seconds of flight.

If these conditions are all met, press your AAM fire key and Fox-1! Your missile will fly straight briefly before tracking the target if you properly led it.


If the enemy is not showing up on radar, but you know he is there, you can enter ACM mode, or Air Combat Maneuver mode. This can be done by either pressing your Close/Long Range combat bind or by turning off your radar and pressing your Lock Radar Target bind. This mode is characterized by a flashing green box around your gunsight and a very small acquisition cone. This mode will force the radar to lock the first target it detects within this box. It is useful for close range engagements or when the radar display is crowded, but it has a very limited range. Also be careful as the IFF is disabled in this mode, meaning you may accidentally lock a friendly aircraft. If an enemy aircraft is detected in this box, you may then proceed to use the missile as normal.  This mode is often used in close range head-on engagements (4-8km) when you do not have the time to select the target on your radar selector. A well fired head-on sparrow below 5 km is extremely difficult to dodge.

F-4E Phantom II radar in ACM mode


The AIM-7 sparrow is a staple of the F-4E Phantom II’s kit, and greatly contributes to its versatility, and while it is a very useful tool, also remember that you have 4 very capable Sidewinders. Learning what situations are proper to use each weapon in is important and something that comes with practice. This missile allows you to get dominance at high altitude and early game, as well as make you extremely threatening in head-on engagements. With this guide, you’re hopefully well on your way to a career full of numerous Fox-1 kills.

Published June 30, 2021

One comment on “An in-depth guide on how to use the AIM-7 Sparrow”

  1. Excellent tutorial! I now think maybe I can use my sparrows and Phantoms effectively. Appreciate it, thanks.

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