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The sputter etching of NiFe thin films by Ar ions in a rf plasma has been studied and characterized with the use of a Langmuir probe. The NiFe sputter etch rate was found to depend strongly on incident ion energy, with the highest NiFe etch rates occurring at high rf bias power, low pressure, and moderate rf source power. NiFe etch rates initially increased with increasing rf source power, then saturated at higher rf source powers. Pressure had the weakest effect on NiFe etch rates. Empirically determined sputter yields based on the NiFe etch rates and ion current densities were calculated, and these compared favorably to sputter yields determined using the sputtering model proposed by Sigmund [Phys. Rev. 184, 383 (1969)].