Paramyxoviruses are responsible for significant human mortality and disease worldwide, but the molecular mechanisms underlying their entry into host cells remain poorly understood. We have solved the crystal structure of a fragment of the simian parainfluenza virus 5 fusion protein (SV5 F), revealing a 96 A long coiled coil surrounded by three antiparallel helices. This structure places the fusion and transmembrane anchor of SV5 F in close proximity with a large intervening domain at the opposite end of the coiled coil. Six amino acids, potentially part of the fusion peptide, form a segment of the central coiled coil, suggesting that this structure extends into the membrane. Deletion mutants of SV5 F indicate that putative flexible tethers between the coiled coil and the viral membrane are dispensable for fusion. The lack of flexible tethers may couple a final conformational change in the F protein directly to the fusion of two bilayers.