The PL-12 [Pili = Thunderbolt, or Pen Lung = Air Dragon] SD-10 (PL-12) active radar-guided medium-range air-to-air missile program is now in the test phase. This air-to-air missile program, also called Project 129 or R129, was previously thought to be associated with the purchase or possible license-production of the Russian R-77 (AA-12 Adder) medium-range radar-guided air-to-air missile.
While Project 129 will use technologies from the Vympel R-77, it will have a Chinese developed airframe and a Chinese propulsion unit. The missile is thought to correspond to the PL-12 designation, which is also associated with the SD-10 designation, possibly for export purposes. Like the basic R-77, Project 129 appears to have a body diameter of 200 mm., with a length of around 3.7 meters (12.1 ft.). Unlike the R-77, which has narrow-span mid-body wings and rectangular lattice control fins at the rear, the Project 129 airframe configuration is more orthodox. It has four triangular mid-body wings and four triangular fins at the rear.
China initially tried to address its beyond visual range [BVR] needs by reverse-engineering the semiactive AIM-7 Sparrow, in a program designated PL-10. This effort proved unsuccessful. China then purchased around 100 Aspide missiles from Italy--the eventual intent being the license-manufacture of the missile, to be known as PL-11. This deal collapsed as a result of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
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