UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


PL-12 / SD-10 / Tianyan 90

PL-12The 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.

Domestic-made SD-10 medium-range air-to-air missiles Medium-range air-to-air missiles was the "darlings" of modern air combat. Its role and status surpassed traditional close-range combat missiles. The world's major air force powers are racing to develop advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. China also attached great importance to medium-range air-to-air missiles. After decades of efforts, it finally developed a new type of medium-range air-to-air missile SD-10 with world advanced levels.

The earliest medium-range air-to-air missile in China was the PL-4 missile developed in 1966. It used an aerodynamic layout similar to that of the American Sparrow 3A (AIM-7D). It also adopted the Soviet Union ís commonly used program in air-to-air missile design. The "one-bomb, two-head" scheme, through the exchange of two different seekers, semi-active radar and passive infrared, forms two types of missiles: semi-active radar and passive infrared.

Although the semi-active radar model PL-4 has a certain beyond-horizon combat capability, this method requires the carrier to carry out full-range radar irradiation, and it cannot be fired as "fire and forget", and it is difficult to deal with maneuvering targets. Therefore, the semi-active radar guidance method was being phased out by the Air Forces of various countries, replaced by the active radar guidance method, SD-10 uses this advanced guidance method.

The SD-10 medium-range air-to-air missile was developed in the mid-1980s and has now completed its development work. The projectile uses a normal aerodynamic layout, with a total length of 3850 mm, a diameter of 203 mm, a wingspan of 674 mm, a weight of 180 kg, a maximum launch distance of 70 km, a maximum speed of Mach 4, a maximum operating overload of 38G, and a combat altitude of 25 km. Omnidirectional attack ability and good ability to look down and shoot.

From these data, it can be seen that the performance indicators of SD-10 have reached the level of the famous AIM-120, P-77 and other advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. Because the guidance method is advanced active radar plus strapdown inertial navigation system, SD-10 has the ability to "fire and forget". Its overload of up to 38G can also ensure that the missile can track and intercept the air target that implements 9G overload maneuver. The inescapable attack zone for targets such as F-16 is approximately 35 km to 45 km in front of the aircraft, similar to AIM-120.

The warhead of SD-10 is a high-efficiency rod-type killing warhead, which has good damage effect on fighters and bombers and other large and small targets. In addition, SD-10 has a strong anti-interference ability and can effectively counter several forms of electronic interference, basically covering the current common methods of electronic interference.

Some Chinese experts believe that the performance of the domestic SD-10 has surpassed the US AIM-120A / B, the Russian P-77 and the French "Mica", which is slightly inferior to the AIM-120C. SD-10 is very versatile and can be mounted on a variety of advanced fighters. Not long ago, the successful Xiaolong fighter has the ability to launch SD-10. But other Chinese analysts report that the SD-10 is not as powerful as rumored. Although SD-1O does reach a fairly high level, the SD-1O still canít compete with AIM-120. Compared with missiles such as R-77, China's missiles have poor anti-jamming performance. In the actual combat exercises of the Chinese and Russian air forces in 2001, only a few PL series missiles were effectively tracked.

In order to improve the combat effectiveness and use of SD-10, China is still actively improving it, first of all is to increase the range, which is expected to exceed 100 kilometers; second is to use better electronic components and improve the accuracy of guidance. In the future, it is possible to develop the SD-10 into ground-to-air and ship-to-air types, equip high-mobile off-road vehicles and warships, and become short-range air defense weapons.

Page last modified: 19-10-2021 16:10:42 ZULU