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PL-13 - fifth generation air-to-air missile

PL-13After photos emerged online in 2013 showing the J-20 China's first generation fighter carrying two types of missiles suspended from its weapons bay during a test flight, the Global Times, a tabloid under the auspices of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, reported that one of the missiles may be the PL-13, the nation's fifth generation air-to-air missile.

The picture shows a new type of missile called the PL-13, which is the first appearance of the missile. From the disclosed picture, the PL-13 adopts a double-inlet ramjet engine, which is very similar to Russia. The latter was a kind of joint development between the "Purple Flag" Design Bureau and the French company Matra in the early 1990s.

With similar capabilities to the AIM-9X missile of the United States, the J-20 carrying a PL-13 missile would be able to counter the F-22 stealth fighter in a potential air war against the United States, the paper said. The aerodynamic rudder of the PL-13 looks very similar to the Russian-built R-27, but the design of its strake wing is more like the R-77, another Russian-designed missile.

As the PL-13 can reach hypersonic speeds of Mach 5, it is nearly impossible for aircraft to evade the missile after it is launched. With a combination of the Active Phased Array Radar and the PL-13 air-to-air missile, none of the US-built fighters currently used by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force would be able to match the J-20 in a potential air war.

The China Luoyang Air-to-Air Missile Research Institute is interested in using ramjet engines to further improve the PL-12 missiles. The appearance of the PL-13 air-to-air missile image points to the possibility that the Vympel Missile Design Bureau of Russia sold the technology for manufacturing such missiles to China. The PL-13 air-to-air missile image shows that the missile uses an aspirated ramjet engine with two air inlets.

The PL-13 image appears to show a two-intake ramjet motor, a configuration that Vympel had come to prefer as it was developing its R-77M-PD, following early 1990s collaboration with Frances former MATRA Corporation. The ramjet intake shape on the PL-13 appears to conform to one known Vympel configuration. Furthermore, the four cruciform fins at the front end of the PL-13 are also characteristic of other Vympel missiles like the R-27.

But the front and rear cross-wing wings of the Chinese PLA-13 air-to-air missile are quite similar to the R-27 missile developed by the Pennant Missile Design Bureau. At the same time, the ramjet technology used by China's PL-13 missiles may also come from South Africa, and South Africa has a project called "Remote Air-to-Air Missiles" (LRAAM).

The range of the R-77M-PD missile can reach 160 kilometers, and the range of the PL-13 missile should be similar or even further. Since the PL-13 air-to-air missile adopts an air-jet ramjet engine, it should be able to fly at high speed. It is estimated that it can reach 4 times the speed of sound.

The "Poliage Design Bureau" has already introduced passive guidance R-27 and R-77 to the international market. It can be assumed that PL-13 also has a similar passive guidance mode. In the wartime, this passive mode is very conducive to attacking high-value support planes such as airborne early warning aircraft, electronic warfare aircraft, and aerial refueling aircraft. In addition, PL-13 can also be used as a basic platform to develop light anti-radiation missiles or supersonic anti-ship missiles in the future.



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Page last modified: 02-06-2018 18:26:37 ZULU