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PL-15 air-to-air missile

The AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missiles installed by the US Air Force have been the benchmark for the development of modern air-to-air weapons for many years. On September 23, 2015, the US "Popular Science" monthly website reported that the PL-15 air-to-air missile was developed by China's 607 (Air-to-Air Missile Research Institute), which provided China with a radar-guided range of about 100 kilometers. Compared with the PL-12, PL-15 radar not only has active detection range increase, but also has anti-interference data link, and there is also a double-pulse solid rocket motor to improve its range.

The AIM-120 is the first active radar-guided line-of-sight air-to-air missile currently in service in the United States. It is also an advanced medium-range air-to-air missile developed by the United States. It has a flight speed of Mach 4 per hour and a range of 110. Kilometers. From the perspective of range, AIM-120 is indeed much weaker than China PL-15. However, the US media said that the US Air Force is worried about the PL-15, not the one that was carried in the J-20 built-in bomb bay and appeared at the 12th Zhuhai Air Show. For long-range air-to-air missiles, the US military believes that China's PL-15 is at best comparable to the latest US military AIM-120D.

In early 2017, photos of an unknown rocket carried by a Chinese J-11B fighter jet have raised questions about whether Beijing is developing a new super-long-range air-to-air missile. Speaking to Sputnik, Russian military expert Vasily Kashin shed some light on China's mysterious missile system. The photos of an unusually large "air-to-air" rocket prompted rumors over the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) adopting a new long-range missile system.

According to Russian military expert Vasily Kashin, the missile in question could have been the so-called PL-15 air-to-air missile. In September 2015, Pentagon officials raised the alarm over China's most advanced air-to-air missile, referred to as the PL-15. It was reported that the new weapon boasted a powerful rocket motor that could potentially give it an advantage over America's main air-to-air missile AIM-120 in terms of firing range.

In his 2015 interview with Flight Global magazine Head of the Air Force's Air Combat Command Gen. Herbert Carlisle stressed that he regarded outmatching the Chinese PL-15 air-to-air missile as "exceedingly high priority" for the US. "The PL-15 and the range of that missile, we've got to be able to out-stick that missile," Carlisle underscored.

Speaking to Sputnik 27 Kanuary 2017, Kashin noted that the PL-15 test images have been repeatedly circulated on the Internet, adding that its mockup was also demonstrated at China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai. Being more than six meters long the new rocket is believed to be a potential replacement for China's current main air-to-air weapon PL-12, an active radar-guided beyond-visual-range missile.

However, while the PL-12 has a range of approximately 100 kilometers, the P-15 is reportedly capable of destroying targets at a distance of 300km or even 400km, Kashin pointed out. The Russian military expert remarked that the PL-12 missile was developed by the People's Republic of China in the late 1990s early 2000s with the assistance of Russia's manufactures and extensive use of Russian components including an active radar homing head. However, it is not clear whether or not Russian specialists were engaged in further refinement of long-range missiles in China.

For its part, Russia's Air Force currently uses the R-77 (NATO code name: AA-12 Adder) medium range, active radar homing air-to-air missile system with a firing range of 110km.

Kashin elaborated that the air-to-air missiles are primarily used against early warning aircraft, electronic warfare and intelligence aircraft as well as large military transport planes and bombers. However, the probability of air-to-air missile hitting a tactical fighter at a large distance is rather low, he remarked. Still, it would be a great success for the Chinese defense industry if it launches mass production of the PL-15-like weapons, the Russian military expert underscored, adding that in that case the Pentagon will obviously have reasons for concern.

In January 2017 the China Daily reported that the photo of a J-11B fighter jet armed with an unknown rocket almost one-fourth of the length of the 22-meter-long plane was published on the People's Liberation Army website. According to the media outlet, the picture was taken during the PLAAF military drills in northwestern China in November 2016. In an interview with the newspaper, military expert Fu Qianshao suggested that China was developing an advanced long-range missile air-to-air missile capable of hitting targets at a distance of up to 400km. "Successful development of this potentially new missile would be a major breakthrough in the [Chinese] Air Force's weapons upgrade," the expert said.

PL-15 PL-15

The J-11B fighter jet has become the latest user of China's self-developed world-class air-to-air missile that was feared by senior US military officers, revealed China's national broadcaster on 04 December 2019. A photo appeared on a China Central Television (CCTV) program showed a J-11B under the People's Liberation Army Air Force carrying a large missile under its wing. The J-20 stealth fighter jet carried the same type of missile and made public display at the Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province, in November 2018, CCTV reported.

This was the first time a J-11B was spotted carrying this type of missile, the report said. "Judging from the shape and aerodynamic design plus the J-20 reference, the missile is very likely to be the PL-15 air-to-air missile," Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, told the Global Times. Wei compared the PL-15 with the US' latest AIM-120 missile, as both have very long effective range that would allow the launch platform to become an airborne sniper, enabling an aircraft to hunt hostile fighters, early warning aircraft and aerial tankers from beyond visual range. the National Interest said the PL-15's effective range could be much higher than the AIM-120's 180 kilometers, but that could be an exaggeration, according to Wei. The PL-15 is also equipped with an active electronically scanned array radar, which makes evasion very difficult, Bloomberg reported.

Dubbed by Chinese military observers as the "aerial trident," the J-20, J-16 and J-10C fighter jets, conducted air defense penetration drills in June 2018, with all of them reportedly carrying the PL-15 missiles. Now the J-11B could join the PL-15 club.

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Page last modified: 07-11-2019 19:02:18 ZULU