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PL-21

The Chinese Military Aviation website reports that a new long-range active radar homing AAM is under development, based on the PL-12 technology. The new PL-21, said to be similar to the British Meteror Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM). Meteor is a new concept in air to air weapons, employing advanced air breathing motor technology and state of the art electronics to provide optimum performance against increasingly complex threats. Conventional rocket motor powered missiles rely upon an initial boost phase to achieve the high speed required followed by a 'coast' phase to intercept the target. Latest generation, highly manoeuvrable aircraft, are able to out run conventional missiles at the extremes of their range. The air breathing motor proposed for Meteor provides sustained power, following the initial boost, to chase and destroy the target.

METEOR is a fast and highly manuverable Beyond Visual Range air-to-air weapon. Meteor uses a 'stealthy launch' technique, giving the enemy less time to take evasive action and it can engage multiple targets simultaneously - no matter what the weather conditions. METEOR provides the largest No Escape Zone of any air-to-air weapon, resulting in a long stand-off range and high kill probability to ensure air superiority and pilot survivability. Guidance is provided by an active radar seeker benefiting from enhanced technologies drawn from the MBDA Aster and Mica missile programs. METEOR is capable of engaging air targets autonomously by night or day, in all weather and in severe electronic warfare environments. The BVRAAM is equipped with both a proximity and impact fuse to ensure total target destruction in all circumstances.

The PL-12 features an active radar seeker and an integrated ramjet/solid rocket motor with a entral air inlet. As with the Russian R-27/AA-10, the PL-21 features 4 small stabilzing fins behind the active radar seeker. Two-way datalink antennas may be installed in the tail section for mid-course correction. The effective range of PL-21 is expected to be greater than 100km. The missile might be carried by the new J-11B and J-20 fighters for long-range interception. Chinese Military Aviation reports that the first ground launch test took place in March 2010, with development projected to be completed by 2012. Such a two year development cycle seems rather brief, considering the five years that elapsed between the first test flights of the METEOR in 2005 and first deliveries in 2012.




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