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PL-21

The Chinese Military Aviation website reported 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.

The US media said that China's new ultra-long-range air-to-air missile codenamed "PL-21", which is 5 meters long, uses a high-throwing ballistic and double-pulse solid rocket engine, uses active radar and infrared imaging dual-mode guidance, and is corrected by a two-way data link. Ballistics can be launched by mounting on the J-16 and J-20. The US Air Force believes that the air-to-air missile has a range of 400 kilometers and can pose a huge threat to US military early warning aircraft, electronic warplanes and other special aircraft. China should not underestimate the new long-range air-to-air missile being developed by the US Air Force, Chinese military experts said on Wednesday after the development of the new US weapon was revealed. The US Air Force is working with arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin and other branches of its military to develop a new long-range air-to-air missile called the AIM-260, which is expected to enter military service by 2022, US media outlet the National Interest reported on 24 June 2019. The motivation behind such a development is to counter China's top long-range air-to-air missile, the PL-15, which was made public in 2016, the National Interest reported, quoting US Air Force Weapons Program Executive Officer Anthony Genatempo.

Having a maximum range of about 160 kilometers, the US' current air-to-air missile the AIM-120 is apparently inferior to China's PL-15, judging by the US military's decision to create a new weapon, the National Interest report said. The PL-15 is equipped with active electronically scanned array radar and is thought to have a range of about 200 kilometers. China's top stealth fighter jet J-20 displayed its weapons including what analysts said was the PL-15 missile at Airshow China in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province in November 2018. China is also developing a new missile known as the PL-21, which could reach targets 300 kilometers away, the Business Insider report said. Some Chinese military observers said the US, once a forerunner in weapon development, is now chasing China, and the new AIM-260 could be a copycat of the PL-15 in terms of applied technologies.

An anonymous Chinese military expert, however, told the Global Times 26 June 2019 that China should not underestimate the AIM-260 due to its late-mover advantages. The expert predicted that the US missile could use revolutionary technologies to boost range significantly without making it significantly larger, and these technologies will in return bring pressure to China's air-to-air missile development. US media used to hype that China made copycat weapons, which makes little sense as weapon designing tends to converge due to similar combat requirements, said the expert, suggesting the US is probably not trying to copy China's weapons.




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