The PL-7 [Pili = Thunderbolt, or Pen Lung = Air Dragon] air-to-air missile, said by some to be a copy of the French Magic-R550, has automatic target seeking, acquisition and homing ability as well as dog-fight capability. Some analysts claim the missile is no more than a cosmetically enhanced PL-5, with few internal changes.
Developed by Factory No. 331, the infrared PL-7 air-to-air missile showcased automatic searching, high maneuverability, and short-range dog fighting attributes. Research for the PL-7 began in 1977 in which its design and production methods were examined as well the as the missile’s technical and economic practicality.
The MAI assigned the development of the PL-7 missile to Wu Shenduo and Wang Junkan. By 1984, six missiles were produced for testing. This first batch of missiles suffered technically problems such as unstable fuses, inadequate film plating, premature bursting, and overall quality control. By 1985, such problems were solved. Stricter quality control measures were put into place in 1986. By 1987, the missile was certified for production.
Overall, the missile took less than five years to develop, compared to the much longer timeframe of China ’s previous air-to-air missile programs.
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