The PL-9 [Pili = Thunderbolt, or Pen Lung = Air Dragon] is China's latest third-generation air-to-air fighting missile. It has infrared guidance and boasts omnidirectional attack capability and good maneuverability. Its supplier is China National Aviation Import and Export Corporation. Its all-round performance is said to be better than that of the AIM-9L/M Sidewinder missile, and comparable to the R-73 of Russia. Apart from its control surfaces the PL-9 is almost identical to the Israeli Python 3, which was developed from the AIM-9L. But the PL-9 has only about one-third the range of the Python 3. Israel sold China its 9-mile range Python 3 infra-red guided air-to-air missile in the late 1980s.
The PL-9 is used as a surface-to-air guided missile, desinated the DK-9, in the 390 missile and artillery combination air defense system unveiled in 1991 by Beifang Industrial Company. This complex includes a photoelectric sensor, IBIS ultra-low-altitude searching radar, 3C&I command station, 90 double 37 anti-aircraft gun, 702 anti-aircraft fire control system (including a radar and optical surveillance system, a friend-and-foe identifier, a data transmission system, and fire control computer). One complete system can cover an airspace of 3,000 square kilometers and take on 48 targets simultaneously. The "80" anti-aircraft artillery system is a less advanced system based on the 702 fire control system lacks the PL-9 surface-to-air guided missile.
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