Air Weapons: March 16, 2003

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While China is buying Russian R-77 (similar to the U.S. AMRAAM) missiles, it has also announced that it has it's own design for a missile remarkably similar to the R-77. The Chinese missile, the PL-12, looks similar to the R-77 (and has similar operating characteristics), but has a different arrangement of the control fins. Such a missile would weigh up to 500 pounds and have a range of about 80 kilometers. The Chinese had tried to reverse engineer an older US radar guided missile (the Sparrow), but the technology was beyond them. The R-77 has been around since the mid-1990s and the Russians have been eager to cut whatever deals they can, including the outright sale of missile technology. Meanwhile, the Chinese are being cagey about exactly what the PL-12 is and what its origins are. China has been caught stealing military technology before, and has often gotten away with it through denials or the promise of bigger contracts in the future.

 


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