Air Weapons: China Builds A Super Heat Seeker

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December 2, 2011: A new air-to-air missile (PL-10) has been seen on Chinese J-11B fighters. The PL-10 looks very similar to the South African A-Darter. This is an 89 kg (196 pound), three meter (9.3 foot) long heat seeking missile that is highly maneuverable and resistant to countermeasures. The A-Darter is not yet in service, but is designed to be similar to the U.S. AIM-9X. A-Darter is being developed in cooperation with Brazil. It’s not known if PL-10 is actually in service. It has been described and discussed for at least three years.

The J-11 is a clone of the Russian Su-27. The J-11A is being supplanted by the J-11B. At least two squadrons of J-11Bs are in service with the air force. The original J-11 entered service in 1998, but production was very slow and only a hundred were produced. Chinese officials were dismayed with the performance of the obsolete Russian electronics. After that, at least a hundred of the 33 ton J-11A was built. This model was equipped with modern, Chinese made, electronics and is capable of using up to eight tons of radar guided air-to-air missiles and smart bombs. But the J-11B, while the same size and weight as the J-11A, has a more capable AESA radar and is intended to specialize in air-to-ground missions, while also being able to take care of itself in air-to-air combat. The navy is using a beefed up version of the J-11B (the J-11BH) on its carriers.

There appear to be about 200 J-11s in service, with about 40 percent of them J-11Bs. This is deduced by the number of cell phone photos showing up, from different air force and navy air bases.

 


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