Images have emerged on Chinese online military forums showing a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation (CAC) J-10C combat aircraft armed with what appears to be a new beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM).
The fighter was photographed carrying two PL-10 short-range AAMs on its outer underwing pylons and two of the new missiles on its mid-underwing pylons.
Although nomenclature is uncertain as no official information is forthcoming, it is likely that the new missile is the one being referred to unofficially as the PL-15, with its appearance on the underwing pylons of a J-10C possibly reflecting that it is now in service.
The missile is estimated to be around 3.7 m long, with a diameter of 200 mm. It is fitted with low aspect ratio aerodynamic stabilising surfaces (trapezoidal wings) on its mid-section and at the moveable control surfaces (clipped delta fins) at its tail.
The respective surface spans approximately 390 mm and 515 mm. There is no visible evidence of a thrust vectoring control (TVC) system present at the rear of the new missile, as can clearly be seen on the PL-10, so control appears to be aerodynamic only. Additionally, there are no air intakes that would be necessary if propulsion was provided by a ramjet, so it can be assumed that a standard form rocket motor is being used.
Photographs of a similar missile carried by a Shenyang Aircraft Corporation J-16 emerged in 2012, which is thought to be undergoing development trials. Like the recent sighting, the missile’s aerodynamic surfaces are the same low aspect ratio planform, which facilitates loading in the internal weapons bay of the CAC J-20 'fifth-generation' fighter.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options: ihs.com/contact