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According to leaked internal reports from the USAF, the true capabilities of China’s PL-15 Very Long Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) might be overstated. While China claims a range of 200 kilometers, the USAF report suggests this may be significantly reduced due to launch restrictions.

The report indicates that achieving the advertised 200km range hinges on a critical launch condition: the fighter jet firing the missile must be travelling at Mach 1.2 at an altitude of 10km. However, real-world combat scenarios often involve different launch conditions.

Taking these launch limitations into account, the USAF report estimates the actual effective range of the PL-15 against another fighter jet to be around 140km. This is a significant reduction from the 200km claimed by China.

The report suggests similar limitations might apply to the PL-15E, the export variant sold to Pakistan. With an advertised range of 145km, the USAF estimates the real-world range could also drop by 30% as well. This would leave the PL-15E with a practical range of just over 105-110km, potentially negating any advantage for the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) J-10CE fighters equipped with this missile.

The report highlights that the PAF’s F-16s are already equipped with the AIM-120C AMRAAM variant, with a well-established range of 110km. This puts the capabilities of the PL-15E, even considering China’s advertised range, roughly on par with existing weaponry in the region. PAF had claimed that J-10CE fighters were procured in response to Indian Rafale fighter jets and Air to Air Parity was achieved with Indian Rafale with induction of the PL-15E which they claimed would counter India’s acquisition of the Meteor Missiles with Rafales, which wasn’t because Meteor Missiles uses Ramjet Propulsion Meteor Missiles which touted as much superior to the Dual-Pulse Propulsion. 

India’s domestically developed Astra missiles. The Astra Mk-I boasts a range of 110km, comparable to the AMRAAM AIM-120C varaint and potentially the PL-15E. Additionally, India’s Astra Mk-II, with a real-world range estimated at 130km, could potentially outrange the PL-15E if reports of the USAF are to be believed. 

PL-15E uses a Dual-pulsed solid-propellant rocket so it can’t offer a superior range of over 110km even in Good launch altitudes confirms Defence Analyst Ranesh Rajan told, recent reports of 130km Astra MkII only confirm that will be Real world range of the missile and not the 160km that often has been advertised in the media for a fighter size target. 

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