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SOURCE: ANITA DESAI / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

A screengrab of a J-16 fighter of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force purportedly carrying the PL-15 missile

Chinese PL-15 beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) will knock Indian fighter jets out of airspace from nearly 200 kms and will render European-origin MBDA Meteor missile which India is acquiring for its Dassault Rafale useless is the latest scaremongering which has been peddled recently by few in the Indian defense community, most likely to favor imports of more long-range BVRAAMs,even when IAF Chief clearly confirmed that with induction of Astra which he confirmed is at par with  American AIM-120C-5 both in range and specification, will get further boost India’s air to air capabilities when MBDA Meteor AAMs will join the air force this May with deliveries of Dassault Rafale .

PL-15 is significantly longer than the AMRAAM With a length of over 4 metres but it still uses a conventional rocket motor and as per footage of the PL-15 missile being carried on the Shenyang J-16 it seems its much-touted greater range than contemporary systems like the US-built AMRAAM and Russian Vympel R-77 (AA-12 ‘Adder’) is due to additional booster and dual-motor and it doesn’t look it will have range of 200kms for a fighter-sized aircraft.

For a long-range BVRAAM to engage and target a fighter-sized target, it requires a large amount of fuel/propellant to sustain changes and bleed energy to sustain its capabilities to target a maneuverable target like a fighter jet, while a lot of accredited claims of the PL-15 from the Chinese media which is known to hype its weapons system to mythical proposition, many western and Indian analyst believe that PL-15 has no next generation air-breathing ramjet motor nor it looks like it has a greater maneuverability as it approaches a target then it contemporaries.

While most agree that PL-15 might still have a range of 200 km for a wide-bodied aircraft like AWACS, Flight Refueling Aircraft (FRA) and Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) which usually fly deep inside its airspace and can be an effective weapon platform which can be used to target force multipliers of India in event of war and supply of such weapons to the Pakistan in near future is inevitable, but same can’t be said against a fighter size target, but PL-15 is still has improved air to air missile technology coming out of China and with improved AESA Seeker and improved Electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) still is dangerous towards a fighter jets in its range and India needs to fast track its development of Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) which will have a range of 340 km and Air-to-Air variant of BrahMos-A will have a range of 500km range.

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