PL-17 Air-To-Air Missile Seen On Chinese J-16

PL-17 Air-To-Air Missile Seen On Chinese J-16

China has released a photo of its J-16 Flanker derivatives tooled up with air-to-air missiles. The most impressive loadout shown out of a quartet (division) of J-16s in an overhead break pattern includes the huge PL-17 Air-To-Air Missile Seen On Chinese J-16 (also referred to as the PL-XX or PL-20) long-range air-to-air missile.

Impressive Missile Loadout

The image shows the formation of four jets with varying configurations of air-to-air missiles, two of which are particularly impressive. The fighters in question carry four PL-10s, one PL-12, four PL-15s, and one big PL-17. This loadout spans short to very long-range engagement envelopes, with the PL-17 providing unprecedented reach.

Background on the PL-17

The PL-17, also dubbed the PL-20, is like the big gun of China’s air-to-air missiles, designed specifically for their People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). This missile packs a punch with a claimed range of 400 kilometers (that’s about 250 miles) and it’s all about taking down the big guys like tankers and early warning aircraft. Back in 2016, they tested it out on a Shenyang J-16 fighter, and now it’s all set to be used on other Chinese fighters like the Su-30MKK and Su-35. This bad boy, the PL-17, is different from the PL-21 because of its size and power.

It officially joined the PLAAF team in October 2022, according to Chinese state media. One thing that really stands out about it is its size, it’s a whopping 6 meters long, much bigger than other long-range air-to-air missiles out there. But hey, that size comes with a trade-off; it can’t fit inside the Chengdu J-20’s internal weapons bay. When this missile takes flight, it relies on a mix of guidance systems like inertial, satellite navigation, and data-link to find its targets.

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And when it’s in the final phase, it switches on its seeker mode with active radar and infrared tracking to lock onto its target all by itself. Plus, it’s sleek and maneuverable, thanks to those four small control fins and thrust-vectoring engines. People talk different numbers about its range, but some say it can cover between 300 to 500 kilometers, while others stick to the 400-kilometer mark. What’s really impressive is its reported speed faster than Mach 4! That’s one seriously fast missile ready to rule the skies🐉.

Massive Concern for US Military

The PL-17 Air-To-Air Missile Seen On Chinese J-16, along with other Chinese far-firing air-to-air missile developments, is a massive concern to the U.S. military. These worries have largely prompted the service to work at rapidly fielding the still highly classified AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile, among other long-range air-to-air missile initiatives.

Though the US is already aggressively working on a Very Long Range Air-to-Air Missile, the formal induction of this missile into the PLAAF’s arsenal may fuel an ongoing arms race between the two countries, especially in the aerial warfare domain.

PL-17 Likely Operational

The photo showing two of its J-16s carrying the big PL-17 missiles points to them being operational or close to operational. At the same time, this image was posted by the Chinese military and was meant to be seen by a Western audience.

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