US response to China's top air-to-air missile should not be underestimated: experts

By Zhang Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/26 16:50:33

Two J-20s howling through the sky with their missile bays open, each showcasing six missiles as the stealth fighter jets celebrated the 69th birthday of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force on the last day of the Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province on Sunday. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

China should not underestimate the new long-range air-to-air missile being developed by the US Air Force, Chinese military experts said on Wednesday after the development of the new US weapon was revealed. 

The US Air Force is working with arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin and other branches of its military to develop a new long-range air-to-air missile called the AIM-260, which is expected to enter military service by 2022, US media outlet the National Interest reported on Monday.

The motivation behind such a development is to counter China's top long-range air-to-air missile, the PL-15, which was made public in 2016, the National Interest reported, quoting US Air Force Weapons Program Executive Officer Anthony Genatempo.

Having a maximum range of about 160 kilometers, the US' current air-to-air missile the AIM-120 is apparently inferior to China's PL-15, judging by the US military's decision to create a new weapon, the National Interest report said.

The PL-15 is equipped with active electronically scanned array radar and is thought to have a range of about 200 kilometers, the Business Insider reported on Monday. 

China's top stealth fighter jet J-20 displayed its weapons including what analysts said was the PL-15 missile at Airshow China in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province in November 2018.

China is also developing a new missile known as the PL-21, which could reach targets 300 kilometers away, the Business Insider report said.

Some Chinese military observers said the US, once a forerunner in weapon development, is now chasing China, and the new AIM-260 could be a copycat of the PL-15 in terms of applied technologies.

An anonymous Chinese military expert, however, told the Global Times that China should not underestimate the AIM-260 due to its late-mover advantages.

The expert predicted that the US missile could use revolutionary technologies to boost range significantly without making it significantly larger, and these technologies will in return bring pressure to China's air-to-air missile development.

US media used to hype that China made copycat weapons, which makes little sense as weapon designing tends to converge due to similar combat requirements, said the expert, suggesting the US is probably not trying to copy China's weapons.


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