PiLi-9 Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile
The PiLi-9 (PL-9) infrared-homing, short-range air-to-air missile has been developed by the Luoyang-based China Academy of Air-to-Air Missile for the export market. The missile was reportedly developed from the indigenous PL-5 and PL-7, but fitted with a new infrared seeker based on the Israeli Python 3 AAM technology. So far the missile has only been promoted to the export market with no inventory in the PLA, but a surface-to-air variant known as PL-9D have been deployed by the PLA ground forces in small numbers.
Development of the PL-9 began in 1986 in parallel with another SRAAM programme PL-8, a Chinese licensed copy of the Israeli Python 3. It is somehow confusing for China to have two SRAAM development programmes with similar performance at the same time. One possible explanation is that the PL-8/Python 3 co-production agreement between China and Israel prohibited exporting the missile to a third-party. Therefore China integrated the Python 3 IR seeker with an indigenous missile airframe to produce the PL-9 specifically for the export market.
Small batch production of the PL-9 commenced in 1989. A model of the surface-to-air variant of the PL-9 missile was first revealed during the 1991 Paris Air Show. However, no order for the air-to-air variant of the missile has been received. The improved PL-9C was introduced in the 1990s, again with no order received.
The PL-9 resembles the Python 3 in appearance, but with only one third the range of the latter. The missile features an all-aspects cryogenic liquid nitrogen gas-cooled seeker infrared-homing seeker head unit, which utilises proportional navigation guidance techniques. The missile seeker ’s off-boresight capability is +/-40 degrees. Flight control is by long span pointed delta fins at the front of the missile with Sidewinder-type slipstream driven rollerons on the aft tail fin surfaces to prevent roll and so enhance the operation of the guidance system.
The performance of the PL-9 can be improved by integrating with a Chinese indigenous helmet-mounted sight (HMS), which is similar to the Arsenel helmet sight for the Russian R-73. A Chinese brochure credits the helmet sight with a 60 degrees off-boresight capability, or a 120 degrees field of fire. During the November 1996 Zhuhai Air Show, a Chengdu (CAC) engineer confirmed that the HMS will be fitted onto the F-7MG fighter.
Missile length: 2.90m
Missile diameter: 0.157m
Launch weight: 115kg (PL-9); 123kg (PL-9C)
Warhead: 10kg HE (PL-9); 12kg (PL-9C)
Propulsion: One solid-propellant rocket motor
Off-boresight capability: 60 degree
Speed: Mach 2.1
G Limit: 35G (PL-9); 40G (PL-9C)
Range: 0.5~5km (PL-9); 0.5~22km (PL-9C)
Guidance: All-aspect infrared + helmet-mounted sight guidance
Last update: 12 October 2008