26 February 2016
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New Chinese missiles revealed at the Singapore Airshow
The China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (CATIC) began marketing its TL-2 and TL-7 missiles at the Singapore Airshow, which took place last week.
With a range of 180km, the TL-7 is a sub-sonic anti-ship missile (AShM) capable of being launched from surface warships, aircraft and ground-based launch systems. According to Dr. Richard Fisher, a close observer of China’s military developments, the TL-7 is likely based on the KD-88. CATIC is positioning the missile to compete against the C-802A, which is offered by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).
It is unclear what improvements the TL-7 offers over the C-802, which has seen some success in the export market, but a lighter weight AShM could be compelling, especially for fighter aircraft such as the JF-17.
The TL-2 is a short-range air-to-ground missile designed for use by light aircraft, such as the ASN-209 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The TL-2 has a range of 6 km and an accuracy of 2-8 metres CEP. Specifics have not been given in terms of the TL-2’s guidance options, such as the question of whether it is capable of being tipped with a millimeter wave (mmW) seeker.
China presents L-15 as a multi-role fighter option
CATIC is also pitching the L-15 lead-in fighter-trainer (LIFT) platform as a lightweight multi-role fighter.
At the Singapore Airshow, CATIC showcased a mock-up of the L-15 equipped with a range of air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions. Defense News was able to identify the SD-10 beyond visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM), PL-5E-II within-visual-range air-to-air missile (WVRAAM), and LS-6 precision-guided bomb (in its 250 kg and 500 kg formats).
Although designed as an advanced trainer, the L-15 has the physical performance benchmarks to operate as a fighter. For example, the L-15 possesses a maximum payload of 3000 kg (distributed across six hardpoints), ferry range of 3,100 km, and combat radius of 550 km (Air Force Technology).
With China’s full arsenal of exportable air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions, the L-15 can give aircraft competing for the low-end of the market, e.g. advanced trainers, lightweight fighters (e.g. JF-17), and light attack aircraft (e.g. Super Tucano), serious competition.
Is the KG600 EW/ECM pod available for sale?
At the Singapore Airshow, Defence News was also able to spot an L-15 mock-up equipped with the KG600 electronic warfare (EW) and electronic countermeasure (ECM) pod. If the system shown on the L-15 is indeed the KG600 (and not the older KG300), it would be a fairly significant development. The KG600 is at the center of China’s tactical EW strategy. For example, not only is it equipped on its various combat aircraft, such as the JH-7A, but it is also a key element of its J-16-based dedicated-EW aircraft.
CATIC FC-20 is the J-10A
Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) also marketed the FC-20 at the Singapore Airshow. It seems the FC-20 is simply the J-10A, and not the much improved J-10B or J-10C.
For those not familiar, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had planned to induct 36-40 FC-20s as part of its fleet modernization program. However, it has since walked away from the idea, and is opting to center its short-term fighter-acquisition needs on the JF-17 and F-16.
To the PAF, the FC-20 simply did not offer enough of a performance jump (relative to existing PAF fighters) to justify the costs of inducting an entirely new platform. AVIC’s confirmation that the FC-20 is the J-10A and not the newer J-10B/C offers additional and much-needed context into the PAF’s view. In fact, Alan Warnes, a leading defence aviation observer and writer (especially in regards to the PAF), also noted (in July 2015) that the J-10B was not cleared for export.