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A model of an export version of the PL-12, SD-10A, (bottom-left corner) with JF-17 on display at the Farnborough Airshow 2010.
Type Air-to-air missile
Surface-to-air missile
Place of origin  People's Republic of China
Service history
In service 2007
Used by People's Liberation Army Air Force
People's Liberation Army Ground Force
People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force
Production history
Manufacturer CATIC
Unit cost $550,000
Produced 2002
Weight 180 kg (396 lb)
Length 3.85 m (12.63 ft)
Diameter 203 mm (8 in)

Warhead High explosive fragmentation warhead
Laser/microwave proximity fuse

Engine Solid fuel dual-thrust rocket motor
Wingspan 670 mm
Propellant Solid fuel
70 km[1][2][3][4] - 100 km[5]
Flight ceiling 21 km
Flight altitude 0-21 km
Speed Mach 4
Inertial / Data-link (mid-course)
Active radar homing (terminal phase)
Shenyang J-15
J-11B / J-11BS / J-11BH / J-11BSH
J-10A / J-10S / J-10B
Type 054, Type 054A frigates
External images

The PL-12 (PiLi-12, 霹雳-12), also designated SD-10 (ShanDian-10, 闪电-10), is a radar-guided air-to-air missile developed by China's Luoyang Electro-Optical Technology Development Center. PL-12 is in service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

Development history

The PL-12 active-radar BVR air-to-air missile became the highest priority air-to-air weapons programme for China's military industry during 2002, and supplanted several previous developmental projects (such as the PL-10 and PL-11) in terms of effort and importance. It provides the People's Liberation Army Air Force with a sophisticated, domestic airborne weapon on par with mainstream Western Airforces around the world. It will equip the mainstream of future modern Chinese fighters, and current compatible fighters.

The PL-12 is listed as part of CATIC's current 'Thunder-Lightning' family of air-to-air missiles, that includes the PL-5E, PL- 9C and TY-90 systems (all developed by the Luoyang Electro-Optical Technology Development Center). The chief designer of PL-12 is Fan Huitao (樊会涛) of AVIC I. Development of PL-12 was once led by Dong Bingyin, former chief designer of PL-12 who died in 2000.[6]

Prior to the emergence of the PL-12, China's active radar seeker AAM development programme was sometimes identified as the 'AMR-1'. During Air Show China 1996, held during November in Zhuhai, the China Leihua Electronic Technology Research Institute/No 607 Research Institute exhibited a newly developed active radar seeker, the AMR-1. This seeker was, in turn, believed to have been applied to a new air- to-air missile design, derived from the LY-60 surface-to-air missile, and dubbed the 'PL-12'. This active radar missile, and the earlier semi-active radar homing PL-11, seemed to have a common design heritage with the Italian Aspide missile, supplied to China during the late 1980s. The status of the PL-11 and 'LY-60/PL-12' development programmes is unclear, but sources within CATIC say these earlier programmes have all been abandoned in favor of the PL-12.

The existence of the PL-12 programme was acknowledged by Chinese officials for the first time in early 2002 (the first pictures of the new missile appeared from Chinese sources during 2001). According to CATIC sources the missile has a range of 70 km.[7] Earlier speculation around the AMR-1/LY-60 programme suggested that a ramjet engine was being developed for it, and such a powerplant would allow a missile to be effective at such long ranges.


SD-10A on display with the JF-17 light-weight fighter at the Farnborough International Airshow 2010.

The new PL-12 active guided air-launched anti-aircraft missile uses the radar and data link from Russia's very capable Vympel R-77,[8] combined with a Chinese missile motor. Some sources claim the resulting combination has a greater range than the Russian missile, and a fire-and-forget active guidance (from R-77) capability comparable to the modern U.S. AIM-120 AMRAAM.[9][10][11]

The PL-12 is outwardly very similar to the US-designed AIM-120 AMRAAM. The two share a comparable aerodynamic configuration, although the PL-12 is a little longer, wider and heavier than the AMRAAM. The PL-12 has four rear-mounted control fins that each have a very distinctive notch cut into their base. These fins are longer and more prominent than those of the AMRAAM and are cropped at an angle (rather than in line with the missile body). Four larger triangular fins are fixed to the midsection of the missile. Internally, the leading edge of the centrebody fins is in line with the start of the missile's rocket motor. That motor is a variable-thrust solid rocket booster, that offers two levels of motive power for different sections of the flight envelope.

CATIC is known to be developing X-band and Ku-band active radar seekers, which may be intended for the PL-12. However the latest reports confirm that China has been co-operating closely with Russia's AGAT Research Institute, based in Moscow, and that AGAT is the source of the PL-12's essential active seeker. This joint development effort (perhaps with the name 'Project 129') has reportedly seen the supply of AGAT's 9B-1348 active-radar seeker (developed for the Vympel R-77, AA-12 'Adder') to China for integration with the Chinese-developed missile. Alternatively, technology from AGAT's 9B-1103M seeker family may be offered to China. Russia is also the source for the missile's inertial navigation system and datalink.

The PL-12 has four engagement modes. To take the greatest advantage of its maximum range it will use a mix of command guidance (via a datalink) plus its own inertial guidance before entering the active radar terminal guidance phase. The missile can also be launched to a pre-selected point, using its strap-down inertial system, before switching on its own seeker for a terminal search. Over short ranges the missile can be launched in a 'fire-and-forget' mode using its own active seeker from the outset. Finally, the PL-12 has a 'home-on-jam' mode that allows it to passively track and engage an emitting target, without ever using its own active radar or a radar from the launch aircraft. This capability is the foundation on which the capability of anti-radiation missile is developed. The seeker is connected to a digital flight control system that uses signal processing techniques to track a target. The missile's warhead is linked to a laser proximity fuse.

The PL-12 is claimed to have an operational ceiling of at least 21 km, with a maximum effective range of 70 km and a minimum engagement range of 1,000 m. The missile has a 38+ g manoeuvering limit and, according to CATIC, it has been tested for a 100-hour captive 'live flight' life. According to Chinese claims, PL-12 is more capable than the American AIM-120 A/B, but slightly inferior than the AIM-120C.

The PL-12 can be deployed by the Chengdu J-10, Shenyang J-8F, Shenyang J-11 and JF-17 combat aircraft.[4]

Three new variants of the PL-12 have been unveiled with newer ones in development:[12]

  • PL-12B: with improved guidance system[12]
  • PL-12C: with foldable tailfins for internal carriage on 5th-generation fighters[12]
  • PL-12D: with a belly inlet and ramjet engine for even longer range attacks, similar to the PL-21[12]

Surface-launched version

Like the AIM-120 AMRAAM, PL-12 is also used as SAM, and tests have already successfully completed as the possible replacement of LY-60, but such system has not entered service because China has already been developing the vertical launched version. The vertical launching system is developed by the Luoyang Optronic Technological Development Center in Henan, and the system is called CCL, short for Concentric Cylindrical Launcher, which is similar to American Mk 48 VLS in appearance, but due to the very limited information publicized, it is difficult to tell if the Chinese VLS is a "cold launch" system or a "hot launch" system like that of American Mk 48 VLS.


LD-10 (LD = Lei Dian, 雷电 in Chinese, meaning thunder and lighting) is an anti-radiation missile developed from PL-12/SD-10, first revealed to public in the 9th Zhuhai Airshow held in November 2012. The missile is smaller than the anti-radiation version of YJ-91, but like YJ-91, it's also supersonic. LD-10 is similar to AGM-88 HARM in terms of usage, but its size and range are less, weight around the same as PL-12 and range is greater than 60 km.


At the 7th Zhuhai Airshow held at the end of 2008, a mobile air defense system (ADS) based on PL-12/SD-10 were revealed to the public. The weapon system is designated as LS-II ADS, with LS stands for Lie Shou, meaning Hunter in Chinese (猎手). The launching system does not incorporate VLS technology, but is very similar to Raytheon SL-AMRAAM (Surface Launched - Advanced Air-to-Air Missile).

The launching platform is Dongfeng (东风, East Wind) EQ2050 Iron Armor (Tiejia, 铁甲) or other Chinese High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and like SL-AMRAAM, both the short-range IR guided AAM and medium-range AAM are included. The Chinese LS-II ADS launching platform differs from its Raytheon counterpart in that the latter has a total of 6 missiles, while former only has four. LS-II ADS only contains two short-range IR guided AAMs (PL-9) and two medium-range AAMs (PL-12/SD-10), with PL-12/SD-10 missiles mounted in the center, and the PL-9 missiles mounted on the outside. The second pair of medium-range AAMs of Raytheon SL-AMRAAM system outside the short-range IR guided AAMs does not exist on the Chinese LS-II ADS.

In addition to the launching vehicle, LS-II ADS also include two other vehicles, which is also often based on the Dongfeng (东风, East Wind) EQ2050 Iron Armor (Tiejia, 铁甲) or other Chinese High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), for the purpose to simplify logistics, though chassis of other vehicles are also available. One of the two other vehicle is for power source, and LS-II ADS can be fully functional without it, though on a shorter continuous operation. When engaging targets, PL-9/DK-9 would engage targets at lower altitude while PL-12/SD-10 would engage targets at higher altitude, and multiple missiles can be fired together to simultaneously engage multiple targets.

Another vehicle of LS-II ADS carries a passive-phased array radar for fire control. The new radar is based on the anti-stealth radar shown a year earlier at defense exhibition at Abu Dhabi in 2007, and appears to be a scaled-down version of the former. However, the developer dubbed the radar as Anti-low radar cross section early warning radar, though some capability against stealth target do exist. Electro-optical fire control system is mounted separately on the roof of the driver's cabin of the launching vehicle, and can function independently in the absence of the radar. LS-II ADS is integrated to the larger air defense network via LIN87 data link.

Potential export opportunities


 People's Republic of China
  • Pakistan Air Force (PAF), 600 ordered.[13]


  • Length: 3.85 m (12.63 ft)
  • Body diameter: 203 mm (8 in)
  • Wing span: 670 mm
  • Fin span: 752 mm
  • Launch weight: 180 kg (396 lb)
  • Warhead: HE fragmentation
  • Fuse: Active proximity fuse
  • Guidance: Inertial mid-course and/or datalink updates, with active radar terminal homing
  • Propulsion: Solid dual-thrust rocket motor
  • Maximum Range: 70+ km[1][2] - 100 km[5]
  • Minimum Range: 1 km
  • Maximum g-force: > 38 g
  • Maximum Altitude: 21 km
  • Maximum Speed: > Mach 4
  • No Escape Zone (NEZ): 45 km (look-up) or 35 km (look-down) against target with RCS of 3 sq. metres


External links

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