The PL-8 (霹雳-8型空对空导弹) is one of the main IR AAM currently in PLAAF service alongside with the older PL-5C/E series and PL-10. The missile itself is the result of licensed production of Python 3 (commonly known as 怪蛇-3 in Mainland China) from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems after seeing its outstanding performance on shooting down Lebanese jets (most notably, MiG-23S which was the intended foe of J-8II series which was still under development); the licensing of Python 3 was made in 1983 as the Project No.8 (八号工程) and passed for commission in 1986. The technologies from this missile also been used on other domestic IR AAMs like PL-9 and PL-8 itself has already been completely produced locally with some upgrades in later batches of missiles.
Vehicles equipped with this weapon
Tell us about the tactical and technical characteristics of the missile.
PL-8 with 5 kg of HBX filler has around 8 kg TNTe will produce both explosion and shrapnel damage to enemy aircrafts, penetrating airframes or blowing off parts off the aircraft.
Comparison with analogues
AIM-9L - US/NATO standard IR AAM with very long guidance time; while having lesser overload, head-on range and explosive content.
R-73 - Soviet IR AAM with identical overload; while having lesser explosive content and shorter combat radius.
Magic-2 - French standard IR AAM with higher explosive content, slight more guidance time and flies faster; while having slightly less overload but identical head-on range.
Usage in battles
As PLAAF/PLANAF's missile of choice since late 1980s, PL-8 featured identical performance to its Israeli ancestor i.e. its high speed, overload and combat radius. Thanks to the immersive thrust of the missile, enemies within 3 km will have to be extra careful on PL-8 as the missile will hit them faster than other IR AAMs of its tier; sometimes even targets at more than 5 km would still fall victim to the missile (at high altitude with less drag). If the carrier has HMD installed, it can also achieve off-bore lock-on against enemy aircrafts and further enhancing its combat capabilities to change the target swiftly. Do remember that like many other IR AAMs, PL-8 doesn't have sufficient overload during its launch to lock onto targets within a kilometer, so only use them against targets with some distance, especially those who depleted their energy or careless.
Pros and cons
- One of the fastest IR AAM in game (tied with Soviet R-23/24/27T series at Mach 3.5)
- Rather high explosive content for confirm kills
- One of the highest overload along IR AAMs (tied with Soviet R-73)
- Long combat radius
- Relatively heavy to its NATO/Warsaw Pact counterparts
Due to the instability in politics between 1960s and 1970s, Mainland China has already lagged behind the mainstream of AAM and the "new" PL-5 series have yet to got the certifications for commission (which passed in 1986, 2 decades after its development); meanwhile, Chinese engineers and military officials kept their eyes on the development of aerial combats as new SARH and IR AAM were commonplace by the late 1970s. As the world entered the 8th decade of 20th Century, the 1982 Lebanon War between Lebanon and Israel shook PLAAF officials as IAF achieved 82 (up to 86):0 ratio against Lebanese and Syrian jet fighters thanks to their more advanced tactics, jets and most of all, their trump card on Israeli's hand: Rafael Python 3 missiles.
Thanks to the improving relationships with western countries, PLAAF officials proposed for the import of the production line of Python 3 and 1500 missiles at a total of US$500 million to further boost domestic missile technologies. The new missile, now under the Project No.8 (八号工程) and later PL-8 started its domestic production and tests since 1983; due to the heavy weight of the missile, the J-7II testbed with 2 PL-8 installed often has engine flameout and flight instability after launch. After the suggestions from the chief test pilot to adjust flight attitude after the missile left the rail before structural modifications were done to J-7, PL-8 eventually joined PLAAF by 1986 as the most advanced IR AAM for the air force before the introduction of R-73 from Su-27SK and future domestic missiles after 1990s. The missile becomes an icon of PLAAF and PLANAF, especially for J-11/15/16 which are the only Flankers using Python 3/PL-8.
Excellent additions to the article would be video guides, screenshots from the game, and photos.
- Python 3 - its technological ancestor
- AIM-9L - the most advanced NATO/US allies IR AAM at its era
- R-73 - advanced Soviet IR AAM which would be introduced to PLAAF by 1990s
- Matra R550 Magic 2 - French IR AAM which would also be used by ROCAF alongside with their Mirage 2000-5 series
Paste links to sources and external resources, such as:
- topic on the official game forum;
- other literature.