Short-range, IR air-to-air missile.


The development of this missile started in 1966 at the AA Missile Research Institute, but did not enter service until 1982. It was reported that the main reason for this very long development programme was due to difficulties in making an adequately reliable IR or RF fuze system, although the `Cultural Revolution’ was the most likely cause. The close relationship between the PL-2, PL-3 and PL-5 missiles, together with their very long research and development programmes, indicate perhaps a desire to compete between two or three separate design teams, each using the original Russian AA-2 `Atoll’ design as the starting point. PL-5 is based upon the technology of the AIM-9G Sidewinder. It is believed that PL-5 is carried by the J-5, J-6, J-7, Q-5 and A-5M aircraft.


The PL-5 is a mixture of earlier AIM-9B Sidewinder AA-2 `Atoll’ technology and the later AIM-9G Sidewinder. The missile is 2.89 m long, with a body diameter of 127 mm, a wing span of 0.66 m, and weight of 85 kg. The front control fins resemble the AIM-9G and it is reasonable to assume that the missile has similar solid-state electronics. There are two interchangeable fuze and warhead combinations: an IR fuze and blast/fragmenting warhead or an RF fuze and continuous rod warhead. The improved seeker in this missile is still limited to tail aspect engagements, but has a greater off-boresight capability than the earlier PL-2 and PL-3 systems. It must be expected that the Chinese have further modified the PL-5 series of missiles to provide an all-aspect engagement capability. Photographs taken in 1987 illustrate an AIM-9L/M shaped seeker head and fins that presumably indicate this has been achieved. However, published detail of PL-5B, while introducing an improved IR fuze and new fins, does not claim an all-aspect capability.

Operational Status

The PL-5 probably entered service with the Chinese Air Force in 1982, and production is believed to have ceased in 1987. Due to the similarities between this missile, AIM-9 Sidewinder and AA-2 `Atoll’, it is difficult to be sure about exports but it is believed that PL-5 missiles have been exported to Albania, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.


Length: 2.89 m
Body diameter: 127 mm
Wing span: 0.66 m
Launch weight: 85 kg
Warhead: 9 kg HE blast/fragmentation or continuous rod
Fuze: IR or RF
Guidance: IR
Propulsion: Solid propellant
Range: 3 km