China might have new long-range air-to-air missile

Reuters, BEIJING

Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - Page 6

China might be testing a new, long-range air-to-air missile that could take out early-warning and aerial-refueling aircraft, a state-run newspaper said yesterday, after pictures of the new missile surfaced online.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is overseeing an ambitious military modernization program that includes stealth jets and aircraft carriers. The nation has also tested anti-satellite missiles.

The China Daily said the People’s Liberation Army posted pictures online of a J-11B fighter carrying a large, unidentified missile during drills last year.

Air force researcher Fu Qianshao (傅前哨) told the newspaper he believed the missile was designed to hit distant high-value targets, such as early-warning aircraft, normally outside actual combat zones.

That represents an improved capability over existing Chinese missiles, which have ranges of less than 100km.

“The best solution to this problem I can figure out is to send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Fu said. “So the successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough.”

The missile might even have a range of 400km, exceeding those used by Western air forces, and dive down on targets from the stratosphere, he added.

The air force has yet to formally comment on the new missile.

Chinese state media outlets periodically report on new weapons before there is official confirmation of their existence.

The military modernization comes as China has rattled nerves around the region with increasingly assertive moves to bolster its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea and over Taiwan.

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, earlier this month sailed through the Taiwan Strait in what China called a routine drill, but which prompted Taiwan to scramble fighter jets and battleships.