After the Thunderbolt 15 missile, we have another aerial killer exposed , which is the Thunderbolt 17 missile .
In a program, when introducing the development of China’s air-to-air missiles, the PL-17 missile was placed behind the PL-15 missile, indicating that this should be a newer air-to-air missile than the PL-15 .
The PL-15 missile is an advanced fourth-generation medium and long-range air-to-air missile . In the world, only the European “Meteor” missile can compete with the PL-15, and the American AIM120D is worse.
How advanced is the performance of Thunderbolt 17, which is newer than Thunderbolt 15 ?
Some analysts pointed out that the Thunderbolt 17 missile mentioned in the program may refer to an ultra-long-range air-to-air missile .
This air-to-air missile first appeared publicly with a J-16 fighter jet, but no one knew what model this missile was at the time.
If the Thunderbolt 17 missile is really this ultra-long-range air-to-air missile, then the Thunderbolt 17 will be the most terrifying opponent of the U.S. early warning aircraft .
From the analysis of the picture, the length of the ultra-long-range air-to-air missile is close to 6 meters, and the diameter of the projectile is 300 mm , which is much larger than the 3.9-meter length and 203 mm diameter of the Thunderbolt 15.
The larger projectile means that the Thunderbolt 17 can do better than the Thunderbolt 15 in two performances, one for range and one for locking distance .
Modern air-to-air missiles use solid rocket motors to power the missiles.
The more power the engine provides, the faster the missile can be accelerated and the longer its range .
The PL-15 missile uses an advanced dual-pulse engine , which divides the solid fuel in the engine into two parts, one part is fast-burning for acceleration , and the other is slow-burning to extend the power section .
This approach has increased the effective range of the PL-15 by more than 80% compared to the PL-12 missile of the same size, reaching 150 kilometers .
However, in front of the Thunderbolt 17, the Thunderbolt 15’s range is not too far.
The PL-17 missile has a longer body and a larger diameter , so it can accommodate larger solid rocket motors .
And as an air-to-air missile developed after the Thunderbolt 15, the Thunderbolt 17 is likely to also use a dual-pulse engine .
According to the results of some analysis and calculations, the effective range of the Thunderbolt 17 should be more than 300 kilometers , and the optimistic estimate is even more than 400 kilometers .
Even with a range of 300 kilometers, it has exceeded other air-to-air missiles.
In addition to the range, the 300mm bullet diameter also makes the PL17’s locking distance better than the PL15.
On the Thunderbolt 15, we use the active guidance mode , relying on an active phased array radar mounted on the missile head to lock on the enemy aircraft and control the missile to track the enemy aircraft.
Limited by the diameter of the PL-15 missile, its active phased array radar obviously cannot exceed 203 mm in diameter .
Considering the space and the size of the warhead radome, the radar diameter of the Thunderbolt 15 is about 160-180 mm .
Under the same technical conditions, the larger the array area of the active phased array radar, the better the performance, and for the same target, the locking distance will be farther.
The bullet diameter of the Thunderbolt 17 reaches 300 mm, and the active phased array radar of the warhead can reach more than 260 mm , and the front area is almost twice that of the Thunderbolt 15 radar .
Locking on a greater distance is useful not only for non-stealth targets, but also for stealth targets .
Because of the improvement in the locking distance of the Thunderbolt 17 radar, the overall detection capability of the radar is essentially stronger and its performance is better .
Although the radar features of stealth targets are small, they are not completely without radar features after all. Radars with better performance can more easily capture the radar characteristics of stealth targets and achieve locking.
Of course, there are gains and losses, and while the Thunderbolt 17 has these two key performance advantages, it also has a big disadvantage .
That is, the Thunderbolt 17 is too big and too heavy .
The Thunderbolt 15 is 3.9 meters long and weighs about 200 kilograms, which can easily fit into the J-20’s magazine .
In contrast, the PL-17 projectile is 6 meters long and the weight is unknown, but it must be more than 200kg and below 800kg (the J-16 mounts the PL-17 with a load of 800kg).
Such a length can only be carried by external pylons , and the external pylons of J-20, J-16 and J-10C can carry Thunderbolt 17.
The J-20 has 4 heavy-duty external hardpoints, each of which has a loading weight of more than 2 tons. It can carry the Thunderbolt 17 using a double-mounted pylon , with a high amount of ammunition.
However, the J-20 is a stealth fighter, and the current number is relatively small. It is a waste to carry the Thunderbolt 17 .
The J-10C has only 4 heavy hanging points of 800-1000 kg, two of which are used to carry the auxiliary fuel tanks , which are also not suitable for carrying the Thunderbolt 17.
Therefore, the Thunderbolt 17 will be mainly equipped with the J-16 fighter jet as a weapon for the J-16 fighter to hunt and kill the US early warning aircraft at a long distance.
We know that in modern warfare, the competition for air supremacy is very important, and the party that wins air supremacy can take the initiative in the battlefield and gain a great advantage.
In an air power confrontation of this size between China and the United States, both sides have a complete air combat system .
This system includes early warning aircraft, electronic warfare aircraft, intelligence support aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, fighter jets, command communication aircraft, drones, tankers and bombers , etc. There is no other domestic air combat system in the world that can compare with China and the United States.
In the respective air combat systems of China and the United States, early warning aircraft are a very important part .
The early warning aircraft can grasp the air situation information within hundreds of kilometers around in real time , and has the best performance radar among all aircraft, and the best anti-stealth ability.
Like the large-scale early warning aircraft of China and the United States, it also serves as the task of the air command post , coordinating and commanding various theaters in the theater, which can be said to be one of the key cores in the air combat system.
Protecting one’s own early warning aircraft and attacking each other’s early warning aircraft is the key to the air confrontation between China and the United States.
After we have the Thunderbolt 17, we can attack U.S. early warning aircraft outside the air defense range of U.S. fighter jets .
The air detection distance of the early warning aircraft is only more than 400 kilometers.
If the range of the Thunderbolt 17 is based on optimistic estimates, the range of the Thunderbolt 17 will be comparable to the detection range of the U.S. early warning aircraft.
Launching the Thunderbolt 17 at this distance is very safe for the J-16 .
If the U.S. military wants to stop the hunting operation of the J-16, it must send fighter jets to attack , but this needs to face the blocking of our J-20 fighter jets.
Or the U.S. military is also developing ultra-long-range air-to-air missiles, but the U.S. military does not have such a project now. Even if it is developed now, it will take nearly 10 years to be able to use it .
Therefore, the advantage that Thunderbolt 17 brings to us is very considerable.
However, it must be clearly recognized that the Thunderbolt 17 is just a relatively special weapon .
What really makes the Thunderbolt 17 powerful is the entire combat system of our Air Force . Only in the system can the Thunderbolt 17 fully exert its performance.