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 (???) of AVIC I. Development of PL-12 was once led by Dong Bingyin, former chief designer of PL-12 who died in 2000.
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. 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.
- Sky Dragon 50