TY-90 is the first air-to-air missile specifically developed for military helicopters in dogfights. The missile is developed by China with TY stands for Tian Yan (Tianyan), short for Sky (or Celestial) Swallow. Contrary to the erroneous claims, the missile is not developed from MANPAD missiles such as QW-1 Vanguard, but instead, it is designed as an air-to-air missile from the start. In fact, the surface-to-air version was developed from the air-to-air version.

Class Missile
Type Air to Air
Manufacturer China Aviation Industry Corporation I
Origin China
Country Name Origin Year
China 1990
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
China 1990 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
China Aviation Industry Corporation I View

Chinese determined that the MANPAD missiles converted for helicopter use in dogfights was not adequate, so a brand new air-to-air missile specifically for helicopter use was sanctioned, and TY-90 was the resulting product. The 3 kg warhead of the missile is specially designed to sever the rotary wing with a single shot, and the missile has all-aspect attack capability. The missile is designed to ensure a single shot would be sufficient to down an attack helicopter, or at least knock it out of action.

At least three additional versions have been developed in addition to the basic version, and two of them being air-to-air versions. The first adopts a dual-band guidance, adding UV to the original IR, while the second adopts an ImIR guidance. During the 5th Zhuhai Airshow held at the end of 2004, a ground-launched air defense version appeared, with designation of DY-90, which was essentially the original TY-90, but with an additional option of incorporating a rocket booster to increase range upon customer's request.

A navalized surface-to-air version is also developed, utilizing the FLS-1 system and the basic version with IR guidance, thus providing a fire-and-forget capability in comparison to the case where QW-3 is used. However, this navalized version has not entered service as of 2008, and the reason is reportedly because that the Chinese military wants to wait until the more advanced dual-band or Imaging IR (ImIR) version to be incorporated into the FLS-1 system, which are currently under development. However, at Zhuhai Airshow, AVIC I, the developer of TY-90 only acknowledged the developing and active marketing such systems, but refused to further confirm whether the Chinese military or any foreign customers had placed any orders, and neither did the developer confirm such developmental works were privately funded by the developer or received any funds from the state or foreign customers.

Despite marketing efforts, as of 2008, there is no known export of TY-90 of any kind.

Type air-to-air & surface-to-air missiles
Place of origin  China
Service history
In service 1990’s – present
Used by China
Production history
Manufacturer China Aviation Industry Corporation I
Produced since 1990’s
Weight 20 kg
Length 1.9 meter
Diameter 90 mm
Warhead 3 kg warhead
impact / proximity
Engine solid-fuel rocket motor
Propellant solid fuel
0.5 – 6 km
Flight ceiling 6 km
Flight altitude 0 – 6 km
Speed >Mach 2
Air & surface

End notes