Boeing E-7 could replace Sentry aircraft due to vulnerability to Chinese AAMs
WASHINGTON – The American DRLV E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system [AWACS] aircraft is vulnerable to Chinese long-range PL-15 air-to-air missiles [AAM]. This was announced on December 9 during a virtual conference by US Secretary of State Frank Kendall, according to Flight Global, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
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According to Kendall, one of the main problems facing these types of platforms is increasing the range of enemy weapons, such as China, which can use long-range missiles to destroy vulnerable platforms such as DRLVs, ground surveillance aircraft, and refueling aircraft.
“The destruction of these aircraft could blind American troops and complicate aircraft operations on the battlefield,” the statement said.
The US Air Force is not yet sure what exactly to replace this platform with. However, in September this year, the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, General Charles Brown, said that the service is considering using the Boeing E-7 Wedgetail to replace the E-3. He also hopes that DRLV missions can be carried out from space in the future.
At the same time, Kendall believes that Wedgetail is a temporary measure that will fill the gaps until a solution is found in the long run. However, despite the interest in the DRLV space system, this concept, according to Kendall, has technical limitations.
About PL-15 air-to-air missile
The PL-15 is an active radar-guided long range air-to-air missile developed by the People’s Republic of China. The PL-15 entered military service in 2016 and is carried by the Chengdu J-10C, Shenyang J-16 and the Chengdu J-20, aircraft.
The missile features an active electronically scanned array radar seeker, and has a range exceeding 200 km – comparable to that of the Russian R-37 missile. It is 4 meters long and incorporates a dual-thrust solid-fuel rocket motor, capable of a speed of Mach 4.
In Zhuhai air show 2021, China unveiled an export variant of PL-15 named PL-15E with a maximum range of 145km. The export version reportedly has less range than the parent version, similar to the situation between SD-10 and its domestic counterpart PL-12.
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