Is This New Chinese Missile Designed To Counter A Specific Pentagon Strategy?

REUTERS/Tom Reynolds/Lockheed Martin Corp/Handout

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
Font Size:

Photos of a Chinese fighter jet armed with a mysterious payload surfaced online recently, raising questions about its purposes.

In the leaked images, what could be a new type of anti-air missile can be seen under the wing of a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Shenyang J-16.

Some reports indicate that the suspicious payload, which is estimated to be about 18 feet in length, might be a very long range anti-air missile (AAM) with a potential range of about 185 miles, maybe even greater.

While the object looks like a missile, it could also be a prototype or some form of testing equipment.

Assuming it is a missile, it is definitely peculiar as far as AAMs go.

“It resembles Russian and Chinese surface-to-air missiles,” Director for Defense Analysis and Data at Aviation Week Daniel Katz told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “It doesn’t look like a conventional anti-air missile.”

The small fins on the back, the long length, and the general shape are reminiscent of surface-to-air missile (SAM) traits.

The weapon carried by the J-16 bears a strong resemblance to Russian S-300/400 and Chinese HQ-9 SAMs. Were it to be deployed in battle, the missile might behave more like a SAM than an AAM.

China intends to develop aerial weapons with the ability to eliminate American force multiplying assets, specifically refueling tankers and airborne early warning and control aircraft, and this missile could, in theory, help the Chinese PLAAF move closer to achieving that goal.

U.S. air units operate as part of a complex network that is collectively more powerful than any individual unit. China cannot yet outgun America’s top fighters, but it can aim for the enabling assets designed to support U.S. front-line fighter aircraft.

Early warning aircraft offer a level of situational awareness that is crucial on the battlefield, and refueling tankers provide support for long-range operations.

Potentially functioning like a long-range SAM, the J-16’s missile may be designed to arc high to achieve greater range and then drop in and knock out critical support units operating in the rear.

Such a design would be consistent with Chinese writings on this particular subject.

China’s new missile may also be a fast-moving projectile weapon. Conventional AAMs tend to max out at around Mach 2-4, but the missiles fired by the S-300/400, and therefore probably the HQ-9, SAM systems have a max speed of about Mach 5-6. Assuming the missile can mimic SAM behavior, it may be able to move at near hypersonic speeds.

“The concept seems legitimate,” Katz mentioned to TheDCNF, “But, there is still a lot we don’t know.”

If China has developed a hypersonic, long-range anti-air missile, it may change the game for air combat, but it is unclear whether China has mastered this kind of tech.

Follow Ryan on Twitter

Send tips to

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact

Tags : china
Ryan Pickrell