China is likely to purchase 5,000 R-73 and R-77 air-to-air missiles from Russia, writes Toshiyuki Roku, retired commander of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's Air Development and Test Command, in an article for the Tokyo-based Japan Military Review.
Since China's domestic air-to-air missiles such as the PL-12, the SD-10A and the PL-9C were designed based on technology from Ukraine and are still unable to compete against US counterparts, the People's Liberation Army realizes that it needs the more advanced Russian missiles to go head to head against the US and Japan in any potential future air combat, Roku wrote. He said China has already bought 1,500 R-77 missiles and 3,300 R-73 missiles from Russia.
Roku said the R-73 short-range missile developed in 1985 was considered the most powerful air-to-air missile during the Cold War, superior to the AIM-9M air-to-air missiles used by NATO air forces from 1982. The R-77 medium-range air-to-air missile designed in 1992 has similar capabilities to the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile of the United States.
Before it receives F-35A fighters from the United States, Roku suggested that the JASDF develop or purchase new missiles to maintain aerial superiority in the skies over the East China Sea. Japan's main air-to-air missiles are the AAM-4 short-range and the AAM-5 medium-range missiles, which Roku said had both been upgraded in Japan. He also drew attention to the development of Chinese medium-range air-to-air missile with Ramjet.