SINGAPORE — At the Singapore Airshow this week, the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (CATIC) provided brochures of two new missiles, the TL-2 and the TL-7.
TL stands for “Thunder Lighting” (Tien Lei), though the configurations and missions are unrelated. CATIC is a Chinese state-owned company that manages export sales of aviation defense and commercial products. It is similar to Russia’s Rosoboronexport in function. Both the TL-2 and TL-7 are actually products of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).
CATIC officials indicate the TL-7 is an anti-ship missile that can be launched from fighter aircraft (TL-7A), ground-based units (TL-7B), and ships (TL-7C). The turbojet engine allows it to hit cruising speeds of 0.8-0.85 Mach with a range of 180 km (110 miles).
According to Richard Fisher, a senior fellow on Asian military affairs with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, the TL-7 is making its debut as the export model of the KD-88 precision-guided air to surface missile that entered PLA Air Force service on the Xian-built JH-7A fighter bombers in 2006 and 2007.
“The KD-88 was the first medium-range optically-guided ground attack missile to arm the JH-7,” Fisher said. “Originally thought to have been derived from the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) C-802/YJ-82 family of anti-ship missiles, it can now be said that [the CASC] KD-88/TL-7 was designed to compete with CASIC's anti-ship and ground attack missiles.”
According to CATIC officials, the TL-2 missile can be launched from a ground-based launcher or an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Photographs provided by CATIC show two TL-2s mounted on an ASN-209 medium altitude and medium endurance (MAME) UAV. The ASN-209 has a range of 200 km (120 miles) and the TL-2 has a range of six km (3.7 miles). CATIC photographs show it destroying a light armored vehicle. It has a circular error probable range of 2-10 meters depending on the guidance system used. Modes of operation include direct attack for lock-on before launch (LOBL), mid-course navigation, and semi-active guidance for lock-on after launch (LOAL).
Fisher said the TL-2 was first marketed at the 2014 Zhuhai Airshow as a precision strike weapon for the Chengdu-built Wing Loong/Pterodactyl unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), now in service with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. CATIC is displaying a model of the Wing Loong at the Singapore Airshow this week.
CASC’s TL-2 is in competition with CASIC's and China North Industries Corporation’s [Norinco’s] line up of precision UCAV weapons, Fisher said.