Japan wants to develop a competitor to the European Meteor missile "more efficient and less expensive".

GCAP artist 2 e1693317778801

The Meteor missile is universally recognized today as one of the best long-range air-to-air missiles. With a mass of only 185 kg, for 3,65 m long, it evolves in the size category of the American AIM-120 AMRAAM and the Russian R-77, for superior performance.

On the other hand, it is more compact and lighter than the Chinese PL-15 (230 kg) while offering a comparable range and speed. And if the Russian R-37M, with its announced range of 400 km and its speed of Mach 5, surpasses the Meteor on paper and its speed of Mach 4 for a given range greater than 150 km, it is also heavier (600 kg) and imposing (6 meters), to the point of being able to be carried only by the Su-35s and the Mig-31.

The Meteor missile, one of the most powerful in its class today

It is therefore in no way surprising that the Meteor is today a real success having been chosen to date by 14 nations to arm their Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen. Its performance is such that some countries link the acquisition of European aircraft to the delivery of this missile at the same time (as was also the case with the SCALP cruise missile for Egypt).

Not only is the Meteor missile efficient, but it is also inexpensive, compared to its competitors. Indeed, the public data make it possible to estimate the unit price around 2 million euros, where the AIM-120C-8 for example, would cost 2,5 million $ per unit, while being significantly less efficient. .

The Meteor missile is today a valuable asset for the European aircraft which use it on the international scene, such as the French Rafale, the Swedish Gripen and the European Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Meteor missile is today a valuable asset for the European aircraft which use it on the international scene, such as the French Rafale, the Swedish Gripen and the European Eurofighter Typhoon.

A new missile for the GCAP program

However, the Japanese authorities have announced, as part of the GCAP program in partnership with the United Kingdom and Italy to design a 6th generation successor to the European Eurofighters and the Japanese F-2, the development ofa new air-to-air missile claiming to be "more efficient and less expensive" than the Meteor.

The announcement may seem surprising, insofar as London and Rome are stakeholders in the Meteor program, and the missile is already very well positioned in terms of performance and price.

It is all the more so since Tokyo will very probably turn, in the years to come, to the new American AIM-260 which is intended to be a successor to the AMRAAM and an alternative to the Meteor, to arm its F-35A/ B, his F-15Js and probably his Mitsubishi F-2s.

PL-15, PL-21..: the technological tempo imposed by Beijing

However, the air forces will be, in the years to come, in the front line against the People's Liberation Army. This already uses the long-range PL-15 missile given to reach targets 200 to 300 km away while operating at Mach 4+.

PL15 and PL10 on J20 e1596210644733
The Chinese long-range PL-15 missile equips the J-10C, J-15, J-16, J-20 and J-11B fighters, as well as the Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Block 3.

In the future, these could receive other more advanced long-range missiles, such as the PL-21, a 500 kg heavy missile intended to arm the J-16, J-20 and J-35, and capable of to reach targets 400 km away using an AESA antenna radar seeker.

In fact, the Japanese self-defense forces will have to take up a much more intense technological challenge against China than the Europeans will have to do against Russia. It is probably with this in mind that Tokyo has announced its desire to develop its own long-range air-to-air missile, as will also be the case for cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons.

By proceeding in this way, the Japanese authorities ensure that they can stay in touch with the technological tempo that China will undoubtedly impose in the years to come.

Article from August 29 in full version until September 30

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