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K-13 (R-3 or Object 310)
PL-2 / PL-3 / PL-5

The 24 September 1958 Chinese acquisition of an American AIM-9B Sidewinder missile marked the beginning of a breakthrough in the development of Soviet air-to-air missiles. The missile, fired from a Taiwanese F-86 Sabre aircraft, lodged without exploding in a Chinese MiG-17. The missile was sent to Toropov's engineering office to be copied, and the product the K-13, long the most popular Soviet air-to-air missile. The Sidewinder had a number of valuable features, not least of which was the modular construction that facilitated ease in production and operation. The simplicity of the AIM-9 was in marked contrast to the complexity of contemporary Soviet missiles. The Sidewinder's infrared-guided homing head contained a free-running gyroscope and was much smaller than Soviet counterparts, and the steering and in-flight stabilization system were equally superior. Gennadiy Sokolovskiy, later chief engineer at the Vympel team, said that "the Sidewinder missile was to us a university offering a course in missile construction technology which has upgraded our engineering education and updated our approach to production of future missiles."

The Soviets soon made advances over the original Sidewinder model, making dozen of modifications to the initial design. In 1960 series-production of the K-13 missile (also called R-3 or Object 310) began. In 1962 the R-3S (K13A or Object 310) became the first version to be produced in large numbers, though its homing operation took much more time (22 seconds instead of 11 seconds). In 1961 development began of the high-altitude K-13R (R-3R or Object 320) with a semiactive radar head, which was entered service with combat aircraft in 1966. The training versions were the R-3U missiles ("uchebnaya", barrel with a homing set, not fired from an aircraft) and the R-3P ("prakticheskaya" differing from the combat version by absence of an explosive charge). The RM-3V (RM denoting "raketa-mishen" [target-missile] served as an aerial target.

During late 1960s the Vympel team began working on the K-13M (R-13M, Object 380) modification of the K-13 missile, which in 1973 was certified as an operational weapon. It has a cooled homing head, a radio rather than optical closing-in igniter, and a more potent warhead. Analogous modifications of the R-55 resulted in the R-55M missile. The last version of the K-13 is the R-13M1 with a mofified steering apparatus.

The K-13 missile was produced in China as the PL-2 (updated versions PL-3 and PL-5) and also in Romania as the A-91. The PL-5E [Pili = Thunderbolt, or Pen Lung = Air Dragon] air-to-air missile has a maximum mobility overload of 40g, exceeding the 35g of the AIM-9L of the United States. Mobility overload a unit for measuring the mobility of aircraft. The larger the value the better the aircraft can adapt to violent mid-air mobility. An air-to-air missile with a great overload means that the attacked side is less likely to escape the attack). The speed of the missile is Mach 2.5 (2.5 times sound speed) and its maximum range is 14,000 meters.


Year 1961
Type short-range missile
Modifications AA-2 - infra-red guidance
AA-2-2 "Advanced Atoll" - semi-active radar guidance
Wingspan (AA-2) 0.45 m
Wingspan (AA-2-2) 0.53 m
Length (AA-2) 2.8 m
Length (AA-2-2) 3.0 m
Diameter 0.12 m
Launch weight 70 kg
Max. speed 2850 km/h
Maximum range 6.5 km
Propulsion solid propellant rocket motor
Guidance passive infra-red homing or semi-active radar homing
Warhead proximity-fuzed blast fragmentation, 6 kg
Service USSR, India, South Yemen, Romania, Afghanistan, North Yemen, North Vietnam, Albania, Nigeria, Uganda, Iraq, Poland, Syria, Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, Somalia, Angola, Bangladesh, Peru, Yugoslavia, Mozambique, China, Libya, Hungary, Laos, North Korea, Ethiopia, East Germany, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Cuba, Bulgaria.





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Updated Sunday, March 21, 1999 3:51:27 PM