China’s AVIC exhibited a new toy at Zhuhai air show called the TL-8 decoy. The placard on the exhibit booth ominously describes this winged missile body as a “multifunctional medium-sized drone”. By using the loaded term “multifunctional”, it is possible AVIC merely was describing the airframe’s ability as a decoy missile to simulate both aircraft and cruise missiles. Of course, if the TL-8 can simulate other cruise missiles, it can also become a cruise missile. Perhaps even the TL-8′s decoy title is itself a decoy?
Another interesting factor to consider is the TL-8′s design, which strongly resembles the Northrop Grumman BQM-74 Chukar III target drone. Israel adapted Chukar into the Delilah drone/cruise missile (see Israel air force history on Delilah here). In 1995, Flight International reported that Israel’s TAAS sold the Delilah technology to China. I asked the author of that story, Douglas Barrie, who is now an analyst for the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), if he thinks there may be a connection. But Barrie was dubious that Israel would provide China with Delilah’s design secrets for any price. However, Barrie was impressed with AVIC’s performance claims for the TL-8.
“Quite high speed, bigger and heavier than Delilah also,” Barrie wrote in an email. The TL-8 “would make a useful platform for uses other than that of a drone! If the range figure is credible it would suggest a decent engine with reasonable fuel consumption.”
|Maximum takeoff weight||250kg||206kg||250kg|