Is China’s new decoy a decoy?

Credit: Tom Gordon/Billypix

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.”

Specs TL-8 Chukar III Delilah
Speed M0.85 M0.81 M0.85
Range 500km 650km 250km+
Maximum takeoff weight 250kg 206kg 250kg
Length 3.77m 4m 3.3m
Wingspan 1.76m 1.9m 1.2m


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2 Responses to Is China’s new decoy a decoy?

  1. Guru Josh 24 November, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    At a max takeoff weight of 250kg, the payload at max range is what, 50kg?
    Rather looks like the CHinese mixed up the specs bewteen Delilah and Chukar ;-)

  2. Airpower 26 November, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    By my rough counting there were nine other missile decoy systems, from three different manufacturers, at Airshow China this time. Each of them could be adapted to serve in a slightly more aggressive role too… but I guess you didn’t get any photos of them…

    Nice flowerpot though.

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