As of now, there is only one Air-to-ground/air-to-surface missile integrated into the FA-50PH. That missile is the AGM-65 Maverick. If the FA-50PH will ever get a chance to perform the maritime strike role, it would be nice to discuss if the AGM-65 can be used for this purpose.

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The AGM-65 Maverick

The AGM-65 Maverick is an air-to-ground missile. It is commonly carried by the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt in CAS missions. However, it has recently been tested recently by the US against naval targets. So far, the AGM-65 is the only air-to-ground/air-to-surface missile integrated into the FA-50PH’s weapons systems.

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The AGM-65 is commonly used by the USAF’s A-10 Thunderbolt for CAS missions

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An A-10 Thunderbolt firing an AGM-65

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So far, the AGM-65 is the only air-to-ground/air-to-surface integrated with the FA-50PH

Ideally, we’d want the FA-50PH to have a long-range AshM like the AGM-84 Harpoon or the air-launched Exocet missile. However, such missiles are not yet integrated with the FA-50PH, so if the FA-50PH will ever perform the maritime strike role, it will have to use the AGM-65.

The AGM-65’s given range is 40km, which is short compared to the range of missiles like the Harpoon or Exocet which can reach 200km.

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While the FA-50PH should ideally carry a long-range AshM such as the AGM-84 Harpoon which can do 93-200 km or more than twice to five times the range of the AGM-65 Maverick, such missiles are not yet integrated into the FA-50PH

But is the using the AGM-65 in the maritime strike role still a good idea? It could possibly be. Considering the range of the SAM’s on China’s warships, while their destroyers such as the Type 52D and Type 52C carry the HQ-9 with its long-range of more than 100km, or their older Type 51C with the S300 that also has a range of more than 100km, attacking these with the 4okm range Mavericks would NOT be the best idea. Their frigates on the other hand, are a different story.

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Chinese destroyers such as this Type 52D or even its predecessor, the less improved type 52C carry the long-range HQ-9 or S300 SAM’s that would make attacking them with the 40km AGM-65 a very bad idea.

Their frigates on the other hand, do not have the same AAW capability as the destroyers. The most advanced, the Type 54A carries the HQ-16 SAM with 42km range, while the HQ-16 outranges the AGM-65, this is only a 2km difference, making it still possible for the FA-50PH to cross that 2km and then turn back after firing their missiles. The Type 54A carries 32 HQ-16’s in their 32-cell vLS, the Maverick being a non-sea skimming missile could be an easy target for the HQ-16, however, one deficiency of the Type 54A is its fire control radar that can only guide 3-4 SAM’s at once, making saturating it with  a decently large number of AGM-65 Mavericks possible.

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The Type 54A frigate of the PLAN, while its SAM has a range of 42km, the FA-50PH can cross that 2km, fire the Mavericks and turn back

The other two “modern” frigate classes of the PLAN that would likely be a target for an FA-50PH in the maritime strike role would be the aging and soon retiring Type 53 frigates and her more modern derivative, the Type 54, which is the predecessor to the Type 54A.

The Type 53 and Type 54 frigates have the HQ-7 SAM which is fired from an 8-cell launcher mounted on the deck (not a VLS). They have the same fire control radar problem with the Type 54A and have an even less-capable SAM. The HQ-7 is a copy of the French Crotale SAM, and has a range of 15-17km. The Maverick’s 40km range would put the FA-50PH way out of range of the HQ-7 making it possible to use the AGM-65 to saturate the Type 43 and Type 54 frigates from “standoff” distance.

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The older Type 53 and Type 54 frigates are not even as capable as the Type 54A, and using the AGM-65 Maverick against them  is very possible with their HQ-7 SAM’s having a range of only 15-17km at best

Overall, while the AGM-65 Maverick is not really an AshM and was not really meant for this role, it could still be used, especially against the older Chinese frigates. If the DND does finally get the AGM-65’s for our Geagles, then we will at least have something that can pose a threat to the PLAN.