Monday, 29 June, 2009

China’s Air Defence missile systems

When the Soviet Union collapsed in
1991, China’s air defence capabilities
were of debatable effectiveness, built
around indigenous clones of the
Soviet S-75 Dvina / SA-2 Guideline
along with indigenous fighter aircraft
such as the Chengdu J-8 Finback
in addition to vast numbers of
1950s and 1960s technology J-6
Farmer and J-7 Fishbed fighters.
Radar capabilities centred on cloned
1950s Soviet equipment, some pre-
Tienamen Western imports, and a
stalled indigenous AEW&C program
centred on a turboprop engined Tu-4
Bull / B-29 Superfortress airframe.
Much has changed over the following
decade and a half. While the SA-
2 remains numerically significant,When the Soviet Union collapsed in
1991, China’s air defence capabilities
were of debatable effectiveness, built
around indigenous clones of the
Soviet S-75 Dvina / SA-2 Guideline
along with indigenous fighter aircraft
such as the Chengdu J-8 Finback
in addition to vast numbers of
1950s and 1960s technology J-6
Farmer and J-7 Fishbed fighters.
Radar capabilities centred on cloned
1950s Soviet equipment, some pre-
Tienamen Western imports, and a
stalled indigenous AEW&C program
centred on a turboprop engined Tu-4
Bull / B-29 Superfortress airframe.
Much has changed over the following
decade and a half. While the SA-
2 remains numerically significant,
it has been modernised.
class S-300PMU / SA-10 / SA-20
Grumble / Gargoyle long range SAMs
have been acquired in strategically
significant numbers. The Tor M1 /
SA-15 has been reported and a range
of indigenous short range SAMs have
been developed. The KJ-200 / Y-8 and
KJ-2000 / A-50 AEW&C programs are
well into advanced development, and
strategically significant numbers of the Su-27SK /
J-11 and Su-30MK have been deployed, while the
indigenous ‘Sinocanard’ J-10 fighter has achieved
Initial Operational Capability.
The PLA’s air defence capabilities are transforming
from a legacy force with static and undeployable
systems to a state of the art force, which is
highly deployable in-country and demonstrably
expeditionary as it matures. This evolution in
capabilities has been sufficient to elicit alarm in
many US analysts, recognising that legacy fighters
such as the F-15C/E and F/A-18C-F have very poor
odds of surviving if they need to penetrate the
emerging PLA IADS.
China’s investment in top tier SAMs has not gone
unnoticed across the wider region. Indonesia has
for some time been coveting the S-300PMU SAM
system, and in a recent statement expressed an
interest yet again in acquiring the latest Russian
SAM technology. What the growth in China’s
capabilities is achieving more than anything else is
the stimulation of arms purchases, more than often
of like technology, in lesser regional nations.
The scale of growth in the PLA’s capabilities is
revealed in any survey of the full gamut of area
and point defence SAM systems deployed and
HQ-1/HQ-2/CSA-1 (S-75 / SA-2)
The Chinese-built derivatives of the Soviet SA-2
Guideline were until the arrival of the SA-10/20
the numerically most important SAM system in
PLA service. Current official US estimates put the
remaining inventory at more than 60 batteries, for
a total of about 400 single rail launchers.
When the PRC split with the Soviets during the
Krushchev era, early variants of the S-75 were
the only then modern weapons China possessed,
with a mere six batteries in service.
These comprised the standard static
road transportable semi-mobile rail
launchers, the S-band Fan Song
engagement radars, and the VHF
band P-12 Spoon Rest acquisition
radars. China’s 5th Research
Academy of the Ministry of Defence
subsequently reverse-engineered
this hardware and started the
manufacture of the HQ-1, a cloned
S-75 system. By 1966 an improved
HQ-1, the HQ-2, was introduced
with incremental upgrades to the
HQ-2A during the 1970s, and HQ-
2B during the 1980s.
The HQ-2B was a significant
advance on the Soviet original since
it introduced a high mobility tracked
TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher)
vehicle. Other improvements
included a better liquid rocket
motor, more G capability, better
warhead, digital command link for
guidance with crypto capability,
a monopulse engagement radar
capability for jam resistant angle
tracking, and electro-optical angle
The stated long term intent is to replace the HQ-
2 with the indigenous HQ-12/KS-1A SAM, as a
second tier supplement to the Russian S-300PMU
HQ-12 / KS-1A KAI SHAN 1
The indigenous HQ-12 is now being deployed with
PLA air defence units, and the US DoD puts the
number of fielded launchers at 60 units. Developed
to replace the HQ-2, the HQ-12 has been observed
in a number of variants, these including static rail
launchers clearly derived from the HQ-2 design,
a 6x6 road mobile TEL also derived from the
HQ-2 launcher, and a road mobile Patriot like box
The single stage solid propellant KS-1A missile itself
compares best to the RIM-66 SM-1/2 in general
layout, but with a very short span delta wing design
more akin to the US Hawk. The rail launchers
are conceptually similar to the underslung SM-1
rail launcher. Missile performance is cited at a
maximum range of 27 nautical miles, maximum
altitude of 80 kft, and a maximum load factor of
20G with capability against 4-5 G targets. The
nearest equivalent US missile is the RIM-66 SM-1
and SM-2 series, the KS-1 falls between the SM-1
and SM-2 in performance, and it is about 20 per
cent larger and 40 per cent heavier at launch.
Chinese sources claim early KS-1 variants used
the HQ-2 radar package, but since then the H-
200 phased array engagement radar has been
disclosed as the primary radar component of
the KS-1A system. This phased array compares
closely in configuration to the US MPQ-53 Patriot
and Russian 30N6E series engagement radars,
and is available either as a static relocatable
installation, or a fully road mobile design on a 6x6
truck. Chinese sources claim a high resistance to
jamming, which is credible given the phased array
design technique used.
The HQ-12 is clearly a credible modern SAM
system, and like the J-10 fighter, illustrates China’s
technological capability to compete in the design of
modern weapons.
The HQ-9 was developed to provide a long range
SAM capability, distinct from the medium range
capabilities of the HQ-12/KS-1 series. The FT-2000
is a derivative fitted with an anti-radiation seeker
and intended for engagements against AEW&C/
AWACS and stand-off jamming aircraft. The US
DoD puts current deployments at 64 launchers,
making for 8 to 16 batteries.
The PLA have not been overly generous in disclosing
details of this design. There is general agreement
in open sources that the HQ-9 uses Russian S-
300PMU technology extensively, including the cold
launch design for vertical ejection from launcher
tubes on TELs, 48N6 rocket motor technology,
and a range of other S-300PMU components,
including an 8x8 four tube TEL modelled on the
5P85DU series. Some sources claim the weapon
uses a two-stage arrangement akin to the S-300V
but in the absence of good imagery this is difficult
to validate. Slant range performance figures also
vary across sources, between 50 and 100 nautical
miles. What data is available suggests a missile
which is similar in capability to early variants of
the MIM-104 Patriot and SA-10B 48N6E, including
Track via Missile (TVM) guidance.
The HQ-9 is supported by the HT-233 phased array
engagement radar, like the H-200 modelled on the
MPQ-53 and 30N6E designs, carried on the Taian
TAS5380 8X8 high mobility vehicle, common to
the HQ-9 TEL and similar in design to the S-400’s
BAZ-6900 series vehicle. Chinese sources claim
C-band operation with 300 MHz receiver/antenna
bandwidth, detection range of 65 nautical miles,
and monopulse angle tracking to resist jamming.
According the US DoD, the FT2000 has yet to be
deployed, as is the case with the follow-on HQ-9
variants. Open sources describe the FT2000 as
an inertially guided SAM with an anti-radiation
terminal seeker, programmed before launch for the
characteristics of the intended target. Each battery
includes four ESM vehicles, used to generate
targeting data for the missile battery.
Given that the FT2000 is derived from the HQ-9,
any claims that this weapon has not been deployed
should be treated with caution since the missile
and its guidance support package could have been
integrated into the baseline HQ-9 system design,
and other than by covert intelligence gathering or
PLA disclosure, this cannot be easily determined
by simple observation. It is entirely conceivable
that a HQ-9 battery could be armed with a mix of
HQ-9 and FT2000 rounds, and this could only be
determined in combat once missiles are actually
launched and enter their terminal guidance phase.
The S-300PMU was the first of the S-300 family
of missiles to be procured by the PLA, and the US
DoD puts current launcher numbers at 32, making
for 4 to 8 deployable missile batteries. This system
is the export configuration of the high mobility
Soviet S-300PS (P- PVO, S – Samochodnyy/Selfpropelled)
system, usually designated SA-10B
Grumble, successor to the Patriot-like semi-mobile
S-300PT. This subtype is either designated as an
SA-10B or SA-10C in the literature.
The S-300PMU best compares to earlier variants
of the US Patriot system, but with the important
difference that the S-300PMU is highly mobile, with
all key battery elements carried on MAZ-7900/543
variant 8x8 vehicles, common to the Scud TEL. The
S-300PS/PMU was the first true ‘shoot and scoot’
SAM system to be deployed, specifically built to
evade the F-4G Wild Weasel. When the export
variant was defined a towed semitrailer TEL was
introduced, the 5P85T with a KrAZ-260B tractor,
self-contained electrical power supply and masted
radio datalink for remote launch control of TELs.
Excluding mast mounted components, the battery
could deploy or stow itself in five minutes or less.
The search and acquisition radar package
comprised the high altitude oriented 36D6/ST-
68UM Tin Shield rated between 1.23 MegaWatts
and 350 kiloWatts, optionally on a semi-mobile
40V6, 40V6M and 40V6MD mast system, and
the low altitude FMCW (Frequency Modulated
Continuous Wave) 76N6 Clam Shell radar. The
latter, mounted on the 23.8 metre tall 40V6M or
37.8 metre tall 40V6MD, was specifically built
to hunt the US AGM-86 and BGM-109 cruise
missiles. The engagement radar is the 30N6E Flap
Lid, usually fully mobile on a MAZ-7900/543 but
also available semi-mobile on the 40V6M mast
for cruise missile defence. Technically, the 30N6E
compares best to the MPQ-53 Patriot radar.
The command link guided missiles in the S-300PT
were supplanted by TVM guided extended 50
nautical mile range 5V55KD and 5V55R rounds.
With all-altitude coverage the S-300PS/PMU was
a formidable system, capable of threatening the
full gamut of conventional combat aircraft, and
provided the impetus for the development of the
F-117A and B-2A stealth aircraft.
ALMAZ S-300PMU-1 / SA-20A
Initially designated the SA-10D Grumble, and later
redesignated the SA-20A Gargoyle, the S-300PMU-
1 was a ‘deep modernisation’ of the S-300PS/PMU
system. The US DoD puts the current PLA inventory
at 64 launchers, for a total of 8 to 16 batteries.
While the S-300PMU-1 retained improved Flap
Lid, Clam Shell and 5P58TE/DE TELs, it introduced
two major new improvements intended to match
or outperform the Patriot PAC-1 and PAC-2
configurations. The first was a new missile design,
the 80 nautical mile range 48N6 with a seeker
capable of engaging 0.02 square metre targets.
The more important addition was the NIIIP 64N6E
Big Bird 3D search and acquisition radar carried on
a high mobility 8x8 MAZ-7910 series articulated
vehicle. This Janus-faced large phased array
was built to provide the S-300PMU-1 with long
range acquisition and tracking capabilities akin
to those in the SPY-1 Aegis naval radar – so
that the missile batteries could survive in heavily
jammed environments and engage supersonic
aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. The
64N6E has no Western equivalent and provides
a significant capability to manage engagements
in a rapidly evolving high threat and high density
Until recently, the S-300PMU-1 was the most lethal
SAM system the PLA deployed but it has been now
supplemented with the S-300PMU-2.
The last of the S-300P derivatives to carry the S-
300P designation, the S-300PMU-2 Favorit, adds
further capabilities. According to the US DoD, the
PLA has deployed 32 launchers for a total of 4 to
8 batteries.
The Favorit is an incrementally enhanced S-
300PMU-1 encompassing the 30N6E2 Flap Lid,
64N6E2 Big Bird, 54K6E2 command post. and
providing interfaces and software to control
legacy missile batteries, such as the S-200VE/
SA-5 Gammon. It is intended to compete directly
against the Antey S-300V Giant and Patriot PAC-
2/3 systems as an Anti-Ballistic Missile system.
The new LEMZ 96L6E search radar is available as
an option with the Favorit.
With the S-300PMU-1 and PMU-2, the PLA gains
enough range to be able to threaten aircraft over
Taiwan if the missile batteries are deployed along
the coastline. The systems have a robust capability
to engage reduced signature aircraft such as the F/
A-18E/F and Eurofighter Typhoon, and from some
aspects will threaten the Joint Strike Fighter. US Air
Force sees only the F-22A and B-2A as survivable
against these systems.
There are no reports to date that the S-400 has
been procured by the PLA although there are
claims that China partly financed the development
of this S-300PMU-2 derivative.
The S-400 recently achieved IOC in Russia with
the first batteries deploying around Moscow last
year. The system extends the reach of the S-
300PMU-2 by adding the 200 nautical mile class
48N6DM missile, and the highly agile 9M96E/E2
interceptor missiles modelled on the PAC-3 ERINT
design. In an S-400 battery, 48N6 launch tubes
can be replaced by four-round tube clusters of the
9M96E/E2, providing a battery with considerably
more firepower.
While most of the PLA’s investment in SAMs has
been focused on expanding and enhancing strategic
and long range area defence coverage, much effort
has also been put into the modernisation of point
defence SAM capabilities.
During the 1990s the PLA procured the Russian
9K331 Tor-M1 / SA-15 Gauntlet system, a highly
mobile rapid reaction SAM built to replace the Cold
War era SA-8 Gecko system. Like the SA-8 Gecko,
the Tor M1 TELAR is a fully self contained package,
with a search radar, a monopulse tracking and
engagement radar, and a magazine of Automatic
Command to Line Of Sight guided missiles. The
design aims of the Gauntlet were, however,
broader than those for the Gecko, and not only are
low flying aircraft and helicopters intended targets
but also cruise missiles, standoff missiles and
smart bombs during their terminal flight phase.
Russian thinking is that S-300PMU/S-400 battery
elements such as radars and command posts are
to be covered by Gauntlet point defence systems,
intended to engage and destroy guided munitions
targeting the S-300PMU/S-400 battery elements.
The Gauntlet is carried on a GM-355 tracked
chassis. The E/F-band folding surveillance radar is
carried on the top of the turret, and the G/H-band
engagement radar, claimed to be a phased array
design, is mounted on the front. Eight vertically
launched 9K331 SAM rounds are carried in sealed
magazines. These are vertically ejected before
ignition using the cold launch technique. Once
clear of the TELAR, the canard missiles use nose
rocket thrusters to pitch over in the direction of the
target and effect the engagement. Reaction time
to threats is credited in seconds between track
confirmation and launch.
While in conceptual terms the Gauntlet compares
well to the Franco-German Roland; the missile is
more advanced and the TELAR far more capable
than the Roland ever could be.
Chinese sources put the SA-15 inventory at around
25 systems deployed with the 31st and 38th Army
Groups. The Russians have exported this system to
Greece and Iran.
HQ-6 AND HQ-7/FM-80/FM-90 /
The US DoD credits the PLA with 30 ‘HQ-6’
launchers, most likely referring to the HQ-61
series point defence SAMs deployed during the
1980s. The missile round most closely resembles
the US RIM-7 Sparrow but is larger, heavier and
is equipped with a semi-active radar homing
seeker and midcourse command link guidance. A
6x6 YanAn SX2150 truck carries two rounds on a
slewable elevating launcher. Guidance is provided
by the Type 571 radar system. The HQ-61 series
has been largely superceded by the HQ-7.
The HQ-7 is a Chinese clone of the French Thales/
Thomson CSF Crotale SAM. During the 1970s the
French supplied samples of the Crotale, which
was promptly reverse engineered. The cloned
Crotale has been built in two configurations, a high
mobility variant for PLA Army units on a 4 x 4 scout
vehicle and a less mobile PLA-AF air field defence
system, using either a trailer or a truck platform. A
four-round elevating tube launcher turret is used,
mounting the X-band Automatic Command to Line
Of Sight monopulse radar dish antenna. Export
variants are the FM-80 and FM-90 with a FLIR
tracker and longer ranging missiles. HQ-7 batteries
are typically supported by an acquisition radar
system, usually on a 6x6 light armoured personnel
carrier. The HQ-7 has been widely deployed as a
naval point defence weapon on PLA-N warships.


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