Monday, January 11, 2010

China conducts test on ground-based midcourse missile interception

With this announcement, expect a sleuth of write-ups from the "usual suspects"

Christopher Bodeen

Beijing — The Associated Press Published on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 2:15PM EST
China announced that its military intercepted a missile in mid-flight Monday in a test of new technology that comes amid heightened tensions over Taiwan and increased willingness by the Asian giant to show off its advanced military capabilities.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported late Monday that “ground-based midcourse missile interception technology” was tested within Chinese territory.

“The test has achieved the expected objective,” the three-sentence report said. “The test is defensive in nature and is not targeted at any country.”

Monday's report follows repeated complaints in recent days by Beijing over the sale by the U.S. of weaponry to Taiwan, including PAC-3 air defence missiles. These sales are driven by threats from China to use force to bring the island under its control, backed up by an estimated 1,300 Chinese ballistic missiles positioned along the Taiwan Strait.

Communist-ruled China split with Taiwan amid civil war in 1949 and continues to regard the self-governing democracy as part of its territory. Beijing has warned of a disruption in ties with Washington if the sale goes ahead, but has not said what specific actions it would take.

China's military is in the middle of a major technology upgrade, spurred on by double-digit annual percentage increases in defence spending. Missile technology is considered one of the People's Liberation Army's particular strengths, allowing it to narrow the gap with the U.S. and other militaries that wield stronger conventional forces.

Xinhua did not further identify the system tested, although China is believed to be pursuing a number of programs developed from anti-aircraft systems aimed at shooting down stealth aircraft and downing or disabling cruise missiles and precision-guided weapons.

Such programs are shrouded in secrecy, but military analysts say China appears to have augmented its air defences with homemade technologies adapted from Russian and other foreign weaponry. China purchased a large number of Russian surface-to-air missiles during the 1990s and has since pressed ahead with its own HQ-9 interceptor, along with a more advanced missile system with an extended range.

Foreign media reports in 2006 said Beijing had tested a surface-to-air missile in the country's remote northwest with capabilities similar to the American Patriot interceptor system. According to South Korea's Dong-A Ilbo newspaper, the test involved the detection and downing of both a reconnaissance drone and an incoming ballistic missile by an interceptor, adding that it appeared to mark the official launch of China's indigenous interceptor unit.

“There is an obvious concern in Beijing that they need an effective anti-ballistic missile defence in some form,” said Hans Kristensen, an expert on the Chinese military with the Federation of American Scientists.

Staging a successful test “shows that their technology is maturing,” Mr. Kristensen said.

The 2009 Pentagon report on China's military says the air force received eight battalions of upgraded Russian SA-20 PMU-2 surface-to-air missiles since 2006, with another eight on order. The missiles have a range of 200 kilometres and reportedly provide limited ballistic and cruise missile defence capabilities.

Such interceptor missiles are believed to be deployed near major cities and strategic sites such as the massive Three Gorges Dam, but they could also be used to protect China's own ballistic missile batteries that would themselves become targets in any regional conflict.

Such interceptors would be of relatively little use against U.S. cruise missiles, although they could be effective against ballistic missiles deployed by Russia or India, China's massive neighbour to the south with which it has a growing military rivalry and lingering territorial disputes.

Monday's report continues a growing trend of greater transparency over China's new military technologies typified by last year's striking Oct. 1 military parade marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the communist state. Large numbers of missiles were displayed in the show, including ICBMs, together with tanks, amphibious craft and latest-generation jet fighters.

China's anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles — capable of striking U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle groups and bases in the Pacific — have drawn the most attention from analysts in recent months.

Military displays and announcements of successful tests help build public pride in the military's rising capabilities and bolster support for rising defence spending that increased by almost 15 per cent last year to $71 billion. The figure is thought by many analysts to represent only a portion of total defence spending, although it still amounts to only a fraction of the U.S. military budget.

Meanwhile, showing off such capabilities also helps put adversaries on notice, Mr. Kristensen said.

“It's the new Chinese way to signal that they are now able to do these things,” he said.

Here is the nice-and-short "three-sentence report" from Xinhua

China conducts test on ground-based midcourse missile interception
2010-01-11 13:03:08 GMT2010-01-11 21:03:08 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English

BEIJING, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- China conducted a test on ground-based midcourse missile interception within its territory on Monday


Rick Joe said...

I wonder if this system is a new indigenous system or just an S-300/PMU-1/PMU-2/HQ-9?

Coatepeque said...

IMHO, it somehow related to the S-400 guidance system.

RAJ47 said...

This is a great way to display vividly the technological advancement achieved in the fields of TT&C.
Chinese timings are simply perfect.
1. Arms sale to Taiwan by US is in jeopardy.
2. India tested BVRAAM called ASTRA yesterday.
3. Indian Defense Secretary is on visit to Beijing.
The official statement by China is very modest
But if you notice the images and their captions, only HQ-9 image gives out the designation of the system. A veiled indication of the system used.

Coatepeque said...


Most interesting observation -- folks in China are speculating the ROC arms sale connection.

尘好大 said...

China's Ground-based Mid-Course Defence (GMD) is not HQ-9 based. HQ-9 is similar to US's PAC-3 and the Russian S-400. This kind of SAM is good only for knocking down the re-entry vehicle after it has dececended from the atmosphere. China had already tested HQ-9 for interception a few years ago. India has also demonstrated its capability in this area.

The GMD test conducted by China on 11 Jan 2010, as confirmed by the US, was carried out in the exo-atmosphere. It is a new capability that has hitherto been demonstrated by the US only, the earliest successful test being 1999.

Coatepeque said...


Thanks for the post.

Coatepeque said...

Coatepeque said...


Jeff Lewis seems to agree with you.

It Might Not Have Been An HQ-9

I suspect this was the same sort of interceptor used in January 2007, though that is simply a guess at this point. (The reference to space debris, however, strikes me as particularly notworthy link to January 2007.)

Xinhua carried the announcement with the above photo — of an HQ-9 air defense missile. Some colleagues have assumed (quite reasonably) that the test must, therefore, have used an HQ-9 missile, which in many ways resembles the Russian S-300 air-defense missile.

I would not/not, however, conclude China used an HQ-9 on the basis of this image. The caption, which I have reproduced with the image, describes it as a “file photo” and the Xinhua photo gallery contains file photos of another HQ-9, an HQ-12 and a DF-21C.

One thing I notice about the statement and selection of pictures is that the Chinese government has gone to great lengths to appear to be providing information, but there really is nothing there at all about the interceptor, the objective of the test, and so forth.

China really could have tested anything at all, though my default assumption would be that the missile defense test mirrored the January 2007 ASAT test and its predecessors.

Unknown said...

"...about the interceptor, the objective of the test, and so forth."

Well let me tell you:

"about the interceptor" - secret
"objective of the test" - defense