Air Defense: The Starter System


December 11, 2011: China has finally found an export customer for its HQ-7 mobile anti-aircraft missile system. Bangladesh recently received a battalion of these weapons (radars and self-propelled launchers). The export version is called the FM-90 and is essentially identical to the HQ-7. A battalion consists of three search radars, nine tracking radars, and 36 launcher vehicles, each with four missiles.

Based on reverse-engineering the French Crotale system, the HQ-7 entered Chinese service in 1987. The export version was first offered in 1998. The search radar has a max range of 25 kilometers and 84.5 kg (186 pound) missiles with a max range of 15 kilometers. The warhead has a proximity (radar) fuze, which detonates when the radar controlled missiles comes close enough to a target. There is also a visual tracking system with a range of 15 kilometers.

The HQ-7 is being replaced by the HQ-16, which is based on licensed Russian technology. Bangladesh could not afford the more expensive HQ-16 and didn't have any experience with anti-aircraft missile systems, as this was their first purchase of such systems. So the HQ-7 is sort of a starter system so the Bangladeshis can learn how to handle this technology without the risk of damaging a more expensive version. Bangladesh doesn't really have any threatening air forces on their border, but the HQ-7 does provide the capability to better deal with hostile non-military aircraft piloted by, say, terrorists.

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