Air Defense: Thieves World


September 26, 2011: China admitted that it had recently tested a new anti-missile missile technology. American sensors spotted this test, where two Chinese missiles were fired towards each other, and disappeared as the warheads met. China claimed that this test involved new mid-course correction technology. China did not say what kind of missile was used to intercept the incoming ballistic missile. Last year, China successfully used a modified HQ-9 anti-aircraft missile to intercept a short range ballistic missile. Last year's test used technology stolen from the Russians, the more recent test indicates tech stolen from the United States.

China got the Russian anti-missile tech by purchasing a lot of Russian equipment, then picking it apart to see how it worked. For example, last year China received the last of 15 battalions of S-300MPU anti-aircraft missile systems bought from Russia. China won't be buying any more of those. That's because it has incorporated the best Russian tech into its locally designed and built HQ-9 systems. These are also being pushed aggressively to export customers as well. Unlike the S-300, China can upgrade the HQ-9 and sell it to anyone.

Thus, last year, an HQ-9 anti-aircraft system successfully shot down a ballistic missile. This capability is important to many potential export customers, and China wanted everyone to know where they could purchase that capability. China offers HQ-9 for export as the FD-2000. The HQ-9 is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Patriot. While about 30 percent of Chinese long range antiaircraft systems are S-300, 70 percent are the Chinese designed and manufactured HQ-9.

A decade ago, China began introducing the HQ-9. It was a much less capable system back then. Over a decade of development was believed to have benefitted from data stolen from similar American and Russian systems. The HQ-9 is deployed in ships as well. The radar apparently derived much technology from that used in the Russian S-300 system. The HQ-9 missile has a max range of about 100 kilometers, weighs 1.3 tons and has a passive (no broadcasting) seeker in the missile. The Patriot missile weighs a ton (for the 70 kilometer range version) and a third of a ton for the 20 kilometer range anti-missile only version. The S-300 missiles weigh 1.8 tons and have a range of 200 kilometers. Russia and the United States are debating how to deal with the growing Chinese use of stolen technology, especially for weapons systems that are exported and compete against the systems they are copied from. No one has a solution, and China denies all accusations.

Neither the S-300 nor HQ-9 has been tested in combat. Earlier Russian designed air defense systems tended to perform poorly in combat. Even the Russian SA-6 missile systems, that Egypt used in 1973, which were initially a surprise to the Israelis, were soon countered, and did not stop the Israelis from getting through. While the best sales technique is to push the product's track record, you have to do just the opposite with Russian anti-aircraft missiles. Thus the Russians, and now the Chinese with their FD-2000, emphasize low price, impressive specifications, test results and potential.





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