Air Defense: Iraq Chooses High End Chinese

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December 25, 2016: Iraq has apparently agreed to spend $2.5 billion to buy a brigade of Chinese FD-2000 air defense system. China will provide credit so Iraq can delay payments for a while and then pay for the system over a period of years. Iraq has bought advanced weapons from China before. In 2015 Iraq was able to purchase Chinese CH-4 UAVs. This is a system very similar to the American Predator. FD-2000 is the export version of the HQ-9, an anti-aircraft system that successfully shot down a ballistic missile in 2010 and is gaining a reputation of being an inexpensive substitute for the American Patriot or Russian S-300. This anti-missile capability is important for potential export customers and China let everyone know about it. The HQ-9 is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Patriot.

Currently most Chinese long range antiaircraft systems are HQ-9s while about a quarter are Russian S-300s. In 2003 China began delivering the HQ-9 to its army and navy (on ships). In the beginning the HQ-9 was a much less capable system. Over a decade of development and upgrades was believed to have benefitted from data stolen from similar American and Russian systems. The HQ-9 radar apparently derived a lot of technology from that used in the Russian S-300 system. The HQ-9 missile itself is similar to the U.S. "Patriot." An 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. The FD-2000 is believed to have removed the more obvious items stolen from American and Russian systems. This reduces capability a bit but makes the FD-2000 more resistant to lawsuits over stolen technology.

HQ-9 units are mobile. The Type 120 radar is carried and operated from a heavy truck. This radar can be put into service in less than 15 minutes and shut down and be on the road again in 10 minutes. The Type 120 has a max detection range of 300 kilometers. China will sell the HQ-9 and Type 120 radar to export customers separately, and in 2013 rebels captured a Type 120 in Syria (which does not have HQ-9).

Most of the HQ-9 systems used by the Chinese army are mobile. Army HQ-9 brigades have a brigade headquarters (with a command vehicle and four trucks for communications and maintenance), six battalions (each with a missile control vehicle, a targeting radar vehicle, a search radar vehicle, and 8 missile-launch-vehicles, each carrying 4 missiles in containers).

Neither the S-300 nor HQ-9 has been tested in combat. This is important because Russian designed air defense systems tend to perform poorly in combat. Even the Russian SA-6 missile systems that Egypt used in 1973, and 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 products' track record, you have to do just the opposite with Russian and Chinese anti-aircraft systems. Thus, the Russians, and now the Chinese with their FD-2000, emphasize low price, impressive specifications, test results, and potential. The Chinese are also very tolerant of selling for inflated prices that allow the receiving country to distribute generous bribes to the senior officials involved.

 


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