Air Defense: Looking For Mister GoodFight


April 11, 2009: China is pushing export sales of a new (China began using it four years ago) mobile anti-aircraft system. Called the Yitian, it is a 16 ton wheeled armored vehicle is similar to the much older U.S. Avenger air-defense system. The Avengers are hummers with a turret mounted on the back. The turret contains two missile pods (each containing four Stinger anti-aircraft missiles). Under one pod there is an M3P .50 caliber machine gun. The weapons operator has use of a FLIR (night vision device) and a laser range finder. The machine-gun, however, can't be depressed sufficiently to fire at ground targets towards the front of the vehicle.

Both Chinese Avengers feature the same combination of sensors and short range missiles, but left out the machine-gun. The Chinese Avengers also use more powerful radar, and a larger missile. The 45 pound TY-90 anti-aircraft missile was originally designed to use on helicopters, which have a hard time carrying the heavier heat seeking missiles normally carried by jet fighters. The missile has a range of six kilometers. The principal version of the Chinese Avenger, the Yitian, mounts eight missiles and the radar on a Type 90 6x6 wheeled armored vehicle. It has a crew of four. The Type 90 is a twelve ton vehicle that normally operates like the U.S. Army Stryker. The other version of the Chinese Avenger mounts the missiles and radar in a smaller, 4x4 truck that looks like the American hummer.

The Yitian also has twin 35mm cannon, which  has a range of about four kilometers, while the 12.7mm machine-gun, operated by the vehicle commander (mostly for self-defense) can also take on air targets, like helicopters or UAVs, out to about two kilometers. The Yitian radar can spot aircraft out to 18 kilometers, and smaller targets (like cruise missiles or UAVs) out to 8 kilometers. A passive electro-optical system can spot targets out to 12 kilometers, and direct missile and cannon fire at them.


In the Chinese army, Yitian batteries have a command vehicle, six Yitian vehicles, plus trucks carrying ammo reloads and maintenance equipment. China is flexible on the price of Yitian, and will mount it on any vehicle that can support it (armored or unarmored, wheeled or tracked.) The Yitian has no combat experience, and China does not have a good reputation for high tech gear. That explains the flexibility on price, and the desire to get many of these systems out there, in the hope that one of them will shoot down something. It's much easier to shoot "combat tested" weapons.




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