Air Defense: China Plans a Surprise

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November28, 2006: Chinese military publications have featured a number of articles stressing that the best way to deal with U.S. air power is with modern air-to-surface (SAM) missiles. One article stressed that Yugoslavia (in 1999) and Iraq (in 1991 and 2003) would have done better if they had invested more in such systems. Practicing what they preach, China has not only purchased dozens of Russian S-300 (SA-10) launchers, and hundreds of missiles, but has apparently licensed Russian missile technology for these own HQ9 and HQ16 SAM. The HQ9 is similar to the U.S. "Patriot," and is deployed on land, and in ships. HQ9 is supposed to have a max range of 100 kilometers, weigh 1.3 tons and have a passive (no broadcasting) seeker in the missile. The HQ16 is also apparently developed with Russian help, and is more advanced S-300 type system. The Chinese believe that with enough state-of-the-art SAMs and they can break the USAF. The Americans have kept quiet about all this, if only because for the Chinese strategy to work, U.S. SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) weapons will have to be rendered less effective. Thus the intense interest Chinese spies have had in American stealth aircraft technology (the better to defeat it) and airborne electronics (ditto). If China is able to obtain enough information about U.S. SEAD systems, the Chinese air defense will be formidable, and able to severely damage any American attacking force. However, you usually won't know how well prepared the Chinese are until there's an actual war. It is, after all, a question of, "who knows what?"

 


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