Bluffer’s Guide: Fortress China
2. Main Area-Defense Systems
A Chinese indigenous system analogous with the Russian S-300 series, the HQ-9 has had a long gestation but is now being deployed in some numbers. Contrary to many published statistics, the missile is somewhat smaller than the S-300’s, and is probably a single-stage weapon. Many design features are borrowed from the S-300 series but also with many features of the US Patriot system, presumably gleaned by espionage in US and China’s Western-aligned neighbors.
Battery configuration is modeled on the S-300. Range is about 90km (I don’t buy the 200km claim) and the system probably has good multi-target and modest ABM capability. It is certainly a formidable system.
Illustrations represent the production versions as best I can tell:
The HQ-9 dimensions estimates:
S-300 P series (SA-10 and SA-20)
The first S-300s delivered to China were S-300PMU, the export version of the SA-10B Grumble. These were initially deployed around Beijing although two of the batteries have probably been redeployed elsewhere as better systems replace them around Beijing.
In the late 1990s the S-300PMUs were succeeded by the more capable S-300PMU-1 system. Unlike its predecessor, China opted for the less mobile trailer-mounted missile TEL. Pretty much all export versions of the S-300/400 series can be mounted on either the classic Maz truck TEL, or a towed trailer. Generally China observers reverse the relationship assuming that the trailer mounted examples are the older PMUs rather than the more widespread PMU-1.
The PMU-1 introduced a more capable missile and the impressive ‘Big Bird’ radar. These are usually deployed in separate sites serving multiple S-300 batteries and can be likened to “land-Aegis”.
The antenna rotates but has phased arrays on both sides so it can search two sectors at once.
China has also started to receive the PMU-2 ‘Favorit’ system. Like the PMU-1s this is mounted on a trailer but uses a different tractor, the same as is often associated with the S-400 system. The PMU-2 has genuine 195km range.
The HQ-12 is an indigenous Chinese system derived from the HQ-2. Despite a passing resemblance to the upper stage of the HQ-2 the missile is in fact completely new and features a single stage solid-fuelled rocket with a range of about 50km (better than the 35km of the HQ-2). Development has been somewhat protracted but the system appears to have entered widespread service slowly replacing HQ-2s. Probably developed as a contingency to the more sophisticated HQ-9, it is plausible that the HQ-12 is now viewed as the cheaper alternative to the S-300 and HQ-9 systems. One aspect where the HQ-12 is quite strong however is in terms of radars, which are cross-pollinated with the HQ-9 program. Despite certain hangovers from the old HQ-2, and being generally less capable than the HQ-9/S-300s, the HQ-12 is a very capable system providing credible modern air defense to less-strategic locations.
The Chinese version of the Soviet SA-2, the HQ-2 has been deployed in successive versions. The system is undoubtedly the least capable Chinese area-defense SAM but remains prominent. Range is about 35km but altitude is good. Although Chinese systems may be more capable than the SA-2s, they still suffer from multi-target and mobility limitations.
The below photo shows that even in 2007 PLA was still building HQ-2 sites, although it has been suggested that this is an HQ-12 site with HQ-2 deployed as an interim arrangement. Either way it’s likely that he HQ-2s here have been displaced from a higher priority location where they have been replaced by one of the multitude of more advanced systems field by China.