Bluffer’s Guide: Fortress China
3. Tactical Systems
The Chinese military, including curiously the armed police (PAP), deploy a wide variety of short-ranged air defence systems. Some are fixed-site but most are operated in a truly mobile fashion.
No such system has been confirmed but the ship-based version is believed to be fitted to the Type-054A frigates. Probably a close relative to the Russian SA-17 "Grizzly" system but vertical launched and possibly using the 9M317ME missile. The missile is about the same size as the HQ-9 but being hot-launched would have a shorter missile container. A truck with suspected HQ-16 tubes was photographed. A basic 8-wheel truck can comfortably mount 6 (3 wide by 2 high) of missiles so a TEL is likely to carry six missiles. The missiles are semi-active radar homing and would have a range of about 50km (similar to HQ-12).
China purchased a modest number of SA-15 systems in the 1990s. Typically quoted number is 36 systems. Some sources speculate that China may be license producing the type. The SA-15s in Chinese service are the M1 standard.
The launcher is completely self-sufficient with both surveillance and tracking/targeting radars on-mount, together with 8 vertically launched missiles.
This is an indigenous system developed from the older HQ-61. The missile is based on the Italian Aspide which itself is a development of the Sparrow missile. The HQ-64 was widely publicized in the 1990s (together with the HQ-9 and KS-1), but only recently appears to have entered Chinese service. The Air Force (PLAAF) deploys the system, and possibly the army (PLA) also.
A typical battery follows the HQ-61 model with a single surveillance radar serving up to three fire-control radars, each able to direct two 4-round launchers. All components are truck mounted for good mobility.
A single unoccupied HQ-6X site has been found on Google Earth:
A Chinese copy of the French Crotale system, the HQ-7 is deployed by both the army and air-force. The system is highly mobile even in its towed ‘shelter’ version. The basic system has a range of 12km and provides modest defense against fast jet targets. The PLAAF shelter version:
Finding HQ-7 units deployed on Google Earth is virtually impossible due to their mobile nature and the adoption of camouflage nets, but the PLAAF deployed two batteries to protect the Olympic games and one of these was widely publicized. By chance it is caught on Google Earth and I also found the other battery. Although there are a few trappings of a comfortable holiday period token deployment, the sites nonetheless give rare insight into HQ-7 site layouts:
Another HQ-7 site at an air base:
China has developed successive improved versions of the HQ-7 with numerous prototypes and models at defense shows. The latest version, with an export designation FM-90 (In-service designation not known but logically HQ-7C), appears to have entered limited service. The FM-90 features a longer ranged missile (15km vs 12km) and a new six wheel launch vehicle:
A single FM-90 site has been found on Google Earth by Sean O’Connor. The site itself is clearly originally an HQ-2 site so the layout should not be regarded as typical for HQ-7:
The oldest indigenous SHORAD to be in service, the HQ-61 is now obsolete. The missile is similar in appearance to the Sparrow but is slightly larger and has the forward fins out-of-line to the rear fins. Range is about 10km. It is reportedly only used in Beijing military region but I suspect it is deployed in Shanghai also (see Google Earth below).
A single ‘field’ deployment is visible in historic data on Google Earth:
The land-based version of the naval CIWS Type-730 the LD-2000 combines a seven barreled 30mm Gatling gun with 6 TY-90 SAMs. The system is likely to have a similar overall capability to the US C-RAM but with extended range thanks to the 6km reach of the TY-90s. However rather than anti-mortar defenses the LD-2000 is more likely employed for point defense of key installations and facilities from cruise missiles, PGMs and fast jets at low altitude.
Still in the mock-up stage, this system can be likened to the Israeli Spyder system, but using a Hummer mount more reminiscent of the US SL-AMRAAM. The system equates to ground launched PL-12 and PL-9 missiles and may be for export only. The PL-9 is not a great SAM (has been marketed before) although the active-radar guided PL-12 (SD-10) missile is much more credible and likely to have a range of about 25km when ground launched.
Another Chinese rip-off, this time of the US Avenger system. Possibly another export-only offering, this system is probably compatible with a wide range of Chinese MANPADs.
Derived from the air-launched light SAM, the TY-90 SAM is a short range system probably in-service with the PLA. Range is only about 6km but some mounts include relatively advanced targeting systems. The below illustration is of a quad TY-90 mount used in conjunction with 23mm or 25mm AAA.
This is a relatively recent system similar to the German Gupard. Like the Gupard the system employs twin 35mm cannon. The fore control appears to include a tracking radar as well as a phased array search radar and eletro-optical/IR passive devices.
The Type-95 is the mainstay self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. The system has four 25mm cannon and four MANPAD missiles but uses a relatively basic search radar.
China’s first successful self-propelled anti-aircraft tank, the Type-88 was all the same mediocre at best and never entered widespread service although some units remain in frontline service. The system is essentially a Type-74 twin 37mm gun mounted on an old tank chassis.
The 35mm Type-90 is a copy of the Swiss Oerlikon series auto-cannon. China has produced these in relatively substantial numbers and they are almost certainly the most potent towed AAA guns in Chinese service. China has produced various fire control radars derived from the SkyGuard system. Type-90s appear to only be used in mobile formations rather than fixed sites.
There have been various attempts to mount the Type-90 on various vehicles but the most recent and promising incorporates an electro-optical device and appears to have electronic muzzle fusing possibly hinting at ‘smart’ “AHEAD” style anti-missile ammunition. If that’s the case then this system probably represents a cheaper and possibly more effective counterpart to the LD-2000 (above):
An indigenous 25mm cannon employing a mount closely modeled on the Russian ZU-23-2. Most are towed but the most interesting version is a self-propelled Air-Assault jeep with two MANPAD missiles also added. It’s not clear if this in service but it appears a very practical system.
The Type-85 is a straight copy of the Soviet Zu-23-2 23mm AAA mount.
The Type-59 is the Chinese version of the Soviet S-60 57mm AAA mount. It is employed mainly in static locations with six or 8 guns. Range is about 6km.
A twin 37mm AAA system with an effective range of about 4km, the Type-74 is probably the most numerous AAA system. Like the Type-59 it is usually deployed in static locations but most of the units are kept in reserve during peace time. The system is of limited use against modern adversaries.