Chinese media recently publicly criticized the poor performance of Russian S-300 and S-400 missiles in Syria, and bluntly suggested that Syria should buy its FD-2000.

Chinese Army HQ-9 surface-to-air missile system
Chinese Army HQ-9 surface-to-air missile system

Over a period of over a decade, China gradually replaced Russian air defense systems with domestic products. The latest product is the long-range missile system HQ-9B.

China has always proudly boasted that HQ-9’s computers and electronic systems outperform Russia’s S-300. They argue that HQ-9 was developed a decade later than the first S-300, and that Beijing has an advanced electronics and computer industry than Russia.

At present, most of China’s long-range air defense systems are HQ-9 and the country has also significantly reduced the use of S-300 and S-400. In 2015, about a quarter of China’s air defense systems originated in Russia, but this number is now only about 10%.

Initially, HQ-9 was a much less capable system, at least in theory. However, after more than a decade of development and upgrading, the system is said to have had better advantages thanks to documents obtained from similar systems of the US and Russia.

The HQ-9 radar has “learned” from many technologies on the Russian S-300 system. HQ-9 itself has many similarities with the US Patriot system.

The first HQ-9 version had a maximum range of about 100km, weighed 1.3 tons and was equipped with a passive missile seeker. The Patriot, meanwhile, weighs one ton (with a range of 70 km) and only 1/3 ton, for a 20 km anti-missile version. S-300 missile weighs 1.8 tons and has a range of 200 km.

Long-range missile defense system FD-2000 (export version of HQ-9). Photo: Times of Islamabad
Long-range missile defense system FD-2000 (export version of HQ-9). Photo: Times of Islamabad

FD-2000, the export version of HQ-9, is said to have removed quite a lot of equipment that was copied from US and Russian systems. This slightly reduces the operational capabilities of the FD-2000, but will not face lawsuits over theft.

HQ-9 currently uses missiles with a range of 200km or 300km. HQ-9 is also a mobile system, search radar (usually Type 120) transported by a heavy truck, which can be put into use within 15 minutes.

Type 120 has a maximum detection range of 300km. China plans to sell HQ-9 and Type 120 radar separately when exporting. In 2013, the rebels captured a Type 120 radar system in Syria (without HQ-9).

Since the end of 2019, Chinese media has publicly criticized the poor performance of Russia’s S-300 and S-400 missiles in Syria, and bluntly suggested that Syria should buy its FD-2000.

However, China has not achieved success in finding customers for FD-2000. Turkey, Egypt and Iraq showed interest but never ordered.

In 2016, Iraq seemed to have agreed to spend $ 2.5 billion to buy a Chinese FD-2000 brigade. Beijing is also willing to provide credit so that Iraq can pay slowly for a while. In 2015, Iraq purchased advanced weapons from China, the CH-4 UAV, a system very similar to the American Predator UAV.

However, Iraq did not proceed with the purchase of FD-2000 due to opposition from the US, Saudi Arabia and Iran. None of these countries wants Iraq to have an effective air defense system if it works just as China has praised.

Although HQ-9 has never been tested in combat, China is still trying to propagate that its system is superior to Russia’s S-300 and S-400.

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