China Conducts Mid-Course Ballistic-Missile Defense Tests

Chinese H-9 surface-to-air missile
Chinese H-9 surface-to-air missile launcher
Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

DOHA, Qatar—China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has performed a ballistic-missile defense (BMD) test, hitting a missile in its mid-course phase. 

China’s Ministry of National Defense says “the test reached its desired objective” and was of a defensive nature—not aimed at any particular country. 

The June 19 test would be China sixth of the BMD, following ones in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2018 and 2021. All tests were mid-course missile intercepts, with the exception of the 2014 test, for which no details were provided.

While the PLA did not reveal which missile interceptor was used, it is highly possible that it was the HQ-19. Based on the H-9 surface-to-air missile, the HQ-19 uses a dual-purpose exosphere kinetic-kill vehicle for ballistic-missile and satellite targets and has an estimated range between 1,000 km (621 mi.) and 3,000 km. It is often compared to the U.S Terminal High Altitude Area Defense BMD system. 

China conducted its first anti-satellite test in 2007, destroying a 750-kg (1,650-lb.) satellite using a multistage solid-fuel missile tipped with a kinetic-kill vehicle. 

Given the maturity of China mid-course BMD, the next steps would be the development and validation of terminal-stage BMD and finally integrating such technology into its massive Type-055 missile destroyers, giving the PLA greater standoff missile-defense capability.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.