Current Events

Chinese Naval Airpower Developments
Sean O’Connor As China’s military machine enjoys new weapon systems and improved capabilities as it moves into the heart of the 21st Century, the PLAN is no exception to modernization. Operations off the coast of Somalia and port calls to USN berths in San Diego highlight the PLAN’s growing blue-water ambitions. To take advantage of blue-water power projection far from China’s home waters, however, the PLAN requires a functioning aircraft carrier. Actions over the past decade highlight China’s progression towards obtaining carrier-based airpower. The Varyag After the breakup of the Varyag, once intended modern carrier in the Soviet the Nikolayev shipyard in the Soviet Union, to be the second Navy, remained at the Ukraine in a

near-complete state. In 1998, China purchased Varyag from the Ukraine. Varyag arrived at Dalian shipyard in 2002, where it currently resides while undergoing refit. As Varyag is undergoing refurbishment and fitting out with weapons and sensor systems, service entry with the PLAN is extremely likely following sea trials.

Berths hosting the Varyag in imagery; Oct 2009 indicates a dry-dock (Google Earth)


The PLAN’s intentions for Varyag are unclear. Most sources believe that Varyag will serve in a training capacity with the PLAN, allowing future Chinese carrier-based aviators to develop and hone their skills. Shenyang’s J-15 China’s first carrier-based combat aircraft is Shenyang’s J-15. The J-15, making its maiden flight in August of 2009, represents a modified Su-33 (FLANKER-D) design incorporating elements of Shenyang’s FLANKER-derived J-11B. Apart from minor details, including the modified wingtip missile rails, related to the Chinese avionics, powerplant, and weapon system, the J-15 is nearly identical to the Su-33.

Modifying Xian In April of 2009, Digital Globe imagery revealed a ski-jump takeoff ramp and auxiliary runway at Xian-Yanliang, home to the Chinese Flight Test Establishment (CFTE), China’s primary flight test facility. The April imagery illustrated the ski-jump area in a near-finished capacity, with October 2009 imagery depicting a fully completed facility. Shenyang’s J-15 began flight trials using the ski-jump in May of 2010. Wuhan’s “Carrier” In October of 2009, photographs of a new facility built near Wuhan showed a complete mock-up of Varyag’s flight deck and


superstructure erected atop a multi-story building. The new structure is to a 1:1 scale with Varyag and likely serves as a training facility. The 1:1 mockup is a useful tool for developing deck handling procedures and educating Chinese crewmembers on various aspects of carrier operations. Carrier Aviation Facility Facilities at Wuhan and Xian-Yanliang are sufficient for trials and basic crew training, but are not capable of supporting long-term training requirements for a Chinese carrierbased squadron or airwing. The Xian-Yanliang facility may serve as an initial crew-training base, but long-term training will require a dedicated facility. As the CFTE’s primary flight test facility, Xian-Yanliang is not equipped to 3

support an operational unit, with ramp space and flight test programs likely dominating the facility’s availability. China’s answer appears to be a new airbase constructed on the coastline of the Boahi Gulf approximately forty kilometers southwest of Huludao, near the village of Huangdicun. June 2010 imagery depicts the installation under construction, with April 2009 imagery showing no trace of the facility, demonstrating the rapid progress made by Chinese engineers. The new facility boasts not only two skijump takeoff ramps, but a probable set of arresting gear to emulate carrier-landing procedures as well. The construction of parking ramps and administrative and support

infrastructure is consistent with that seen at other PLANAF and PLAAF airfields, indicating that this facility represents the likely home for China’s disembarked carrier-based aviation. The location is interesting, as it resides less than ten kilometers southwest of the PLANAF’s Xincheng airbase, home to an H-5 (BEAGLE) unit of the PLANAF Naval Aviation Air Academy. Xincheng itself also saw ramp expansion between April of 2009 and June of 2010, and may yet play a part in hosting Chinese carrier airwing components. A Possible AEW? The most recent Chinese naval airpower development is the appearance of a prototype reported to represent a carrier-based AEW 4

platform. The aircraft, based on a Y-7 airframe, is currently undergoing flight trials at Xian-Yanliang. Similarity of the new AEW platform to the USN’s E-2 Hawkeye led to the assertion that it represents a carrier-based aircraft. No further details on the aircraft are available, however, consigning this to speculation at this point. The Future The aforementioned systems and locations allow a picture of China’s carrierrelated plans to emerge. While each piece of data allows individual conclusions to be drawn, the totality of the evidence suggests an outlook in some respects different from what other sources often report.

Analysts often suggest that Varyag will serve as a training vessel allowing China to develop experience operating carrier-based aviation. Until 2009, this represented a logical line of reasoning. However, the appearance of the Wuhan carrier-training complex in October of 2009 suggests that Varyag will not be restricted to training operations. Construction of the Wuhan facility indicates the PLAN’s desire to expend significant effort training on a vessel of Varyag’s configuration. In addition, recent images of Varyag taken at Dalian shipyard indicate that the vessel is not only being outfitted with sensor systems, but weapon systems as well, providing the vessel with a modicum of defense not often envisioned for a pure training platform. The Wuhan training complex also suggests that a future Chinese CV, the first of which is reportedly under construction at Jiangnan shipyard, may represent a minimumchange derivative of Varyag’s design rather than a wholly new vessel. While August 2010 imagery of Jiangnan does not depict any overt indications of carrier fabrication work, the facility does operate massive dry-docks required to construct a vessel of Varyag’s size.

A decision to base future PLAN CVs on Varyag is logical, given China’s experience with the internal workings and construction of the vessel gained through the refurbishment and outfitting processes at Dalian. Furthermore, this follows the typical Chinese weapons development process of importing a system and developing a derivative for domestic use prior to the fielding of a truly unique and indigenous design. As such, a follow-on CV class will likely deviate from Varyag’s configuration, following an initial production run of a limited number of hulls to generate China’s initial carrier fleet. The extent to which China has constructed ski-jump takeoff ramps and arrested landing gear suggests that future Chinese CVs will employ STOBAR rather than CATOBAR systems. STOBAR systems do not permit the launch of aircraft at heavier weights, often restricting useable weapons or fuel load, but do remove a complicated and potentially maintenance-intensive facet of any carrier program. By the end of the decade, the PLAN will likely have Varyag in operational service, equipped with an airwing centered on J-15 fighters providing a multi-role capability. While initial operations will focus on training and development of carrier-based aviation experience, the aforementioned evidence suggests that Varyag will eventually serve in an operational capacity. In addition, reports allege the first Chinese-produced CV will appear in 2012. If true, this suggests an IOC date around 2015-2017 following sea trials and final outfitting. I&A cannot substantiate these reports, however, until evidence of construction at Jiangnan appears. Regardless of the pace at which China produces and fields aircraft carriers, the fact remains that the PLAN’s blue-water capability is set to receive a significant boost in coming years. The presence of an operational Chinese carrier fleet will force the West to contend with a potentially hostile carrier deck for the first time since the Cold War. 5

Dry-docks at Jiangnan shipyard; the facility contains sufficient area to house two Varyag-size vessels (Google Earth)

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Air Defense

China’s Strategic Network
Sean O’Connor


During the 1990s, the Chinese military finally began to give proper attention to developing an adequate strategic SAM network capable of providing a credible defense of key areas. Thanks to the import of advanced SAM systems from Russia, as well as the rapid progress made in the development and fielding of indigenous SAM systems, the Chinese SAM network entered the 21st Century as a credible and potent facet of the Chinese military machine for the first time in decades. EW Coverage China maintains an EW network consisting of 160 identified stand-alone radar emplacements arrayed throughout the nation. EW sites exist to provide IADS-related functions such as target track generation and assignment and GCI support, as well as more traditional roles including airspace monitoring and airfield operations support.

China’s EW sites typically employ one of the following configurations: one or more raised concrete berms for mounting radar systems, or large inflatable domes offering radar arrays protection from the elements. Many radar sites, particularly those in regions featuring varied terrain, are located at higher elevations to reduce the impact of surrounding terrain on system fields of view. Alternatively, EW assets deploy singly or in small groups directly on-site at airfields or military installations.

Berm-equipped radar site near Shangqiu; REL-1 radar present (Google Earth)

Identified Chinese EW sites; the bulk of China’s EW assets are arrayed along the coastal area with a significant concentration around Beijing (Google Earth)

Radomes located atop a hill near Lashunkou west of Dalian (Google Earth)


Indigenous systems form the bulk of China’s EW network. The most commonly identified radar systems are the REL-1 (RYE HOUSE), JY-27 (WIDE MAT), and P-35/37 (BAR LOCK) families. Radars identified as P35/37 variants may in fact be Chineseproduced JLP-40D radars, which have a very similar configuration making differentiation from the P-35/37 difficult using satellite imagery. Other identified radars include the HGR-108, HN-401R/503, JY-11B, JY-14 (GREAT WALL), JYL-1, REL-3, REL-6B, YLC-2 (HIGH GUARD), YLC-4, and YLC-8. Individual SAM batteries often contain organic EW elements for additional EW support. Organic EW elements can receive target track information from higher-echelon systems, and alternatively can serve to provide unsupported EW track generation for an assigned battery, an important function should the upper-echelon EW sensors be defeated through SEAD/DEAD or EW efforts.

GARGOYLE) batteries. 76N6E radars provide S-300PMU and S-300PMU-1 batteries with enhanced low-altitude target detection.

96L6E deployed atop a berm at an S-300PMU-2 site near Fuqing (Google Earth)

36D6, 76N6E, and 96L6E radars are compatible with the 40V6 series of mast assemblies to increase low altitude capability in areas with uneven terrain or obstructions. Only the 76N6E, however, makes routine use of the mast assemblies. 36D6 and 96L6E radars typically deploy atop raised berms to retain a high degree of mobility.

HQ-12 battery near Nanning with EW radar sited on a raised berm at left (Google Earth)

36D6 (TIN SHIELD), 64N6E (BIG BIRD), 76N6E (CLAM SHELL) and 96L6E radar systems provide battery-level and upperechelon support to China’s S-300P series batteries. The 36D6 deploys with S-300PMU (SA-10B GRUMBLE) and S-300PMU-1 (SA20A GARGOYLE) batteries, with the 96L6E being deployed with S-300PMU-2 (SA-20B 8

76N6E radar atop a 40V6 series mast at a Beijingarea S-300PMU site; note reinforced concrete pads supporting the mast’s deployment (Google Earth)

64N6E battle management radars provide long-range target acquisition and target track handoff to individual firing batteries. While 36D6 and 96L6E radars deploy on-site with their assigned batteries, 64N6E radars typically deploy at dedicated off-site facilities. These facilities are centrally located to provide the maximum amount of support to all assigned batteries in their areas of responsibility. Five identified 64N6E radar sites support S-300P series batteries deployed in the Beijing/Bohai (3), Shanghai (1), and Taiwan Strait (1) areas. The degree of interoperability allowing the 64N6E to support indigenous Chinese SAM systems remains unknown at this time. Should the HQ-9 prove incompatible with the 64N6E, a Chinese analogue is a likely future development to support HQ-9 batteries. Technical knowledge of the S-300P series gained through operation and exploitation may allow a future system to support HQ-9 and S-300P series batteries, supplementing or replacing extant 64N6E radar systems.

long-range detection of surface targets, OTH systems are capable of detecting aircraft. While the Bayingol LPAR facility in western China likely serves as a BMEW system given its location and orientation towards Russia, it may have the ability to provide target track data to SAM systems possessing an ATBM capability. HQ-9 and S300P series SAM systems possess ATBM capability to varying degrees, the S-300PMU-2 representing the most capable due to the system’s footprint and the 48N6E2 missile’s directional warhead. Alternatively, the Bayingol LPAR may not represent a BMEW radar system at all, but rather a targeting sensor for the SC-19 ASAT. Placing the LPAR in the far western region allows maximization of the radar’s field of view in an ASAT capacity over the eastern half of the nation while keeping the targeting sensor relatively protected due to its geographical location.

The Bayingol LPAR, as of this time the only active LPAR identified in China (Google Earth) 64N6E radar deployed near Jinjiang providing coverage of the Taiwan Strait (Google Earth)

Air Defense Assets China operates a mix of imported, semiindigenous, and indigenous strategic SAM systems. Eighty-eight batteries are currently operational, with a further thirty-eight prepared sites available for system relocation or network 9

China’s LPAR, OTH-B and OTH-SW systems may provide additional EW support to the air defense network. Although analysts theorize that the OTH systems support the anti-ship DF-21D ballistic missile by providing

expansion. Inactive sites configured for HQ-9 or HQ-12 batteries may be unoccupied awaiting system deployment as production allows. Prior to the import of the first S-300PMU batteries in 1993, China’s strategic SAM network relied on the aging HQ-2, a derivative of the Soviet S-75 (SA-2 GUIDELINE). Import of various S-300P series batteries and development of various semi-indigenous and indigenous systems has provided the Chinese strategic SAM network with modern, multitarget SAM systems. Currently, China is in the midst of a development and deployment program resulting in the fielding of numerous new semiindigenous and indigenous SAM systems. These systems serve to complement imported S-300P series batteries and assist in the replacement of extant legacy systems. Chinese-developed SAM systems range from the tactically-oriented HQ-6D, derived from the Italian Aspide, to the long-range strategic HQ9, allegedly based on S-300P series technology supplemented with PATRIOT radar and missile technology acquired through espionage.
Characteristics and site status of Chinese-operated SAM systems System Range (km) Active Inactive HQ-2 35 50 19 HQ-6D 18 2 5 HQ-7 15 4 HQ-9 125 8 2 HQ-12 50 10 2 S-300PMU 90 1 10 S-300PMU-1 150 6 S-300PMU-2 200 7

battery equipment. This is in contrast to Russian practice, for example, where large garrison facilities support regional SAM deployments. This may suggest that China does not possess a great deal of garrisoned equipment, choosing instead to field deploy a significant percentage of SAM assets, potentially indicating that it cannot boost the effectiveness of its network to a significant degree in a given sector without relocating equipment from a different region.

Hybrid SAM site near Nanjing occupied by a reduced-strength HQ-2 battery (Google Earth)

Support Facilities Two SAM garrisons are located near Beijing, consisting of an S-300P garrison, and an HQ-9 garrison. The apparent lack of garrisons supporting China's SAM network is a result of typical site designs. Most SAM batteries deploy to prepared sites containing garrison facilities for surplus 10

Constructed north of Beijing between 2004 and 2006, this facility represents China’s major S-300P series garrison and likely serves as an overhaul facility (Google Earth)

training presence. Furthermore, while Liuyuan and Shandan are active at various points in available imagery, Changli shows no signs of either training or facility maintenance and upkeep activity. I&A assesses the Changli facility to exist primarily as a coastal live-fire range.

Beijing’s HQ-9 garrison, under construction in 2009, is co-located with a radar test facility (Google Earth)

Five dedicated SAM training complexes are located near Beijing, Changli, Xian, Shandan, and Liuyuan. The Changli, Liuyuan and Shandan facilities appear suited for battery deployment and live firing, while the other locations appear suited for equipment familiarization. Operational units likely deploy to Liuyuan or Shandan to conduct certification operations, with the remaining locations supporting initial personnel training.

One of five HQ-2 style radar and launcher deployment pads at Changli; the pads are nearly identical to those seen at Shandan (Google Earth)

SAM training complex located north of Xian (Google Earth) HQ-2 training facility located near Shunyi northeast of Beijing (Google Earth)

I&A does not assess that Changli represents a certification facility given a lack of infrastructure required to support a significant 11

Shandan itself is unique among Chinese SAM training facilities, as it contains two separate deployment areas to the north and the south of the city. Shandan’s northern site represents a probable adjunct facility

supporting the far more permanent southern facility.



Liuyuan possesses numerous deployment sites, although these sites do not represent geographically separated standalone facilities. Liuyuan likely represents a live-fire deployment area supporting training deployments of individual SAM batteries. This is in contrast to the expansive Shandan South facility, which contains garrison and support facilities to perform various training functions possibly including classroom instruction. An EW training facility is located near Tianjin. This facility is identifiable due to a nontraditional deployment of various EW systems over time at a location within a heavily populated area. The location renders deployed assets unsuitable for reliable EW activity, resulting in the site’s classification as a training facility. 12

Shandan North SAM Training Range (Google Earth)

China's SAM development occurs at the Shuangchengzi test range near Dingxin AB in north-central China. Shuangchengzi consists of a primary launch complex employed for system development trials and eight auxiliary launch sites spread around the range area. Recent systems noted under development in imagery of Shuangchengzi include the HQ-9. The auxiliary launch sites serve as probable final development locations, supporting partial or complete battery deployments in conjunction with supporting EW assets. Component trials likely occur at the primary launch complex, with final acceptance trials performed at the auxiliary launch sites in a capacity more akin to an operational deployment.

Tianjin’s EW training compound; various EW systems are arrayed in the northeast corner of the facility (Google Earth)


Although battery-level EW assets appear at Shuangchengzi during trials, radar systems themselves undergo development at separate facilities throughout China. Identified radar test ranges are located near Beijing, Hefei, Jurong, and Nanjing. While facilities at Hefei, Juorong, and Nanjing support the development of various EW assets, the Beijing facility is a combined facility supporting the development of SAMrelated engagement radars, with the HQ-9’s HT-233 TER first appearing in imagery of the facility in January of 2003. The facility contains an RCS range to evaluate radar performance and is co-located with the aforementioned HQ9 garrison.

The Nanjing EW test complex represents a smallscale facility (Google Earth)


System Architecture The current structure of the Chinese air defense system is one of point defense. There are large areas of the nation which remain undefended by any strategic SAM assets, although in truth many of these areas, particularly those in western China, are largely uninhabited, have no military significance, or are simply not under any projected threat due to geographical constraints and political realities. The bulk of the SAM systems employed by the Chinese IADS are strategic systems. Strategic SAM systems by definition deploy at prepared sites and defend large swaths of airspace, protecting critical infrastructure, 15

Juorong’s EW test complex contains numerous pads for system evaluation (Google Earth)

population centers, and national borders. Many modern strategic SAM systems possess a high degree of mobility allowing rapid relocation to complicate location and targeting during hostilities. In contrast, tactical SAM systems represent highly mobile, shorter-range systems designed to defend maneuver formations. Despite their design role, tactical SAM systems can deploy in a strategic capacity when assigned to defend static installations. Many nations incorporate tactical SAM systems in such a fashion in their strategic air defense networks, and China is no exception. Tactical SAM systems deployed as part of the overall strategic SAM network in China are the HQ-6D and HQ-7. HQ-2 Deployment The HQ-2 is China's longest-serving and most widely deployed SAM system. While the HQ-2 received various upgrades during its operational career, far more modern and capable systems are now replacing them throughout the nation. China currently fields fifty active HQ-2 batteries. Forty-four of these batteries reside at dedicated SAM sites with the remaining six deployed at field launch sites.

A typical HQ-2 battery consists of six launch rails, and either a ZD-2 or SJ-202 (GIN SLING) engagement radar. The SJ-202 is a recent upgrade primarily deployed with HQ-2 batteries near Beijing. Various radars such as the HN-401R/503 can provide EW support for HQ-2 batteries, but imagery analysis indicates that these systems rarely deploy at operational sites. S-300P Series Deployment Despite the efforts to produce modern, indigenous systems, the most advanced and capable SAM systems deployed in China remain the latest variants of the Russian S300P family. China operates the S-300PMU, the S-300PMU-1, and the S-300PMU-2. China currently fields fourteen active S300P series batteries out of forty delivered since 1993. These comprise eight S-300PMU batteries, and sixteen each of the S-300PMU-1 and S-300PMU-2. With twenty-four S-300P series sites present in China, the discrepancy between deployed and delivered numbers likely relates to outdated imagery coverage of a number of these locations. Chinese S-300P series batteries deploy with an engagement radar, an acquisition radar, and either four or eight four-round TELs. S-300PMU batteries employ the self-propelled 5P85SU/DU TEL combination based on the MAZ-543 chassis, S-300PMU-1 batteries employ the towed 5P85TE TEL, and the S300PMU-2 employs the towed 5P85TE2 TEL developed for the S-400 (SA-21 GROWLER). HQ-6D, HQ-9, and HQ-12 Deployment The HQ-6D is a mobile SAM system currently entering service. The first operational batteries deployed at former HQ-2 locations near Chengdu following site modification. While likely designed as a tactical SAM system, China employs the HQ-6D as a strategic system in a point defense role.

HQ-2 field deployment adjacent to an active battery near Urumqi (Google Earth)

The HQ-6D is a development of the LY60 naval SAM system, itself a development of 16

the Italian Aspide. A typical HQ-6D battery contains an engagement radar vehicle, an EW radar vehicle, and six TELs. The HQ-9 is the most advanced strategic SAM system produced by China to date. Eight operational batteries are currently identified; a further two inactive sites await system deployment. Typical HQ-9 batteries consist of the HT-233 (TIGER PAW) phased array engagement radar, the YLC-2V (HIGH GUARD) acquisition radar, and eight fourround TELs. The HN-401R/503 EW radar has also been sited with operational batteries.

The HQ-12 is an evolutionary replacement for the HQ-2. The new system incorporates increased range with new components and a redesigned missile, and currently deploys at eight identified locations. A typical HQ-12 battery consists of the H-200 phased array engagement radar and six tworound TELs, along with various EW radars. Site Architecture Each SAM system in China traditionally deploys from a fixed site, with a different design existing for each SAM system. In 2003, China began the production of hybrid sites capable of supporting different SAM types.

Representative HQ-2 site with adjacent support complex. SAM site layout diagrams employ the following color scheme: red represents administrative facilities, green represents support facilities or grasscovered areas, brown represents earthen berms or unpaved areas, and grey represents concrete berms or paved areas (Sean O’Connor)


Representative HQ-6D site layout (Sean O’Connor)

Representative HQ-9 site layout (Sean O’Connor)


Representative S-300P series site with adjacent 64N6E position (Sean O’Connor)

Representative hybrid site layout (Sean O’Connor)


Representative HQ-12 site layout (Sean O’Connor)

Primary Coverage Zones In keeping with the concept of a regionally focused air defense network, China's SAM deployment protects three primary areas: the region encompassing Beijing and the Bohai Gulf, the Shanghai region, and the area facing the Taiwan Strait. SAM batteries also defend various inland cities such as Baotou and Xian. With the exception of five HQ-9 batteries defending inland cities, however, the most capable systems exist in the three primary coverage areas. Beijing Numerous SAM systems defend Beijing and the Bohai Gulf region. The Beijing region itself contains numerous HQ-2 batteries. These batteries exist in two rings primarily sited to defend the northern and western approaches to the city. Solitary HQ-7 and HQ9 batteries reside to the east and north of the city respectively, with a single S-300PMU and 20

three S-300PMU-1 batteries residing along the southern and eastern periphery of the metropolis. The position of the S-300P series batteries provides batteries with overlapping fields of fire, allowing a greater depth of coverage over the capital. Many of the HQ-2 batteries also enjoy overlapping fields of fire due to their proximity to one another, although this is less useful from a tactical standpoint given the system’s characteristics. HQ-2 and S-300PMU-2 batteries defend the entrance to the Bohai Gulf, including the shipbuilding port of Dalian. Due to their range capability, the S-300PMU-2 batteries provide protection over much of the Gulf itself. HQ-2, HQ-7 and S-300PMU-2 batteries provide additional protection for the cities of Shenyang, Qingdao, and Shijiazhuang. Various 36D6, 64N6E, and 96L6E EW positions provide dedicated support to S-300P

series batteries in the region. These sensors may also provide EW support to other SAM systems in the region, regardless of their ability to present target track data directly to nonRussian fire control systems.

Shanghai A mix of Chinese and Russian SAM systems defend the Shanghai region, including inland Nanjing. HQ-2 and HQ-9 batteries primarily serve to defend Nanjing, with the more advanced Russian systems arrayed around Shanghai. S-300PMU-1 batteries arrayed around Shanghai likely displaced HQ-2 batteries in the 2002-2005 timeframe. A repurposed former HQ-2 position hosts at least one battery, with the other three locations potentially representing additional former HQ-2 sites. The single S-300PMU-2 battery in the region replaced an S-300PMU-1 battery by March of 2008. The most recent imagery available does not depict additional S-300PMU-2 deployment at this time. 21

The presence of multiple S-300P series batteries provides Shanghai with a layered defense. The proximity of battery deployment sites to the coastline allows both the SAM systems and their organic EW support assets to range offshore. A solitary HQ-2 battery remaining near Shanghai appears out of place among far more advanced Russian hardware. However, this battery provides additional coverage of the waterway around Jiangnan shipyard. A single 64N6E position provides battle management support to Shanghai’s S-300P series batteries. 36D6 EW radars co-located with S-300PMU-1 batteries provide additional EW support to the region and possess a significant degree of overlap. 22

Taiwan Strait The Chinese coastline adjacent to the Taiwan Strait features numerous air defense assets. S-300PMU-2 batteries provide primary long-range coverage of the region, supported by HQ-2, HQ-9, and HQ-12 batteries positioned to provide additional point defense of critical locations. Coastal basing of the S300PMU-2 batteries provides coverage of virtually the entire strait. A single 64N6E provides battle management support to the region. Each S300PMU-2 battery is supported by a 96L6E radar, providing additional coverage of the region in terms of both area and depth. As with the S-300PMU-2 batteries, coastal

proximity allows the radar systems to provide coverage of virtually the entire strait, including a significant portion of the island of Taiwan.


It is not apparent if the PLA directly assigns SAM units to the Taiwan Strait region. A great deal of change has been noted in the area over time, with many sites seeing their occupants arrive, depart, or be replaced with more modern units. One example pointing specifically to a rotation of assets is located south of Fuzhou at a SAM site near Longtian airbase. The location hosted an HQ-2 battery as of May 2010, but in August 2006 an S-300PMU-1 battery occupied the site.

2 battery, the activity suggests that the parent units rotated to the region for a given period. This sort of activity would serve to give individual units training in battery relocation, as well as allowing them to operate in a potentially realistic combat theater. Inland Coverage Besides the three primary coverage regions along China’s coastline, various inland locations enjoy some degree of SAM coverage. Two to four SAM batteries often defend significant military locations or population centers. The wide dispersal of China’s identified EW sites ensures that each of these locations also possesses enough radar coverage to maximize the usefulness of deployed SAM batteries. The most heavily defended inland region is an area extending from Baoji to Xian. Four HQ-9 batteries dispersed in two closely sited pairs form a significant regional defensive capability. A further inactive HQ-2 position near Yancun, sited between the HQ-9 pairs, provides the capability for further expansion if required.

Longtian imaged in May of 2010 depicting an HQ-2 battery (Google Earth)

The following locations also enjoy SAM coverage to varying degrees: • Baotou: three HQ-12 batteries • Chengdu: two HQ-6D batteries • Guangzhou: one HQ-2 and one HQ-12 battery • Kunming: two HQ-12 batteries • Lanzhou: one HQ-2 and one HQ-9 battery • Urumqi: three HQ-2 batteries • Wuhan: two HQ-2 batteries Regional Analysis From a regional perspective, China deploys the most capable systems to the most critical locations. The S-300PMU-2 is arguably one of the most capable SAM systems in the world, and as such, it comes as no surprise to find evidence of S-300PMU-2 deployment in all three of China’s regional SAM concentrations. 24

August 2006 imagery of the Longtian AB SAM site showing an S-300PMU-1 battery (Google Earth)

As it is illogical to expect that a modern SAM system get replaced in service by an HQ-

Perhaps one of the most interesting regional aspects of China’s strategic SAM network is a reliance on Russian-supplied SAM systems in priority locations. The three identified regions only contain four examples of China’s newly developed SAM systems. A single HQ-9 battery each resides in the Beijing and Shanghai regions, with an HQ-9 and an HQ-12 battery sited near Shantou in the Taiwan Strait region. HQ-9 and HQ-12 deployments to this date have overwhelmingly taken place at inland locations, consisting of a further five HQ9 and eight HQ-12 batteries. The reliance on Russian-supplied SAM systems in priority locations suggests that they outperform current Chinese SAM systems. Alternatively, initial inland basing of HQ-9 and HQ-12 batteries may result from USAF RC-135 ELINT flights along the coastline. Placing new systems inland aids in masking their emitted electronic signature to a degree, potentially denying an adversary the required information to develop effective counter-SAM ECM techniques. Limited HQ-9 and HQ-12 deployment in priority regions, coupled with the number of available S-300P series batteries present in the inventory and their widespread deployment in priority regions, indicates that China will remain dependent on the S-300P family for some time to come. Furthermore, China appears to rely primarily on the more modern S-300PMU-1 and S-300PMU-2 variants. Since November 2008, only a single S300PMU battery remains deployed. Two batteries deployed near Nanchang displaced no later than May 2008, while a battery deployed east of Beijing at Yutian displaced no later than September 2006. HQ-9 development may represent the reason behind the apparent withdrawal of the S-300PMU from widespread deployment. The less capable S-300PMU represents a logical starting point for system exploitation compared with an S-300PMU-1 battery. Data regarding SAGG methodology, seeker design, and missile kinematics would 25

stem from exploitation of the 30N6E (FLAP LID B) guidance radar and 5V55RUD missiles of the S-300PMU.

Northern Nanchang S-300PMU site in May of 2008; 40V6 series mast assembly remains (Google Earth)

Initial HQ-9 component trials may have taken place using S-300PMU components. Photographs of early HQ-9 components under test depict TELs and engagement radar vehicles based around the MAZ-543 chassis of the S-300PMU, rather than the Chinesedesigned chassis employed by HQ-9 components, suggesting a degree of crossmodification during HQ-9 development. Capabilities As currently structured China’s strategic SAM network provides critical regions with overlapping SAM coverage. While not offering nationwide coverage, the network employs sound deployment strategies and maximizes the usefulness of available systems. HQ-9 and S-300P series systems provide long range and multi-target engagement capability. Placing batteries in close proximity allows effective layered defense of a given region, provided target deconfliction occurs. Shorter-range systems often provide close-in protection for these systems and additional depth of coverage in critical regions.

Every modern SAM system serving within China, from imported Russian systems to domestically produced HQ-9 and HQ-12 systems, employ mobile system components. The use of mobile system components grants individual batteries a rapid redeployment capability when required. The set-up and teardown time of an S-300PMU-2 battery can be as short as five minutes, endowing such a battery with a degree of “shoot-and-scoot” capability permitting target engagement and anti-SEAD/DEAD relocation for follow-on target track assignment. Widespread deployment of JY-27 VHFband radar systems, along with development and deployment of other long-wavelength radar systems, grants the Chinese EW network a degree of counter-VLO capability. While the JY-27’s detection accuracies of 150 meters in range and 1 degree of azimuth prevent it from directly guiding a modern SAM to endgame intercept, its accuracy levels present dedicated engagement radar systems with a narrow band to concentrate target acquisition efforts. Furthermore, the presence of long wavelength radar systems can represent a deterrent to VLO aircraft optimized for defense against shorter wavelength emissions commonly found in SAM engagement radars and missile seekers. While the JY-27 lacks the ability to serve in a direct missile guidance capacity, it can serve to direct interceptors such as the J-10 or J-11B towards a VLO target. Limitations While the Chinese SAM network is undergoing rapid modernization, it still possesses a number of liabilities an external force can exploit. One limiting factor affecting SAM operations, particularly in the areas north of Beijing and inland regions in the northern and eastern regions of China, is terrain. Many of the HQ-2 sites arrayed around the capital reside in valleys where the terrain would negatively affect the engagement radar's field 26

of view. The HQ-2 does have a degraded performance at low altitude, although not to the extent of most legacy S-75 systems, and the terrain where many of the sites are located precludes their ability to engage low-to-medium altitude targets at certain ranges. Consider the example of the HQ-2 site situated near Zhaitangzhen west of Beijing. Along an azimuth of approximately 310 degrees, there is a 4500-foot peak located 5.7 kilometers from the SAM site. The battery itself resides at an altitude of 1257 feet above sea level, so the peak is in reality a 3423-foot high object in the radar's field of view along that bearing.

Zhaitangzhen HQ-2 battery displayed in 3D to show terrain north of the site (Google Earth)

Given that information, it can be determined that an object flying a reciprocal heading below 23,500 feet above sea level at a range of 35 kilometers cannot be engaged by the battery. Moreover, if the object is flying at an altitude of below 1850 feet, it will be able to pass within the 7 kilometer minimum engagement range of the system. This example clearly illustrates the negative impact that even a minimal amount of terrain in the area can have on the effectiveness of a SAM system. A second limitation is that of pure volume. China possesses a great deal of

sovereign airspace; defending every bit of Chinese airspace represents an insurmountable task. While Chinese air defense planners have gone to great lengths to provide critical regions with overlapping, longrange coverage, uncovered areas remain in potentially significant regions. Two significant coverage gaps exist along China’s coastal region. The first gap represents a SAM coverage gap, possessing EW coverage. This gap is located near the city of Yancheng, roughly midway between Qingdao and Shanghai. SAM-related radar coverage exists in the form of the overlapping outer reaches of the Qingdao and Shanghai 64N6E coverage zones. Given the gap’s presence at the extremes of 64N6E coverage, low-altitude ingress or ECM support is more likely to result in a successful penetration.

EW coverage. The gap stretches from north to south between the cities of Taizhou and Wenzhou. While relatively narrow, it still represents a coverage gap permitting access to China’s less protected inland regions. Neither coverage gap is truly devoid of sensor coverage, with numerous EW positions providing coverage of either location. However, the lack of SAM or SAM-related EW coverage leaves the Yancheng and TaizhouWenzhou gaps as potential critical nodes in the Chinese coastal SAM defense network. Deploying S-300PMU-2 batteries in conjunction with assigned 96L6E EW radars to each location would not only close the sensor coverage gaps, but also present China with a continuous SAM coverage belt from the Bohai Gulf to the southern reaches of the Taiwan Strait region. A third limitation of China’s strategic SAM network concerns inland coverage. Many critical military facilities, including the bulk of the Chinese ballistic missile force, reside inland and only enjoy a minimum of SAM defense if any is present at all. While some regions such as those around Xian and Longtian enjoy protection from long-range HQ-9 batteries, the distinct lack of inland SAM coverage represents a significant weakness exploitable by any aggressor capable of penetrating the coastal regions. System interoperability may represent a technological limitation to the Chinese strategic SAM network. While the dominant SAM systems in service are Russian-supplied S300P series batteries, Chinese-produced SAMs such as the HQ-9 and HQ-12 currently entering service in increasing numbers may not be fully compatible with Russian 64N6E battle management systems. This represents a potential for a lack of target deconfliction in regions defended by both Chinese and Russian SAM systems. China is currently addressing the final limitation to its strategic SAM network: overreliance on aging and technologically limited 27

Coverage gaps present in China’s coastal SAM network (Sean O’Connor)

The second coverage gap exists between the Shanghai and Taiwan Strait regions. This gap represents both a gap in SAM coverage as well as a gap in SAM-related

HQ-2 batteries. The HQ-2 represents a singletarget engagement system, requiring numerous overlapping batteries to mount even a limited defense of a given location. Furthermore, the system’s thirty-five kilometer range prevents long-range target engagement. However, the HQ-12, the evolutionary HQ-2 replacement, enjoys increased range and multi-target engagement capability. The H-200 radar can track and engage three targets simultaneously, guiding two missiles to each target to a range of fifty kilometers. While a far cry from the capability of the HQ-9, the HQ-12 still represents a far more capable system than the elderly HQ-2. Future Prospects Future prospects for China’s strategic SAM network begin with speculation on the eventual deployment pattern of the entire S300P series inventory. With twenty-six nondeployed batteries and ten inactive S-300P series site locations, China’s air defense posture possesses the capability to become significantly more capable. Analysis of inactive prepared S-300P series site locations in priority regions provides insight into China’s potential plans for the systems. Inactive sites in the Beijing (3), Bohai Gulf (1), and Taiwan Strait (2) regions, along with hybrid sites capable of supporting an S300P series battery in the Bohai Gulf (1) and Taiwan Strait (1) regions indicate the intended future strengths of these areas. Beijing will likely support eight S-300P series batteries, retaining a 4x4 mix of S300PMU-1 and S-300PMU-2 batteries. The Bohai Gulf will likely expand to four S300PMU-2 batteries, Shanghai will remain with four batteries, likely reverting to a complete S300PMU-1 force, and the Taiwan Strait region will remain with four batteries of S-300PMU-2s. This represents a total of eight deployed S-300PMU-1 batteries, and eight deployed S300PMU-2 batteries, with respective totals of eight and eight of each held in reserve or available for deployment to other unoccupied 28

S-300P series battery locations, such as those in the far west near Lhasa. Reserve batteries also remain available for network reinforcement where required, and allow for the replacement of operational batteries removed for periodic maintenance or depot-level servicing without the regional network suffering a loss of capability. Additionally, further S300P series or hybrid sites could yet appear, representing hosting locations for extant batteries. Overall, this indicates that China’s deployment strategy calls for four S-300PMU-1 or S-300PMU-2 batteries to deploy in a given region. Based on analysis of current deployment practices, this strategy calls for a 64N6E radar system to support a four-battery deployment. Additionally, China’s plans clearly call for an increase in HQ-9 and HQ-12 battery deployments. Inactive HQ-9 and HQ-12 sites exist in various locations, often representing former HQ-2 positions. Many of these locations still host HQ-2 batteries while awaiting newer systems. The primary developmental SAM system in China is the HQ-16. The HQ-16 is a medium-range SAM system analogous in capability to the Russian Buk-M2 (SA-17 GRIZZLY). Provided China retains the current concept of high mobility for SAM components, the HQ-16 will potentially represent a gap-filler capable of rapid redeployment where increased air defenses are required. Furthermore, the HQ-16 may represent the first legitimate tactical SAM system in China, capable of travelling with and defending mechanized units. Conclusion The ever-evolving nature of the Chinese air defense network is an interesting process to observe. No longer reliant on obsolete HQ-2 SAM systems, fielding new generation systems in increasing numbers will ensure that Chinese airspace remains well defended deep into the 21st Century. This will serve to maintain a

degree of peace and security in the region, by providing a credible deterrent against incursion into Chinese airspace.


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