The latest member of China’s home-grown “Flying Mongoose” family of field air defence missile systems has been cleared for export.
The HQ-17AE, dubbed a “low altitude aircraft hunter”, is designed to keep up with frontline units like tank battalions and protect them from drone and helicopter attacks. It consists of a six-wheeled launch vehicle carrying eight short-range air-defence missiles and a solid-state phased-array radar system.
According to state media reports, the missile system was developed for overseas markets by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) at its Second Academy in Beijing. Previous versions of the HQ-17 have been exported to several countries, including Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Venezuela.
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The nationalist tabloid Global Times lauded the new system’s capabilities, describing it as a “perfect choice” to accompany troops or defend key facilities. The HQ-17AE’s advanced vertical cold launch capability and rotatable tail wings give it a fast reaction time and ability to adapt to complex electromagnetic environments on the battlefield, it said.
The HQ-17A – believed to be the domestic-use version of the HQ-17AE – made its first public appearance in 2019, in the October 1 National Day military parade in Beijing, the Global Times said.
According to the Missile Defence Advocacy Alliance, a US-based non-profit organisation, the HQ-17 family consists of reverse-engineered copies of Russia’s Tor-M1 surface-to-air defence systems.
Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong based military commentator, said air defence support was vital in modern warfare. “Ground troops especially need this capability as missile attacks can determine how long soldiers can fight,” he said.
The HQ-17AE has a detection radar which can scan 25km while it is on the move while a second radar tracks and engages once a target has been identified.
According to Guangming Daily, each of its eight missiles can track four different targets at the same time. The HQ-17AE can also intercept attacks from tactical air-to-surface missiles, subsonic cruise missiles, stealth aircraft and supersonic cruise missiles and rockets.
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