(From Popular Science/Eastern Arsenal)
By Jeffrey P. Lin and P.W. Singer
China is raising up an early February storm in Asia by deploying long-range HQ-9 surface to air missiles (SAM) to Woody Island in the disputed Paracel Island chain. The Paracel Island chain, claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, is a small archipelago located roughly equidistant between Hainan Island and north-central Vietnam. Woody Island itself is home to 1,000 people, has an airport capable of accommodating J-10 and J-11 fighters, and is capital of the Sansha Prefecture, which covers Chinese claims in South China Sea (including overlapping Filipino, Malaysian Taiwanese and Vietnamese claims).
Known as the “Red Banner,” the HQ-9 SAM is China’s indigenous long range air defense system, complementing Russian made S-300 missiles. The system is mounted on an 8×8 wheeled truck, each carrying 4 missiles. The missile itself has a top speed of Mach 4.2, range of 200km and a flight ceiling of roughly 27-30km. In addition to the ability to target aircraft, drones and cruise missiles, the HQ-9 also has a limited anti-ballistic missile and anti-surface capability. While the missile currently uses semi-active radar homing and infrared guidance to hit targets, future upgrades would increase range and add on an active radar seeker. Read more