According to IHS Jane’s, China has developed an extended-range version of its medium-range HQ-16 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system.
The HQ-16 SAM system is typically marketed with a stated range of 40km, but this new version, which was reportedly shown on Chinese state television, is capable of reaching 70km.
Notes, Comments & Analysis:
The HQ-16 is essentially the People Liberation Army (PLA)’s mainstay medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. In addition to land deployment, a vertically launched naval variant – designated HHQ-16 – has also been integrated onto numerous PLA Navy frigates and destroyers. The HQ-16 has also seen some recent export success, most notably Pakistan, which had ordered nine HQ-16 SAM systems since 2014.
According to Air Power Australia, the HQ-16 appears to have begun as a joint Chinese-Russian effort to develop an evolved variant of the Soviet-era Buk/SA-17 Grizzly semi-active radar-homing (SARH) SAM (which Jane’s believes to have started in 2005).
However, since the time China had officially announced that HQ-16 development was complete (in 2011), the medium-range SAM has evolved into a distinct and forward-leaning system. Given the development plans reportedly on the docket for the HQ-9 (such as an active radar-homing version), the HQ-16 could emerge as a potent and versatile SAM system in its own right.
If reports of a 70km-range version existing are correct, then its emergence could add an interesting angle to Pakistan’s recent string of HQ-16 purchases. It is no secret that the Pakistani armed forces have sought long-range anti-air warfare (AAW) capabilities. In the absence of the HQ-9, the extended-range HQ-16 could offer a bridge or buffer to help strengthen the country’s air defence environment within a shorter period of time and at a lower cost. This would not negate the need for a long/very long-range SAM, but it would finally raise the country’s AAW coverage to the long-range ambit.
The extended-range HQ-16 would also be an example of improvements in China’s propulsion technology. If the core dimensions of the original HQ-16 have been retained, then it would indicate the presence of more efficient and longer-range rockets. In time, the competencies developed for the HQ-16 could be channeled into new-generation designs that more closely emulate compact medium/long-range SAMs, such as the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) and Barak-8, among others.