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China conducts another mid-course anti-ballistic missile test

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Beijing announced that China conducted another ground-based, mid-course missile interception test on 4 February, but provided no details about the missile fired or the intercepted target.

This test-firing relates to the development of a Chinese ballistic missile defence (BMD) system, as noted in the Pentagon’s ‘2020 China Military Power Report’, according to which “China is working to develop ballistic missile defences consisting of exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric kinetic-energy interceptors”.

There have been four previously reported Chinese anti-ballistic missile (ABM) test-firings. The first occurred in January 2010, with subsequent firings in 2013, 2014, and 2018. The most recent weapon is thought to have been launched from the Taiyuan space launch complex in northeastern China, with video footage posted on Chinese online forums showing the missile’s path illuminating the night sky.

The weapon used in the recent test was not identified and there is very little verifiable information in open sources relating to China’s BMD interceptors. The Pentagon’s 2020 report stated that, “The PRC [People’s Republic of China] is [also] developing its indigenous CH-AB-X-02 (HQ-19), which will likely have a ballistic missile defence capability.”

The HQ-19 is believed to be a development of the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile (SAM), itself a derivative of the Russian-made S-300 system. The Pentagon report stated that, “The HQ-19 mid-course interceptor has undergone tests to verify its capability against 3,000 km-class ballistic missiles, and an HQ-19 unit may have begun preliminary operations in western China.”

The report also noted that, “In addition [to the HQ-19], China is pursuing a mid-course interceptor that may have capabilities against IRBMs [intermediate-range ballistic missiles] and possibly ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles].” Following the 2018 missile test, The Diplomat

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