China’s HQ-9B missile can counter the Russian S-400 system

PANAGYURISHTE, ($1=1.72 Bulgarian Levas) – The new Chinese HQ-9B missile could be a turning point in the puzzle’s decision on how to counter the “best” anti-aircraft missile system in the world – the Russian S-400. BulgarianMilitary.com refers to this information based on an analysis made by American and Pakistani experts. The recent acquisition of HQ-9B from Pakistan is the reason for such an assessment.

The HQ-9B missile may be a mistake Russia has made in its relations with China, as experts say the missile was developed using technology from Almaz-Antey, the Russian company that makes the S-300, S-400, and S-500. In the 1990s, Russia allowed China to acquire air defense technologies, mainly for the production of fourth-generation anti-aircraft missile systems.

The Chinese HQ-9B missile was developed using Almaz-Antey technology and was already acquired by Pakistan. HQ-9B has a range of 240 km, and in the structure of the missile is integrated radar for thermal active targeting and passive infrared search radar. The missile is designed to penetrate hard-to-reach and air-protected regions and sites.

Richard Fisher, a Senior Fellow at the International Center for Evaluation and Strategy in Alexandria, Virginia, says today the way to counter modern anti-aircraft missile systems, such as the S-400, is to counter modern systems and developments such as “opposing weapons, anti-radiation missiles, electronic countermeasures, UCAV and drone swarms, and low-flying cruise missiles.”

Fischer says that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan nearly two years ago showed the possibility that anti-aircraft missile systems are vulnerable to the means of counteraction he has indicated.

Pakistan has other countermeasures

It turns out that the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems from India has provoked Pakistan to open other possibilities for possible counteraction. One such possibility is Pakistan’s ZF1 covert drone, which was introduced about four years ago, but it is not yet clear whether Islamabad has continued to develop it. This drone is designed to penetrate objects strongly protected by air defense systems.

Mansour Ahmed, a senior fellow at the Pakistan-based think tank, the Center for International Strategic Studies, says the Fatah-1 guided projectile is a weapon that would neutralize the S-400. This projectile was tested in 2021 and has a range of 150 km.

According to Ahmed, Pakistan also has excellent capabilities for electronic suppression or electronic warfare systems. They are part of Pakistan’s armaments and aim to neutralize enemy missiles.

How good is the S-400 air defense system?

This is a question that is difficult to answer. Aerospace expert Douglas Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank says the system should not be underestimated, but it should not be overestimated.

Depending on the missile used, the S-400 can hit targets in different ranges – from 150 to 400 km. However, Barry believes this is a problem for the S-400. “Its much-touted maximum engagement range is dependent on the variant of surface-to-air missile deployed, the acquisition ranges of associated radars in the operational area, the capacity of the personnel to effectively exploit the system, and also the steps and countermeasures any opponent might take,” he says.

Many experts, including Douglas Barry, believe that India’s plans to use the S-400 are slightly different from those generally accepted. According to various opinions, New Delhi plans to use the S-400 to protect the sky over strategic sites, not so much to defend the entire airspace. According to Barry, this is the best option for using the S-400, rather than deploying it in combat formations.

“In and of itself, I see the S-400 acquisition having little to no impact on the overall credibility of Pakistan’s [nuclear] deterrent,” he added.

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