SC-19 Anti-Ballistic Missile Interceptor
China successfully conducted a land-based, mid-course anti-ballistic missile (ABM) technical test on 04 February 2021. China's Ministry of National Defense stated the test is of defensive nature and is "not aimed at any country". Previous such ABM tests were carried out by China previously in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2018.
The US Intelligence Community assessed that on 11 January 2010, China launched an SC-19 missile from the Korla Missile Test Complex in western China (a new location for SC-19 activity) and successfully intercepted a near-simultaneously launched CSS-X-11 medium-range ballistic missile launched from the Shuangchengzi Space and Missile Center approximately 1,100 kilometers east of Korla. The CSS-X-11 was launched from Shuangchengzi at 1150:00Z; the SC-19 was launched from Korla at 1152:42Z. U.S. missile warning satellites detected each missile's powered flight as well as the intercept, which occurred at 1157:31Z at an altitude of approximately 250 kilometers. No debris from this test remains on-orbit.
An SC-19 was used as the payload booster for the January 11, 2007, direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) intercept of the Chinese FY-1C weather satellite. Previous SC-19 DA-ASAT flight-tests were conducted in 2005 and 2006. This test is assessed to have furthered both Chinese ASAT and ballistic missile defense (BMD) technologies. Due to the sensitivity of the intelligence that would have to be disclosed to substantiate the U.S. assessment, the U.S. Government in its demarche to the PRC Government did not associate the January 2010 SC-19 intercept flight-test with past SC-19 ASAT flight-tests. The United States requested assistance from Asia-Pacific allies Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea in demarching China in a fashion similar to the US.
A Chinese news service published an article on 11 January 2010 stating, "On 11 January, China conducted a test on ground-based midcourse missile interception technology within its own territory. The test has achieved the expected objective. The test is defensive in nature and is not targeted at any country."
China's second ground-based mid-course missile interceptor successfully completed an anti-missile test within Chinese territory on 28 January 2013. There were no details available on China's test except for the official announcement that "the test has reached the preset goal" and is "defensive in nature." It was the second time that China announced such an anti-missile test. A similar test was successfully conducted on January 11, 2010.
Ground-based mid-course anti-missile tests, which involve highly complicated technology in detecting, tracking and destroying a ballistic missile flying in space, have only been attempted by China and the US. The success of the test, together with a series of other military equipment achievements including China's first aircraft carrier and the maiden flight of the Y-20 large transport aircraft on Saturday, has demonstrated the country's fast-growing ability to defend its own national security and deter any possible threats, the Xinhua News Agency commented.
Chinese experts hailed China's technological breakthrough because it is difficult to intercept ballistic missiles that have reached the highest point and speed in the middle of their course. Only a few countries, including the US, have successfully conducted such a test in the past decade. These Chinese experts dismissed speculation that the test was targeted at any country, saying the prime function of the system is to build a shield for China's air defense by intercepting incoming warheads such as ballistic missiles.
Song Xiaojun, a military affairs commentator, told China Central Television that although the missile used for the test on Sunday has not been identified, it was clear that China had overcome technological obstacles that have plagued the US for years, he said. "In all, it (China's test) poses another major chop at the US ability to 'extend' deterrence to its Asian allies, adds another layer to China's 'anti-access' capabilities," Richard Fisher, a China military affairs specialist, told the Washington Free Beacon.
For global military powers, the most valuable trait of an anti-missile system is the deterrent effect, and it is also important to China, said Li Qinggong, deputy secretary-general of the national security policy commission of the China Association of Policy and Science. "The system doesn't have actual combat capability for the time being," said Li. Jin Canrong, a global affairs professor at Renmin University of China, said the test is necessary for Chinese military modernization.
A weapons expert with Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) said that the successful anti-missile interception test by China on Monday showed the nation's strength to defend its territory while its announcement displayed the country's military transparency. "The weapon tested was an indigenous surface-to-air defense missile," said Prof. Tan Kaijia with the PLA's National Defense University in an exclusive interview with Xinhua. "This is China's first announcement that we have the ground-based midcourse anti-missile technology," said Prof. Tan, who specializes in research on sophisticated worldwide weapon systems. Although the expert declined to give more details of the anti-missile interception test, he said it was a routine test before the new air defense weapon became standard PLA equipment. "If the ballistic missile is regarded as a spear, now we have succeeded in building a shield for self-defense," Tan said.
Shao Yongling, a senior colonel from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Second Artillery Command College, told people.com.cn that China's ground-based mid-course interception test was aimed at intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the test's technical requirements were much higher than that of short- to medium-range missile defense systems.
On 25 July 2016 Chinese authorities released footage of the first-ever test authorities conducted for ballistic missile interception system on January 11, 2010. PLA researcher Chen Deming said the system itself is one of the keys of China's domestic defense capabilities. "The Ballistic missile defense system is a critical link in our strategic defense, and is also an important chip in the contest between big powers. It makes a world of difference whether you have it or not." The anti-missile system had undergone more successful tests since 2010, including another test in January of 2013. Footage of the original test was released on the heels of the US and South Korea agreeing to deploy the advanced American THAAD anti-missile system before the end of 2017.
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