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Chinese Ballistic Missile Early Warning

The Early Warning Satellite was developed specifically to provide early warning of ballistic missile launch. When a ballistic missile is launched, the rocket engine will spray thousands of degrees of flame jets, leaving high-temperature exhaust gas of several kilometers, hundreds of meters in diameter and tens to hundreds of degrees in temperature on the flight path. Since the ballistic missile will always fly upwards out of the atmosphere, this high temperature wake will extend all the way to the top of the atmosphere, which is easily seen by observers from space.

China is currently working on the development of a global ballistic missile warning system. China will become the third ballistic missile in the world after the United States and Russia. The country of the early warning system. For a country with a strategic missile, the completeness of the early warning system will allow the party to know in advance when and when the enemy has launched a ballistic missile. Before the enemy missile has landed, it will shoot the nuclear counterattack missile to the other side. Earlier, Russia announced that its new early warning radar system could monitor the launch of all missiles within 6,000 kilometers of Russia.

Missile tracking operations contribute to the ability to provide warning of ballistic missile launches. The American missile warning mission uses a mix of space-based and terrestrial sensors. Missile warning includes the notification to national leaders of a missile attack against North America, as well as attacks against multinational partners. It also includes notification to multinational partners and forward deployed personnel of missile attack. There is no room for error in missile warning for homeland defense; therefore, all information provided must be timely, accurate, and unambiguous.

A well-organized missile warning system structure allows commanders to maximize detection and warning of inbound ballistic missiles, thereby ensuring effective passive defense, active defense, and attack operations. Missile warning systems process raw sensor data into missile warning reports and disseminate the information to users globally. Missile warning consists of multiple ground and space-based systems located worldwide.

With the beginning of the Cold War, American defense experts and political leaders began planning and implementing a defensive air shield, which they believed was necessary to defend against a possible attack by long-range, manned Soviet bombers. The US Air Force soon developed and operated an extensive early warning radar sites and systems which acted as “trip wire” against air attack. During the 1960s and 1970s, the USSR focused on creating intercontinental and sea-launched ballistic missiles and developed an anti-satellite capability. The northern radar-warning networks could not only [be] outflanked but literally jumped over.

In response, the USAF built a space-surveillance and missile-warning system to provide worldwide space detection and tracking and to classify activity and objects in space. Defense Support Program satellites use an infrared sensor to detect heat from missile or booster plumes against the relatively cool background of the Earth's surface. These satellites have provided uninterrupted warning since the early 1970s when they were first launched into a 22,000-mile geosynchronous orbit. These satellites were designed to detect strategic ballistic missiles in the early stage of launch of their flights.

American space-based sensors, such as Defense Support Program and space-based infrared system, usually provide the first level of immediate missile detection. Some satellite sensors also accomplish nuclear detonation detection. Ground-based radars provide follow-on information on launches and confirmation of strategic attack. The majority of their day-to- day mission is space surveillance; however, the radars are always scanning the horizon for incoming missiles.

The Soviet Union followed a generally similar trajectory, though lagging the United States in the devvelopment of space based systems. The United Kingdom might be thought to have relied on the United States. The US exchanges missile detection and warning information with its multinational partners. The objective of SEW is the continuous exchange of missile early warning information derived from US missile early warning sensors.

Other nuclear weapon states, from France to North Korea, appear to have decided that they had no doctrinal imperative for such eleborate situation awareness. Small nuclear aresenals imply a relatively simple retaliatory doctrine, and presumably no great imagination would be required to understand that a nuclear attack had taken place and that a retlilatory strike was called for.


According to Chinese media reports, China began to develop early warning satellites as early as the 1990s. After entering 2010, China has launched several early warning satellites with certain global early warning capabilities. China first proposed "improving strategic early warning capabilities" in the 2015 national defense white paper, and the need to improve early warning capabilities and rapid response capabilities must be supported by early warning satellites.

An article published in the March 2016 Science and Technology Daily pointed out that China has two categories of military remote sensing satellites: the "Squadron" series of reconnaissance satellites and the "Outpost" series of infrared early warning satellites. It is said that this is the first time that China has publicly confirmed the existence of early warning satellites. The article believed that the most likely to launch China-Japan-India missiles against China on the global arena. Considering that US ballistic missile submarines may attack China in the North Atlantic, it is necessary for China to deploy an early warning satellite over the Central Pacific, North Atlantic and East India-like equators to achieve global missile launch monitoring.

On March 22, 2016, according to the "Science and Technology Daily" report, China had two major types of military remote sensing satellites, the Jianbing series of reconnaissance satellites and the Outpost series of infrared early warning satellites. This is the first time that China has publicly confirmed the existence of early warning satellites. According to the article, China's high-resolution 4th synchronous orbit optical remote sensing satellite is equipped with an infrared camera, although its ground maximum resolution is 400 meters, which is much higher than the 3.58 kilometers of the DSP early warning satellite, but this is the area of a single picture.

The high-resolution 4 single picture area is 160,000 square kilometers, and the DSP scans an area of 100 million square kilometers. If the "fisheye lens" is used for the "high score 4", the image scanning area is expanded to be the same as the latter, and the resolution will also be greatly reduced. However, the "high score 4" provides a basic platform after all, as long as the satellite's optical lens, infrared camera, and control system are slightly adjusted, it is an early warning satellite.

The article believed that the countries in the world today that are most likely to launch medium- and long-range missile attacks against China are the United States, Japan and India. As US ballistic missile submarines may launch attacks from the North Atlantic to China, China must also deploy three early warning satellites deployed over the equator of the Central Pacific, North Atlantic and East Indian Oceans to monitor global missile launches.

In this regard, Chinese Military researcher Lan Shunzheng said: "There are very few publicly available information about the 'Outpost' series of satellites, but it is estimated that its performance should be similar to the US Defense Support Program satellite, not as good as the US space-based infrared system. It is certain that the future will follow China. With the development of the anti-missile system, the space-based infrared missile early warning satellite will usher in a relatively large development."

Launch Operations - TJSW / Huoyan

Dean Cheng noted in 2009 that "Space systems, by virtue of their location, provide unrivaled early detection and tracking of ballistic missiles throughout their flight. At a minimum, then, they can provide prompt warning of enemy ballistic missile attacks. With sufficient refinement, they can also assist missile defense forces by predicting both missile flight paths and impact points. At this time, however, according to available open source data, there is no evidence of a Chinese missile early warning satellite..."

Mark A. Stokes and Dean Cheng wrote in April 2012 that "No firm evidence exists that China has deployed a space-based ballistic missile early warning capability. However, a technical foundation exists: for example, with infrared sensors associated with the FY weather satellite program. The SJ-7 satellite, designed and developed by SAST’s 509 Research Institute and launched on a SAST-manufactured LM-2D from Jiuquan on July 6, 2005, has been cited as an experimental platform to test pushbroom and mercury-cadmium-telluride (HgCdTe) infrared sensor arrays. Also equipped with a star sensor for precise attitude control, the SJ-7 took only 33 months to design and develop from its initiation in August 2002. The CAS Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics is said to have developed the infrared sensors."

The super-secretive Communications Engineering Test Satellite -1 (TXJSSY-1) was launched by China from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 12 September 2015. Launch of the spacecraft took place at 15:42 UTC using a Long March-3B (Chang Zheng-3B) rocket. There was very little information regarding the satellite, with an announcement only provided to the Chinese media – controlled by the Chinese government.

Rumors initially suggested that this launch involved the first Great Wall (Changcheng) satellite – a new series of Chinese satellites dedicated to early warning similar to the American Space Based Infra-Red Sensor satellites. Xinhua reported that the satellite will be "used to perform tests on the Ka frequency band in broadband communications". It is difficult to separate rumors with some foundations from wild allegations and conspiracy theories.

Japan’s Kyodo News reported that China was building a missile defense system to detect a ballistic missile attack. The Kyodo News report was based on Chinese military documents that referred the development of an experimental early warning satellite program. Additionally the report pointed out that China had started the development of an X-band radar system as part of a ground-based interceptor system.

Brian Harvey suggested in 2019 that the Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing (TJSW - "communications engineering test satellite”) may be a military intelligence program, although with different functions – TJSW 1 for eavesdropping and TJSW 2 for early warning.

TJSW 2 / Huoyan-1A secretive TJSW 2 satellite was launched at China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center using a Long March-3C/G2 launch vehicle from the LC3 launch complex on January 5, 2017. Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing 2 was the first geosynchronous orbit satellite to be manufactured by SAST (thus indicating that it was not a repeat of the CAST Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing 1 satellite). The lack of information and the nature of the launch preparations, with only marginal references to the payload, point to the secretive nature of the satellite, designated Huoyan-1 (variously translated as “fire eyes”, “steely eyes” and “fire cam”).

On January 7, a CZ-3B / G2 (Y64) rocket with a military satellite on board departed from Xichang base. The takeoff, at 15:20 UTC, served to place a spacecraft of unknown exact functions in orbit. Called TJSW (Communications Engineering Test Satellites), they are placed in a geostationary orbit, but their mission is not clear. In any case, the secrecy that surrounds them suggests that they will have military duties.

Built by the SAST organization, the new vehicle could be dedicated to detecting signals from missile launches, so that it could be classified as an immediate alert satellite. Although they have flown with the same name, their predecessors would have different functions, such as the detection of signals for intelligence, secure communications or the aforementioned immediate alert.

China launched TJSW-5, with official reports which used almost exact wording to describe it as TJSW-2 launched 3 years ealier, including that SAST built it. SAST never built GEO comsats (only GEO weather sats including the latest FY-4 series).

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Page last modified: 05-03-2020 18:23:02 ZULU