A test launch of the American-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. (Internet photo)
China's defense ministry has revealed that the People's Liberation Army test-fired a new type of air defense missile with similar capability to the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system on July 23, according to Global Times, a paper published under the auspices of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily.
A Chinese military expert told the Global Times anonymously that there are essentially three kinds of air defense systems in service. The first, including the US Patriot PAC-2 and PAC-3 and the Russian-built S-300 and S-400 is designed to intercept targets in the lower atmosphere. Because the attack range of these missiles is only between 20-30 kilometers, they are mostly designed to intercept short-range ballistic missiles.
Taking the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system as an example, the expert said that the second kind of air defense system is designed to intercept targets between 180-200 kilometers away. Israel's Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 midcourse missiles are the third kind of air defense system particularly used against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles with altitude above 200 kilometers.
China is probably testing a second kind of missile similar to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense of the United States because the PLA did not mention terms such as midcourse in its official statement. However, the expert pointed out that it is too early to reach any conclusion since it will take a large amount of testing for China to complete the design of its first midcourse defense system with the capability to intercept targets from space.
China tested its ground-based midcourse defense system twice in 2010 and 2013, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolitan Daily reported. The Chinese defense ministry said the system was not designed to launch an offensive against another country but only to defend China from attack.