China’s air defense

The JY-26 radar is one of the latest developments in the PRC in the field of radar. Photo Sina.com.cn

One of the main tasks of the People’s Liberation Army of China is to protect the country from an air attack from a potential enemy. To solve it, a full-fledged multicomponent national air defense system has been built. It provides observation of all strategic directions and the destruction of potentially dangerous objects.

Organizational matters

The tasks of the national air defense are entrusted to the PLA air force, which has all the necessary structures and formations. The PLA Air Force has its own radio and anti-aircraft missile troops, as well as combat aircraft. In addition, for the purpose of defense, the Air Force can interact with the military air defense of the ground forces and the naval forces.

China’s strategic air defense is divided into five areas of responsibility, overlapping with military districts. Each such zone includes several areas of responsibility and special zones. Their number and size depend on the geographic, administrative and other features of the covered area. The most powerful anti-aircraft cover was given to the capital region and areas along the state border.

Fighter J-10B, one of the main vehicles of the PLA Air Force. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Air defense control is carried out along the contours of the PLA’s Unified Digital Information and Control System. The main command post of the air defense of the air force maintains contact with the command post of the military districts that control the air force bases. The latter are responsible for field work and distribute tasks between anti-aircraft missile or aviation units. The use of a unified control system also simplifies interaction with military air defense of other branches of the armed forces.

Discovery task

To monitor the air situation and detect targets, a developed group of radio equipment has been created. It includes ground-based radars of various types, stationary and mobile, as well as airplanes and helicopters for early warning radar. Most of these funds are deployed along the perimeter of the country in two echelons. The rest of the radars and AWACS aviation control the airspace over the territory of the PRC.

According to open data, at least 600 radio technical complexes of various kinds are involved in monitoring the air situation. With their help, a continuous radar field was created around the state border at altitudes from 2 km and at ranges up to 450-500 km.

The J-11B is a Chinese-designed fighter based on a Russian base. Photo by US Navy

Air Force radio-technical troops operate ground-based radars of a number of types. To obtain the best results, several stations of different types with different characteristics can be located at one post. So, for early detection of targets at ranges of 450-500 km, radars SLC-7, JY-26 and other similar systems can be used. In the near field, YLC-15 and other products are used.

The AWACS aircraft grouping includes approx. 50 units techniques of several types. The most widespread example of this type is the KJ-500 aircraft, with a flight duration of up to 12 hours and a detection range of up to 450-470 km. There is also other equipment, incl. several heavy aircraft KJ-2000, built on the Chinese copy of the Il-76.

Aviation component

A key component of the PLA’s air defense system is fighter aircraft. The Air Force has 25 fighter brigades and 20 fighter-bombers. Fighter brigades and squadrons are distributed throughout the territory of the PRC, which makes it possible to respond in a timely manner to threats from abroad.

Su-30MKK of Russian production. Photo Wikimedia Commons

The total number of aircraft suitable for use in air defense is estimated at 1500-1600 units. There are outdated and modern samples of Chinese production in the ranks; a significant part of the aircraft fleet is made up of Russian and licensed fighters.

The most widespread in the Air Force is the J-10 light fighter of several modifications. Quite old J-7s still make up a significant part of the park. Serial production of modern J-11s of several modifications continues. Deliveries of the latest next-generation fighter, the J-20, have recently begun. Imported equipment is represented by dozens of Su-27SK / UBK, Su-30MKK and Su-35 fighters.

Missiles and artillery

The ground component of the PLA air defense includes a variety of fire weapons. So, large-caliber anti-aircraft guns, suitable for solving some problems, still remain in the troops. However, the basis of ground defense means is formed by anti-aircraft missile systems of object defense, both domestic and imported.

The newest fighter of the PLA Air Force J-20. Photo Wikimedia Commons

A significant part of the combatant air defense systems is of foreign origin. In service there is approx. 150 long-range complexes S-300PMU / PMU1 / PMU2 of Russian production. Not so long ago, 16 newer S-400s were adopted. It has its own analogue of the Russian S-300 system – HQ-9. To date, the troops have deployed almost 250 such complexes.

They are in service with medium-range air defense systems. These are 150 HQ-12 products of our own design and approx. 80 HQ-2 complexes of various modifications – Chinese versions of the development of the Soviet C-75 system. The number of short-range complexes of several types barely exceeds a hundred, which is associated with the specifics of the work of the national air defense. The bulk of the short-range air defense system is created for military air defense and goes to the corresponding units.

State and prospects

In the early stages, Soviet specialists actively participated in the construction of China’s national air defense, as a result of which it has a number of organizational and technical features. In the future, the development of basic ideas and concepts was carried out independently, although at certain stages the PLA again resorted to foreign assistance.

Funds from the HQ-9 air defense system made in China. Photo VoA China

Based on the results of such processes, to date, it has been possible to create a full-fledged air defense system with all the necessary means of detection, control and interception. The constructed system protects the entire airspace of the state and controls all areas along its perimeter to a depth of hundreds of kilometers.

In the foreseeable future, the PLA command plans to continue the development of air defense, pursuing several main goals. First of all, the development and implementation of new types of equipment and weapons of all classes, radars, control systems, air defense systems and aircraft will be carried out. New samples will show higher characteristics, and in addition, they will receive fundamentally new opportunities.

One of the main goals is the creation of an anti-missile potential, for which it is necessary to develop detection means and ground anti-aircraft systems. Also, the state of the air defense will be positively affected by the next generation fighters and new types of weapons for them. In the field of radio engineering and information control systems, the problem of de-uniformity and difficulties in integration remains. In the future, it is necessary to collect all such samples into a single system.

System S-300PMU in exercises. Photo Chinamil.com.cn

In the coming years, the PLA air defense should maintain its current appearance, but improve its individual elements. Until 2035, it is required to put on duty a full-fledged missile defense system to combat operational-tactical missiles and short- and medium-range complexes. Plans for 2050 provide for the launch of a single air defense-missile defense system on duty, covering the entire territory of China.

Using the help of friendly countries and its scientific and technical potential, China in recent decades has managed to build a powerful and developed air defense system. It protects the entire territory of the country from various means of air attack and is capable of supporting troops in the immediate areas beyond its borders. At the same time, the development of air defense continues, and in a few decades its appearance will change beyond recognition.

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