China unveils homegrown HQ-17AE short range air defence system

State-owned defence prime China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) has unveiled a new variant of the in-service Hong Qi-17A (HQ-17A) self-propelled short-range air-defence (SHORAD) system known as the HQ-17AE, state broadcaster CCTV revealed on 7 March.

The HQ-17AE is the latest variant within the “Flying Mongoose” family of SHORAD vehicles developed by CASIC’s Second Academy and is designed to counter precision-guided munitions such as cruise missiles, guided bombs, and air-to-surface missiles as well as against low-flying aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

According to the CCTV commentary and accompanying infographics, the HQ-17AE is armed eight surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) that are cold-launched vertically before their rocket motors are engaged. The vehicle can attain a top road speed of 90 km/h and can remains fully ready to engage up to four simultaneous threats even when travelling at speeds of up to 25 km/h.

The original HQ-17 is essentially a reverse-engineered version of the Russian-made 9K331 Tor-M1 (NATO SA-15 Gauntlet) SAM system that was acquired by China in the early 2000s.

A six-wheeled version called the FM-2000 was first unveiled at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, featuring a redesigned, smaller turret that houses a new forward-mounted flat-faced fire control radar and a taller but narrower search radar.

The wheeled version was subsequently revealed to have entered People’s Liberation Army (PLA) service as the HQ-17A when it participated in the military parade commemorating the Chinese national day on 1 October the following year. It is not known if there are any technical differences between the FM-2000 and HQ-17A apart from the slightly modified chassis.

FM-2000 specifications published by CASIC indicate an effective range between 1.5 km and 15 km, at attitudes between 10 m and 10 km.

CCTV also reported in September 2020 that the PLA has upgraded at least some of its HQ-17A systems with a new type of SAM, although no further details were revealed.

by Jr Ng