China Tests Land-based, Mid-course Anti-ballistic Missile

  • Bureau
  • 04:09 AM, April 15, 2023
  • 1489
China Tests Land-based, Mid-course Anti-ballistic Missile
PLA Army's medium-range air defense system fires surface-to-air missile @China MoD

China said it conducted a land-based, mid-course antiballistic missile (ABM) technical test on Friday evening, marking its seventh publicly announced land-based ABM test since 2010.

China's Ministry of National Defense said in a press release that the test is of a defensive nature and is not aimed at any country.

Before Friday, China had conducted six land-based ABM tests, in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2018, 2021 and 2022. It was not revealed in which interception phase the test in 2014 was carried out, while all the other five were carried out in the mid-course phase.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times that a mid-course interception is usually aimed at an intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could be equipped with nuclear warheads.

Mid-course refers to the phase in which a missile traverses outside of the atmosphere after being boosted into its trajectory by a rocket booster in the initial phase. It will then reenter the atmosphere and dive toward its target in the terminal phase.

While mid-course ABM interception is very technically challenging because the missile is moving at very high speed and at very high altitude, it is the most viable option, because it is more unlikely to intercept a ballistic missile in the initial phase deep within hostile territory. Also, intercepting a diving missile in the terminal phase - not to mention multiple missiles in a saturation attack - is just too risky, analysts were quoted as saying by Chinese media.

Only a few countries – U.S., Russia, India and Israel – have conducted such tests.

China is committed to a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, so it is vital that the country can intercept hostile nukes as much as possible and withstand the first strikes so that counterattacks can follow, observers said.

The combination of China's ABM systems, its underground nuclear defense facilities and its nuclear arsenal, all of which are being continuously modernized, builds up a credible deterrent against nuclear threats amid the current instability in the global security situation, analysts said.

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