HJ-12: What Is Known About China's 3rd Gen Anti-Tank Missile System?

© REUTERS / Tim HepherA VT5 lightweight main battle tank, built by China North Industries Corp (Norinco), is on display at Airshow China in Zhuhai, Guangdong province November 3, 2016
A VT5 lightweight main battle tank, built by China North Industries Corp (Norinco), is on display at Airshow China in Zhuhai, Guangdong province November 3, 2016 - Sputnik International
Chinese arms exporter Norinco has announced the first export shipment of China's third-generation HJ-12 anti-tank missile system (ATCM). The corporation does not disclose any further details about the deal, including the name of the buyer, the number of goods purchased and its value.

According to Russian military expert Vasily Kashin, this system, which was first shown at the international exhibition in 2014, is the only non-Western competitor of the American man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile system FGM-148 Javelin.

The two systems are very close in their tactical and technical characteristics: they have infrared guidance, thanks to which the missile system operator must not hold the target in the crosshairs of the sight, illuminating the target during the missile operation. The implementation of the “fire-and-forget” principle in many cases increases the system operator's chances of surviving on the battlefield. Both systems are lightweight portable systems weighing about 22 kg with a maximum range of about 4000 metres.

The distinguishing feature of such systems is the extremely high cost of the missiles used in them due to the expensive infrared homing heads. The kit price consisting of a launcher and a Javelin missile for the US Armed Forces significantly exceeds $200,000. Such systems are several times more expensive than the previous generation systems with semi-automatic guidance systems and laser beam illumination of the target.

The wide use of such systems is available only to the US military, which can spend money without restrictions, with little concern for cost efficiency. However, even under these conditions, they have not completely replaced the previous generation systems in the US forces. The armed forces of other countries having purchased Javelin systems tend to use them even more cost-effectively.

A Xian Y-20 heavy transport aircraft flies past during the Zhuhai Air Show in Zhuhai, southern China's Guangdong province on November 1, 2016. - Sputnik International
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It is understood that China presents its HJ-12 on the market as a cheaper analogue of Javelin but specific price parameters are not yet known. Among its competitors may be Chinese systems of the previous generation that do not implement the principle of “fire-and-forget” but which are quite effective and repeatedly tested in actual combat. These are, in particular, enhanced versions of HJ-8, HJ-9, HJ-10, and HJ-11 systems.

Remarkably, the production of all these types of anti-tank missiles seems to be concentrated in a single group of companies that are part of the Norinco military-industrial group corporation. These are Xi'an Modern Control Technology Research Institute, also known as 203rd Research Institute, serving as the developer and North Industries Group Red Arrow Co., Ltd., formerly known as Factory 282, as a manufacturing holding company.

Consequently, given the abundance of types of Chinese portable anti-tank missile systems, there is hardly any competition among manufacturers. Perhaps, the Chinese manufacturer may be able to build a more flexible pricing policy for its HJ-12s through such concentrated production process to ensure their presence in key markets. This will probably include the presence in conflict-ridden areas of the Middle East, such as Iraq and Yemen, where anti-tank missiles are one of the most important weapons.

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