However, due to the deteriorating relations between China and the Soviet Union in the 1960’s Beijing decided to create its own domestic design and that’s how the anti-tank guided missile Hongjian (Red Arrow) 8 finally entered service in the mid-1980s.
In functionally it had a resemblance to the long-range American TOW antitank guided missile, joined with the discarding launch tube of the French Milan missile system.
“Unlike the short-range rocket-propelled grenades and other light antitank weapons, which basically serve as close defense weapons for regular infantry squads, ATGMs are heavier systems intended to destroy enemy tanks from kilometers away,” the National Interest wrote.
Hence, China mastered its own anti-tank missile system. Early Red Arrow missiles had a range of three kilometers and their 120-millimeter shaped charges had infiltration equal to eight hundred millimeters of Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA).
The latest modern variant today is the HJ-8E. The missile has a thermal imaging system, a range of four kilometers and reported penetration of one-thousand-millimeter RHA.
“The new HJ-8L launch unit has miniaturized circuitry to reduce its weight to fifty pounds, so it can serve as a truly man-portable weapon. Finally, there is also a longer-range HJ-8H that can strike targets up to six kilometers distant, including helicopters,” the publication noted.
Today, the Red Arrow is the most common antitank system used in the People’s Liberation Army. As an infantry weapon, it is fired from a heavy tripod. China has widely exported the missiles to nearly twenty countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Egypt, Sudan and Pakistan also produce the weapon under license.
Although the HJ-8 is a reliable system, it is no longer at the cutting edge of antitank technology.
It could probably be shot down by the Active Protection Systems on tank such as Israeli Merkava or the Russian T-14.
“The Red Arrow 8 might also struggle to penetrate the frontal composite armor of top Western main battle tanks like the M1 Abrams,” the National Interest reported.
Despite a few drawbacks, the HJ-8 has no doubt proven quite effective at destroying older tanks and armored fighting vehicles which remain in extensive use across the globe.
However, the technology in China is ever evolving and the People’s Liberation Army has recently introduced the harder-hitting laser-guided HJ-9 missile and the top-attacking HJ-12, which is the Chinese equivalent to the lethal Javelin missile.