Mid-course interception a sign of mature military tech
China on Tuesday announced the success of a third mid-course land-based missile interception test, a sign of mature military technology.
The Ministry of National Defense said Tuesday the interception technology was tested on Monday within China's territory and achieved its preset goal.
The test is defensive in nature and does not target any country, the ministry said.
This is the Chinese military's third public announcement of a successful test of its mid-course land-based missile interception technology. The previous two were in January 2010 and January 2013.
The test shows China is capable of operating mid-course interception technology like the US, Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday. "The test is meant for threats to China."
"This mid-course land-based missile interception test was normal and part of a schedule," Yang Chengjun, a Chinese missile expert and defense scientist, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Though every test has a different purpose, such as the interception height, accuracy, damage power and interception method, "three successful mid-course interception tests show that China's technology has matured," Yang said.
The US and Japan have conducted similar tests.
The defense ministry's announcement came after luminous clouds were spotted at night in Turpan, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Friday. Meteorology analysts said that only aircraft could make such luminous clouds, also known in meteorology as noctilucent clouds.
The flight of ballistic missiles has three phases: boost, mid-course and terminal. The mid-course takes the longest time, and sometimes the warhead is not separated during that phase, so the interception in mid-course is the most possible, reliable and effective, Song explained.
Since the mid-course phase is usually in the outer atmosphere, the interception also requires high accuracy, Song said.
Yang added that the interception, which takes place in the outer atmosphere, could reduce damage to the target on our side. "The higher the interception takes place, the smaller the damage."
China began testing its ground-based mid-course missile interception technology in 2010, Beijing-based haiwainet.cn reported on Tuesday. China started research on interception in 1964 and expanded it as part of the State-funded 863 Program.
Intercepting missiles requires the whole combat system, which includes satellite communication and navigation technologies and aerial detection. China has all these basic components, Song said.
"The technology for mid-course interception is complex and difficult, which requires the coordination of the distance warning system, interception system and direction management," Jiang Chunliang, a researcher of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, was quoted by news website thepaper.cn as saying. "Only big countries can handle such complex technology."
Thepaper.cn reported that one significant part of the distance warning system is the early-warning strategic radar, which could detect the approaching missiles and provide real-time information. Only China, Russia and the US are equipped with this.
China's strategic early-warning radar was first made public at a 2017 exhibition featuring China's outstanding achievements over the past five years in Beijing.
The test's success on Monday also showed that China's related weapons and facilities are prepared for combat. Next, China is expected to further improve the accuracy of intercepting more complex ballistic missiles and making the whole interception system more maneuverable, Song said.
However, Yang noted that a test is far from actual combat. "In actual combat, much remains unknown."
Apart from the land-based mid-course interception system, a sea-based system would also be developed on China's large warships, Song noted.