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The New Air Defenses Of Pakistan Are Made In China

April 11, 2018

The PLA’s HQ-16 during live fire exercises last year. Via China Military Online.

Pakistan has finally addressed the yawning gap in its air defenses with the new medium-range SAMs it bought from China. Last month the armed forces undertook a lavish parade on March 23 outside Islamabad to commemorate Pakistan’s inception while at the same time show off its arsenal. More than ever before, Pakistan is turning away from its tenuous reliance on the US and importing more advanced weapons from other Asian countries.

But the low to medium range air defense system (LOMADS) known as the LY-80, which is designated the HQ-16 by the PLA, spells a lot of trouble for Pakistan’s archnemesis–India!

Via Inter Services Public Relations.

Pakistan ordered small batches of the LY-80, which is the name for the export variant, between 2013 and 2016. These were received with much fanfare in January 2017. The armed forces’ official news agency, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), announced the “induction” of the LY-80 soon after. The ISPR hailed the “Chinese origin weapon system” as a godsend of sorts.

According to the ISPR, the LY-80 will serve as the military’s most effective tool for “intercepting multiple targets including fighter aircraft, cruise missiles, air to ground missiles, anti-radiation missiles, UAVs and armed helicopters at long ranges.”

Via Inter Services Public Relations.

Judging by how the ISPR described it, the LY-80 is the perfect countermeasure to India’s air superiority. For decades Pakistan relied on a large fleet of Dassault Mirage 5 and Chengdu J-7 interceptors as the final deterrent against India’s massive air force. But during the wars in 1965, 1971, and 1999 India’s pilots managed to control the skies–despite serious casualties–and inflict crippling losses on Pakistan’s ground units, whose air defenses were often inadequate.

Since Islamabad’s relationship with Beijing has reached the point where the armed forces are given access to the most advanced weapons offered by Chinese state-owned companies, this old handicap may disappear for good.

Via Inter Services Public Relations.

Each LY-80 battery includes a mobile command post and at least two tracking radars that are assembled as the launchers are readied. The appearance of the LY-80 may invite comparisons with the Russian S-350 Vityaz SAM, but both weapon systems share little in common. The LY-80 is built on a 6×6 truck whose bed carries six launch tubes. The missiles, whose design was spun off from a Russian naval SAM, are loaded individually and are meant to serve as anti-access weapons in conjunction with other air defenses.

The Pakistan army’s air defense units already have the short-range HQ-7B mobile SAMs–also bought from China. Together with anti-aircraft artillery (the army uses 23mm and 35mm guns) and the larger LY-80’s, these form a layered network for protecting bases and even cities. Whether Pakistan eventually purchases a genuine anti-ballistic missile system in the future is still guesswork at this point.

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