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China Has A New Missile Launcher For Its Friends

April 1, 2021
Via Chinese media.

The CM-501GA can give armies from three continents a decisive edge in any future war scenario if they adopt it in significant numbers. The missile launcher utilizes a 6×6 transport–the popular Dongfeng CSK181–whose elongated bed mounts the system containing 16 non-line-of-sight or NLOS missiles. Each of the munitions are vertically launched and emit a distinct white contrail as they accelerate on their flight path. End users have even more options when it comes to transporting the launcher; if they don’t like the truck it came with they can choose a different vehicle.

An inert model of the CM-501GA was displayed by Poly Defence, the mysterious subsidiary of the Poly Group conglomerate, at this year’s IDEX 2021–an event known as the largest of its kind in the Middle East. With arms shows still constrained by the global pandemic IDEX 2021 powered through and lasted the better part of a week in late February. Chinese companies were unavoidable with large pavilions and impressive galleries of products. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is no stranger to Chinese military products and recently purchased artillery systems from Norinco. The UAE also delivers Chinese-made infantry weapons to its proxies as a matter of foreign policy.

The CM-501GA uses the Donfeng CSK181 as its transporter. The armored truck is comparable to the Oshkosh JLTV buts is adapted for more roles than its American rival as the PLA replace their older tracked combat and logistics vehicles. As a medium-weight logistics vehicle the CSK181 features a double cab layout and an elongated bed for holding cargo. According to Poly Defence, the manufacturer of the CM-501GA, the entire weapon system is housed in a single box launcher that can be moved into position with a crane. The box launcher contains 16 missiles with tracking and acquisition done in a separate vehicle.

Based on promotional media shared by Poly Defence at IDEX 2021 the CM-501GA’s transporter is accompanied by a surveillance and command vehicle and another escort. For targets beyond visual range a small drone is used for observation and once the data is transmitted in real time the operators are free to select the sequence of their launches. The CM-501GA is able to destroy both mobile and static targets at distances Chinese media claims to reach 40 kilometers. The altitude and range of its missile broadens its employment to include drones and low-flying aircraft and even coastal defense against nearshore threats. The CM-501GA has another type of munition available for end users. This is a “lightweight” cruise missile, much heavier than its counterpart NLOS missile, that was probably meant for eliminating infrastructure or other large targets.

Anyone familiar with trends in military technology these past two decades may recognize the CM-501GA for what it is: a blatant yet faithful imitation of the short-lived “XM501” program of the US Army. As the war on terror embroiled the US military throughout the 2000s the reorganization of “brigade combat teams” led to various technology demonstrators for anticipated battlefield use. The XM501 was a “container launch unit” with 15 missiles that was successfully tested on an Oshkosh truck. Despite its promise the XM501 vanished after 2009 and to this day the US Army doesn’t have any NLOS missiles in use. The PLA have since embraced a new generation of remotely guided or programmed surface-to-surface missiles with extreme ranges. Meanwhile, Poly Defence began to promote a “CM-501G” from 2015 onward along with its alternate munition the CM-501GA.

The CM-501GA isn’t in service with any branch of China’s military yet but Poly Defence claims its export prospects are very good. It’s obvious countries either closely allied with the US or within the NATO alliance won’t acquire this weapon system even when it’s far more advanced than current anti-tank missiles. The strongest prospects for the CM-501GA are in the Middle East and Africa where militaries are still coming to grips with precision guided weapons. Latin America is another possible market depending on outlays for military spending.

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