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China Is A Supermarket Of Air Defense Weaponry

November 17, 2021
Via Chinese state media.

With a military-industrial sector geared for overproduction the efforts by China’s government to promote its military technology has reached absurd heights. For the duration of Air Show China 2021, also known as the Zhuhai Air Show, a spacious indoor venue was crowded with armaments Beijing wanted to sell abroad. More than unimaginable quantities of cheap assault rifles the higher end of lethality seen at the exhibition received the most glowing coverage from Chinese media. A certified star at Zhuhai was an updated mobile air defense vehicle that appeared in previous installments yet consistently failed to win over buyers. The FK-2000 (pictured above) still looks impressive though.

Ignoring the chatter about its similarity to the Russian-made Pantsir-S1 the FK-2000 made by CASIC (not to be confused with the other state-owned manufacturer CASC) is an air defense weapon system combining a dozen short/medium-range SAMs and twin 30mm rotary cannons, e.g. gatling guns. These are installed on a single large weapon station with two radars. Their transporter is an elongated 8×8 single cab truck that contains the operator’s station–they enter through a side door located in the middle of the hull. CASIC’s FK-2000 was meant to track and engage all types of airborne targets be they fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles, or UAVs. As an exportable military product the FK-2000 isn’t in service with the PLA or other military branches. It does form part of a “family” that originate from other manufacturers and includes the FM-3000 short-range SAM and the FD-2000 long-range SAM. The latter, by the way, is an export variant of the HQ-9 SAM that’s also exported under the brand name “HQ-9BE.” If the nomenclature of these air defense systems is confusing the fault lies in their astounding variety and how Chinese manufacturers compete against each other with the same products.

Potential end users of the FK-2000 are militaries that need to protect national airspace or acquire generational upgrades over their legacy air defenses. The appeal of the FK-2000 is it brings together multiple armaments in a single vehicle and these operate in a networked air defense layer. The twin 30mm rotary cannons are extremely potent for neutralizing low-flying objects such as drones and helicopters. An earlier variant known as the FK-1000 that was promoted from 2016 until 2018 only had tandem 23mm cannons and now its sibling the FK-2000 has more powerful 30mm rotary cannons. Each of the 12 containers on the FK-2000’s shared turret holds a short-to-medium range KS-1000 missile that CASIC insists has the ability to engage and destroy incoming cruise missiles. The FK-2000 is a serious competitor of the Pantsir-S1 that has found operators in more than 10 countries and is being adapted for new roles. It’s possible to acquire the FK-2000 as an addition or replacement for older mobile air defense systems of Soviet origin such as the ZSU-57-2, ZSU-23-4, S-125 SAM, 9K33 SAM, and 9K35 SAM. On the same note, militaries that possess dated Western ground-based air defenses are well-served by the FK-2000.

Exports of Chinese air defense systems remain difficult to track and scrutinize. Without a single state-owned arms export agency or rosy coverage from state-owned media China’s arms sales at large are often confirmed after the fact from unexpected sources. As far as can be ascertained the FK-2000 is on the market but hasn’t found a genuine end user. But this hasn’t deterred state-owned manufacturers from rolling out new or improved air defense weapon systems at a rapid pace on top of their earlier work. For example, the conglomerate Norinco has its own catalog of mobile air defense systems about which little is known due to lackluster promo. Militaries with reasonable cooperation with the PLA and the Chinese government are spoiled for choices if they need air defense weapon systems, whether these are humble MANPADS or anti-aircraft artillery. For short and medium-ranges there are the HQ-6, the HQ-7/7B, the HQ-12, or the newer HQ-17AE. Of course, Chinese companies are willing to transfer production if this is required.

Militaries evaluating road mobile medium-range SAMs are in good stead with China if NATO or Russian technology is inaccessible. For medium-range SAMs there’s the LY-80 (also known as the HQ-16) and the LY-70 that enjoyed its debut at Air Show China 2021. For a total theater-level solution to protect national airspace the HQ-9BE and its radars and infrastructure are available at a fair price. The known operators of the HQ-9 like Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are low spenders on their militaries and they managed to adopt a sophisticated air defense system at the required scale. This proves the availability and cost-effectiveness of Chinese air defense weapon systems today is an advantage the world ignores.

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