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China Has Many Advanced Weapons For Its Friends

March 18, 2022

In the span of two very short years Pakistan’s armed forces received so many advanced weapons from China and other allies that it now boasts a slight edge over its nemesis the Indian armed forces. This is found with the unmanned aircraft it operates; Pakistan’s armed forces have locally made drones, Chinese-made drones, and even the latest Turkish combat drones. Still, China remains the main foreign supplier of Pakistan’s armed forces on a cumulative scale. This should worry other countries who see China as a strategic rival because for the first time in a long while the rest of the world can possess better weaponry than what’s used by the “West” and its alliance system.

This trend is most apparent in Pakistan whose homegrown nuclear-capable missiles are still being improved while its other state-owned industries are putting out deadlier weapon systems each year. With China’s unfailing assistance, however, each of the armed forces’ branches have acquired even better technology than what they can purchase elsewhere. For example, a large batch of HQ-9/P SAMs are due to arrive soon. (See photo above.) These are long-range missiles to complement the medium-range HQ-16 and the short-range HQ-7B that are in service.

China exports the HQ-9 SAM with alternate designations–for marketing purposes–such as the recent “HQ-9BE” displayed at Air Show China 2021 and the earlier FD-2000. But its resemblance to the Russian-made S-300, along with other factors outside China’s control, dampened its status throughout the 2010s. So far, only Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are known to operate the HQ-9 and at least two other countries in North Africa. There are at least a dozen other end users who, despite their obvious ties with China, showed little to no interest. In fact, a remarkable trend among Asian militaries today are the resources they’re willing to spend on homegrown military technology. This has produced startling results when it came to localized anti-aircraft systems in Iran and North Korea.

However, the prospects of the HQ-9BE in particular are far from dim. There are as many as 20 countries who operate either Chinese-made or Soviet vintage air defenses that will be enhanced by the HQ-9BE and its accompanying equipment. Future operators in Europe aren’t out of the question since China has shown its willingness to help Belarus and Serbia. This is one advantage China’s military-industrial sector has over its competition in Russia and the West. Besides the awe-inspiring catalog of military technology now for sale the end user’s wishes can be factored in to give them the ideal product. The best example is, of course, Pakistan’s armed forces who are either receiving or are scheduled to receive: VT4 main battle tanks and SH15 truck howitzers for the army; J-10C fighter jets for the air force; Type 054A/P frigates and Type 039 diesel-electric submarines for the navy.

All these deliveries to Pakistan’s armed forces are just the latest exchanges in a fruitful relationship that has seen China help its neighbor establish heavy industries along with a state-owned aerospace sector. The same was done on a smaller scale in countries like Iran and Sudan. There are strong indications the Middle East is once again an attractive market for China’s state-owned manufacturers who export military technology. Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular have acquired some Chinese-made weapon systems and are keen on expanding their military industries with foreign assistance. The Chinese conglomerate Norinco is assisting with a production line for heavy artillery ammunition for a client in the Gulf.

China’s greatest advantage is the persistence and subtlety of its efforts to beat the global arms market that’s dominated by the exorbitant technology supplied by the US. When countries who have neither access nor influence on Western suppliers come calling China is now in the best position to help them with whatever they need, from the mundane to the game-changing.

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