Pakistan May Seek Chinese Interceptor Missile Defense System by 2012



Pakistan may seek help from Beijing for high-altitude and anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defenses, defense observers say. “Pakistan is actively looking to purchase a high-altitude missile air defense system,” said defense analyst Haris Khan of the Pakistan Military Consortium. “Reports indicate that the Chinese HQ-9/FD2000 developed by the China Academy of Defence Technology is the front-runner, but I think it is the only candidate, since no other supplier will sell these types of missiles to Pakistan.” But other observers here noted obstacles, including defense budget cuts and a rough patch in relations between the two governments.





The HQ-9 reportedly blends technology from Chinese efforts, Russian S-300s and an early version of the U.S. Patriot system obtained from Israel. Chinese sources say it can hit aircraft out to 125 kilometers, air-launched cruise missiles out to 50 kilometers, and ballistic missiles out to 25 kilometers — representing ABM capability equivalent to the Indian AAD and American PAC-3.


There has been speculation that Pakistan acquired an HQ-9 variant called the FT-2000 some years ago as a short-term countermeasure against India’s airborne early warning and control aircraft, but no such missile has been seen in the country, and some sources say the FT-2000 was never actually produced.

“China has always fulfilled its promise to meet Pakistan’s defense needs” Akhtar said. He noted that China needs Pakistan as a bulwark against Indian hegemony in southern Asia, and said the “all-weather, strategic Sino-Pak relationship had moved beyond a purely defense relationship” to a “deep economic relationship.” Akhtar also dismissed concerns about budget cuts, saying that the enduring Sino-Pak relationship makes him “optimistic that this would not affect Pakistan’s defensive capabilities in the long run.” But Shireen Mazari, a former head of the Institute of Strategic Studies, has written that the government’s Strategic Planning Division, which controls the planning and deployment of strategic weapons, had cut research and development funding in high-technology areas.

Khan agreed. “The SPD’s funds have been curtailed,” especially for newer projects, he said. Strategic Planning Division officials have rejected these statements. Khan also said the SPD and the National Engineering and Scientific Commission, which handles the design and production of ballistic missiles and other defense programs, had been instructed to slow work on certain projects. “In the short to medium term, there might not be any effects, but in the long term, these reductions will cause fault lines which Pakistan cannot afford,” Khan said. How these political and financial developments will affect a potential HQ-9 deal is unclear. “The Pakistan government has an eye on these Indian ambitions, and would definitely have to counter the threat,” Akhtar said.

 

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