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.