China HongQi-9 (HQ-9)



Basing:Land, Sea
In Service:1997 - Present

The Hongqi-9 (HQ-9) is a long-range, high-altitude, surface-to-air missile system developed and manufactured by China. It is designed to track and destroy aircraft, cruise missiles, air-to-surface missiles, and tactical ballistic missiles. It incorporates technology from the Russian S-300P (NATO: SA-10 Grumble), the U.S. Patriot missile, and preexisting Chinese systems.1 The HongQi 9 is currently used in both the PLA Air Force (SAM corps) and also in the PLA Navy in the form of ship-based HaiHongQi 9 (HHQ-9).2

Ironically, Beijing has ranked among the most vociferous opponents of U.S. missile defense, having denounced various U.S. initiatives during the Clinton administration, and more recently, the Bush administration’s decision in 2002 to withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty.3 Yet in recent years, China has followed a comprehensive two-track plan to bolster its own air and missile defenses:

  1. The purchase of Russian surface-to-air missiles
  2. The development of its own missile defense systems.4

It is important to note, however, that the HQ-9 has been in development since the mid-1990s. In 1993, China purchased a large batch of S-300P missiles from Russia, and allegedly obtained a copy of the U.S. Patriot missile from Israel (although Israel denies that such a transfer took place).5 The Chinese immediately began incorporating the S-300P and Patriot technology into their own air and missile defense system, the HQ-9. In 1997, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence suggested that “technology from advanced Western systems may be incorporated into the HQ-9.”6 That same year, an official at a Russian missile design bureau acknowledged that the HQ-9 would incorporate the Patriot guidance and propulsion systems, thus confirming U.S. suspicions.7


According to missile defense expert David A. Fulghum, “[the HQ-9] uses a seeker-aided ground guidance system. The seeker on the missile sends target data back to the ground, which then correlates the target data for an intercept.”8 It is assumed that the HQ-9’s seeker is similar to the Patriot’s “Track-via-Missile” guidance system.9  Such a system, if actually used by the Chinese, would allow the HQ-9 interceptor missile to fly straight toward its target and explode at the point of nearest approach, thus completely destroying the incoming ballistic missile (or aircraft) or knocking it far enough off course so that it misses its intended target. During the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-2 system, which employs “Track-via-Missile,” destroyed its targets between 40 and 70 percent of the time.

In addition to its land-based deployments, the HQ-9 has been recently modified to complement China’s burgeoning naval forces. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has outfitted two Type 052C destroyers with naval variants of the HQ-9, estimated to have a range of 65 nautical miles. Each Type 052C destroyer (similar to the U.S. Aegis destroyer) has six vertical launchers carrying approximately 36 missiles, as well as a phased-array radar system.

  1. U.S. Department of Defense, “FY04 Report to Congress on PRC Military Power Pursuant to the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act,” 28 May 2004; U.S. Department of Defense, “Report to Congress on the Future Military Capabilities and Strategy of the People’s Republic of China Pursuant to Section 1226 for the FY98 National Defense Authorization Act,” November 1998; Gurmeet Kanwal, “Chinese Military: The People’s Liberation Army Is Preparing for a High-Tech War,” The Statesman (India), 15 January 2002.
  2. “HongQi 9 (HQ-9) Surface-to-Air Missile System –” HongQi 9 (HQ-9) Surface-to-Air Missile System – N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2012. <>.
  3. Richard D. Fisher, Jr., “China Increases Its Missile Forces While Opposing U.S. Missile Defense”, The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, No. 1268, 7 April 1999.
  4. Zalmay Khalilzad, Abram N. Shulsky, Daniel Byman, Roger Cliff, D. Orletsky, David A. Shlapak, Ashley J. Tellis, The United States and a Rising China: Strategic and Military Implications (RAND, 1999), pp. 49; Mark Stokes, China’s Strategic Modernization: Implications for the United States (Carlisle, Pa.: Strategic Studies Institute, September 1999), pp. 112-113, in Thomas J. Christensen, “Posing Problems Without Catching Up,” International Security, 22 March 2001.
  5. Center for Nonproliferation Studies;; D. A. Fulghum, “Defense Dept. Confirms Patriot Technology Diverted,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, 1 February 1993, p. 26, in Khalilzad, et al., The United States and a Rising China, p. 56; Avery Goldstein, “Great Expectations: Interpreting China’s Arrival,” International Security, 22 December 1997; Timothy W. Maier, “Keep America’s Powder Dry,”Insight Magazine, 9 June 1997; Steven J. Zaloga, “Future Trends in Air Defense Missiles,” Journal of Electronic Defense, 1 October 1997.
  6.; Avery Goldstein, “Great Expectations: Interpreting China’s Arrival,” International Security, 22 December 1997.
  7. Richard D. Fisher, Jr., “China Increases Its Missile Forces While Opposing U.S. Missile Defense,” The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, No. 1268, 7 April 1999.
  8. David A. Fulghum, “U.S. Confirms Israeli Missiles Used by China,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, 30 April 2001.
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