On February 5, China’s Defense Ministry claimed to have successfully tested a midcourse missile defense system. The Ministry’s short announcement reads: “China carried out a land-based mid-course missile interception test within its territory on Feb. 5, 2018 and achieved the desired test objective. The test is defensive in nature and not targeted against any country.” Whether the test involved an actual intercept or was simply an interceptor flight test is currently unknown. Analysts have identified the interceptor as either the:
- HQ-19 – designed to intercept MRBMs but may feature ABM capabilities;
- SC-19 – reportedly combines components of HQ-19 with the larger rocket motor from the Kaituozhe-1 space launch vehicle (SLV). It was used in a Jan. 2007 test to destroy a Chinese weather satellite; or
- DN-3 – derived partially from China’s DF-21 MRBM. It was reportedly used in Jan. 2010 to destroy an exoatmospheric target missile.
China has reportedly reinforced its missile and air defense assets along the border with North Korea, and the interceptor tested appears to be designed to counter DPRK and Indian missiles.