Hong Niao Series (HN-1/-2/-3)

The Hong Niao series (HN-1/-2/-3) of short- and intermediate-range cruise missiles began development in the late 1970s. These ground-, ship-, submarine-, and air-launched cruise missiles were initially based on designs of the X-600, similar to the HY-2 Silkworm. The primary goal of the HN series was to create a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of 3,000 km.1

Hong Niao Series at a Glance

Originated From: People’s Republic of China (PRC)
Possessed By: People’s Republic of China (PRC)
Alternate Name: Hongniao, Red Bird, DH-10, X-600, HN-1A, HN-1B, CJ-10, YH-4, HN-2A, HN-2B, HN-2C, HN-3A, HN-3B, HN-3C, C-602
Class: Subsonic cruise missile
Basing: Ground/ship/air/submarine-launched
Length: 6.4 m (7.2 m with boost motor)
Diameter: 0.5 m
Launch Weight: 1,200 kg
Payload: Single warhead
Warhead: 400 kg HE or submunitions, 20-90 kT nuclear
Propulsion: Turbojet (HN-1), Turbofan (HN-2/-3)
Range: 600-3000 km
Status: Operational
In Service: 1996

hong niaoThe HN-1 is similar in shape and size to the Russian AS-15A “Kent” (Kh-55) and SS-N-21 “Sampson” (3M10) and to the U.S. RGM-109 “Tomahawk” cruise missiles. The HN-1 has a circular-shaped body, with two wings, a low tailplane, and a vertical fin mounted on the upper side that unfolds after launch. An air inlet for the turbojet engine is located under the body at the rear of the missile. Including the tandem-mounted booster rocket, the HN-1 is 7.2 m long, 0.5 m in diameter, and has a wing span of 2.5 m. The booster rocket weights 200 kg, bringing the missile’s total launch weight to 1,200 kg. The HN-1 is believed to carry a 400 kg payload, which could be a 20 to 90 kT nuclear warhead, high explosive warhead, or submunitions warhead.2

Hong Niao 1

The HN-1 has a minimum range of around 50 km. The maximum range of the ground-launched version, designated HN-1A, is 600 km. The maximum range of the air-launched version, designated HN-1B, is 650 km. The missile cruises at around Mach 0.8 at an altitude of 20 m. The HN-1A version is believed to be launched from a Transporter-Erector-Launch (TEL) vehicle that is capable of carrying three missiles. The HN-1B version is air-launched from B-6D bombers, each of which carries two to four missiles. Flight tests for the HN-1A started 1988, and is believed to have entered service around 1996. The air-launched HN-1B was first reported in June 2001, and is thought to entered into service a year later.3

Hong Niao 2

The HN-2 is widely believed to be based on reverse engineered U.S. Tomahawk technology. The engine for the HN-2 may be based on the Russian Omsk OKB-designed TRDD-50 engine that is used in both the Kh55 (AS-15) and RK-55 (SS-N-21) missiles. The primary improvement over the HN-1 missiles is an increase in range. The ground and ship-launched versions (HN-2A, HN-2B) both have a range of 1,800 km. A third version, the HN-2C, is submarine-launched and has a range of 1,400 km. Other improvements and changes include the following: a body diameter of 0.7 m, an increase in launch weight to 1,400 kg, an accuracy improvement to 5 m CEP, and an overall improvement of various systems including the guidance, engine, airframe, and wing design.4 The HN-2 was first flight tested in 1995 and entered into service in 2002.5

A U.S. report from 2010 stated that China possesses 200 to 500 nuclear armed operational HN-2 missiles.6

Hong Niao 3

The HN-3 series of cruise missiles is likely based on the Russian AS-15B Kent and U.S. Tomahawk technologies. The HN-3A is a ground- or ship-launched missile with a maximum range of 3,000 km. A second variant, known as HN-3B, is submarine-launched and has a maximum range of 2,200 km. Other improvements and changes include a slight increase in body diameter to 0.75 m, an increased launch weight to 1,800 kg, and an increase in accuracy to 5 m CEP.7 The HN-3 was first flight tested in 1999 and entered into service in 2007.8

    1. “C-602 (HN-1/-2/-3/YJ-62/X-600/DH-10/CJ-10/HN-2000),” in IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, ed. James C. O’Halloran (United Kingdom: IHS, 2015), 115-119.
    2. Ibid.
    3. Ibid.
    4. Ibid.
    5. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” Bulletin of American Scientists, Vol. 72, Issue 4, 2016, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00963402.2016.1194054.
    6. Report refers to the Hong Niao missiles as the DH-10. Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2010, Annual Report to Congress, http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2010_CMPR_Final.pdf, 31.
    7. “C-602 (HN-1/-2/-3/YJ-62/X-600/DH-10/CJ-10/HN-2000),” in IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 115-119.
    8. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2016,” Bulletin of American Scientists, Vol. 72, Issue 4, 2016, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00963402.2016.1194054.