China China successfully conducts land-based, mid-course antiballistic missile test

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An air-defense missile system attached to a brigade under the PLA 71st Group Army launches an air-defense missile at a mock target during a field live-fire training exercise in late February, 2022. Photo: eng.chinamil.com.cn

China successfully conducted a land-based, mid-course antiballistic missile (ABM) technical test on Friday, marking China's seventh publicly announced land-based ABM test since 2010. The country has mastered related technologies, forming a credible deterrent against nuclear threats, analysts said.

On Friday evening, China carried out a land-based, mid-course ABM interception test within its borders, with the test achieving the expected goals, China's Ministry of National Defense said in a press release.

The test is of a defensive nature and is not aimed at any country, the press release said.

Before Friday, China had conducted six land-based ABM tests, in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2018, 2021 and 2022. It was not revealed in which interception phase the test in 2014 was carried out, while all the other five were carried out in the mid-course phase.

Only a few countries have conducted such tests.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times that a mid-course interception is usually aimed at an intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic missile that could be equipped with nuclear warheads.

Mid-course refers to the phase in which a missile traverses outside of the atmosphere after being boosted into its trajectory by a rocket booster in the initial phase. It will then reenter the atmosphere and dive toward its target in the terminal phase.

While mid-course ABM interception is very technically challenging because the missile is moving at very high speed and at very high altitude, it is the most viable option, because it is more unlikely to intercept a ballistic missile in the initial phase deep within hostile territory. Also, intercepting a diving missile in the terminal phase - not to mention multiple missiles in a saturation attack - is just too risky, analysts said.

China's successful consecutive ABM tests showed that it has credibly mastered related technologies, and that China can defend itself should anyone launch a first strike, another Chinese military expert told the Global Times on Friday, requesting anonymity.

China is committed to a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, so it is vital that the country can intercept hostile nukes as much as possible and withstand the first strikes so that counterattacks can follow, observers said.

The combination of China's ABM systems, its underground nuclear defense facilities and its nuclear arsenal, all of which are being continuously modernized, builds up a credible deterrent against nuclear threats amid the current instability in the global security situation, analysts said.

 

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