In recent weeks the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has conducted a series of exercises and drills—where the PLA’s airborne brigade held intensive drills and mock battles in the northwestern desert while more recently units from the air defense brigade under the PLA 74th Group Army conducted mock air defense battles in the coastal region of South China’s Guangdong Province.
The most recent drills and exercises occurred in the coastal region that has seen frequent aerial close-in reconnaissance operations by U.S. military aircraft according to reports from China Central Television (CCTV).
The PLA’s exercises also followed the U.S. Air Force’s deployment of a B-52H Stratofortress nuclear-capable bomber to Guam from Andersen Air Force on the Fourth of July.
During the mock engagement, four high-speed target drones were reportedly used and simulated an attack on a battle position with the support of simulated jamming aircraft. The PLA’s air defense brigade units formed a network with their fire-control radars, narrowed the scope of early warning and were able to identify the hostile targets—which were then shot down by a barrage of bullets.
“PLA drills are routinely scheduled and not targeted at any specific country but U.S. aerial close-in reconnaissance operations pose threats to China’s national security,” a Chinese military expert was quoted by Global Times on last week. “So the drills also show that the PLA is always prepared to defend against any hostile aggression. The drills can be seen as a reminder to the U.S. that their provocative actions should not go any farther. The PLA can send warplanes to disrupt U.S. aircraft activities including reconnaissance.”
Reports did not specify what type of vehicles were used in the recent air defense drills, and photo captions from state media only stated: “A missile launching vehicle attached to an air-defense battalion of a combined arms brigade under the PLA 73rd Group Army launches a surface-to-air missile at a simulated aerial target during a whole-process live-fire test.”
Based on the photos it appears that the vehicles in question would be the HQ-7B, the last variant of the original HongQi 7 (HQ-7) short-range air defense system that was developed in China in the 1980s, which was itself a copy of the French Crotale. The HQ-7B was first revealed in 2009 and remains widely used by the Chinese armed forces. It carries four missiles and is fitted with engagement radar, and can engage helicopters, aircraft, cruise missiles, air-to-ground missiles and anti-radiation missiles at a range of up to fifteen kilometers.
While this is an older platform, Jane’s reported last week the Chinese new 155-millimeter wheeled self-propelled howitzer (SPH), believed to have the designation PLC-181, had entered service with the artillery brigade under the PLA’s 74th Group Army.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.