Key Point: The HJ-12 is the first man-portable ATGW system to be fully developed in China.

China North Industries Corporation (Norinco) announced that it has completed deliveries of its Red Arrow 12E (“Hongjian-12E” or HJ-12E) man-portable anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) – a platform that has the same range and penetration capability of the baseline U.S.-made GFM-148 Javelin.

Norinco, which made the announcement via its WeChat account last month as reported by Jane’s, did not provide any details of the contract value, the identity of the customer or even the number of systems that were exported. However, this marked the first export of the third-generation Chinese “copycat” of the American military’s Javelin ATGW. The fire-and-forget anti-tank missile is capable of hitting tanks, bunkers, ships, helicopters and other targets with a penetration capability of 1,1000mm.

“Norinco made the delivery of containers carrying the missiles to foreign clients as of Wednesday, before the scheduled shipment date,” said a March 25 statement by the company released on its WeChat account, Chinese media reported.

The HJ-12E is an export variant of the HJ-12, an ATGW platform likely in the arsenal of China’s People’s Liberation Army Ground Force. It enables soldiers to lock on a target, fire and then move without having to maintain a position to guide the missile to that target – thus making it a “fire-and-forget” weapon. By enabling operators to withdraw swiftly after a missile launch it greatly improves their survivability. The HJ-12 also has a soft-launch capability that allows for the platform to be launched within a confined space such as a bunker.

Jane’s reported that a full-scale mock-up of the system was first unveiled at the 2014 Airshow China, and at the time the specifications noted that it weighs up to 22kg and uses a 1.25meter-long launch tube. The HJ-12 was the first man-portable ATGW system to be fully developed in China. It is the only non-Western competitor of the FGM-148 Javelin, and military analysts have suggested that the HJ-12 is capable of destroying even the most advanced tanks in the world.

While it is an easy-to-operate system, one of the downsides is the extremely high cost of the missiles used as these require expensive infrared homing heads – and the kit price consisting of the launch and a Javelin missile for the U.S. military reportedly exceeds $200,000. Such systems are far more expensive than previous ATGW that required semi-automatic guidance systems such as a laser beam illumination of the target.

The HJ-12 has largely been seen as a more affordable alternative as it has no guidance system, but would still be more expensive than other semi-automatic guidance systems.

Given that fact, it still remains unclear who is the customer for the HJ-12E. DefenseWorld suggested it was “some nation involved in a conflict with another. China’s main arms customer is Pakistan to which it had sold attack drones in 2018. However, China has opened up markets in Asia such as Thailand and has customers in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia.”

Besides the Lockheed Martin-made Javelin, other ATGW systems include the Spike ATGM from Israel and the Russian-made 9M133 Kornet-E.

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. This article first appeared earlier this year and is reprinted due to reader interest.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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