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WDS 2024 sees China's Red Arrow 12E competing with US Javelin in anti-tank warfare.

| Defense News Army 2024

At the 2024 World Defense Show in Saudi Arabia, the Chinese company North Industries Corporation (Norinco) showcased the HJ-12E anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), also known as the Red Arrow-12E. In March 2020, Norinco announced it had completed the delivery of this model, the export version of the HJ-12 used by the Chinese Army, to an undisclosed foreign buyer, indicating the company's first export of a third-generation ATGM.
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Characterized as a third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), the HJ-12 features a "fire and forget" mode, making it the first Chinese ATGM with this capability. (Picture source: Army Recognition)

The development of the HJ-12, which the HJ-12E is based on, spanned from 2000 to 2010, with production commencing in 2012. This system has been in use by the PLA Land Force since at least 2013, indicating a focus on updating anti-tank weaponry. The missile system, which requires a two-person team for operation, was designed to replace older models like the HJ-73 and HJ-8, while the vehicle-mounted HJ-10 is intended to replace the HJ-9. The AFT-07 missile, deriving from the HJ-73 series, continues to be in use, showcasing an effort to modernize the range of anti-tank weapons.

Characterized as a third-generation ATGM, the HJ-12 features a thermal imaging phased array system and is noted for its "fire and forget" capability. This functionality allows for top-attack modes against armored vehicles, distinguishing it as the first Chinese ATGM with this capability. The design incorporates four X-shaped wings and tail rudders that deploy after launch, aiming to improve the missile's accuracy and effectiveness. The total weight of the system, including the missile, launch tube, and control unit, is reported to be between 17 and 22 kilograms. This does not account for the additional weight of backup batteries, with teams typically carrying between 5 to 10, depending on the mission's duration.

Despite the system's weight exceeding the original requirements of the Army, it is intended for individual soldiers to transport on foot, which positions the Red Arrow-12 team as carrying the heaviest deployment load among the basic infantry units of the Chinese Army. The cost of the missile is over ¥50,000 ($7,000), with the reusable control launch component priced at over ¥130,000 ($18,200).

Comparatively, the HJ-12's diameter of 135mm suggests a potential for a heavier warhead compared to the US FGM-148 Javelin, which has a diameter of 114mm. The HJ-12 is said to be equipped with an 8.4-kilogram vertical conical-shaped Explosive Reactive Armor Penetrator (HEAT) warhead, capable of penetrating 1,100mm of homogeneous steel armor. Its effective range is from 75 to 2,000 meters, extendable to 4,000 meters with TV guidance.

The missile's guidance systems include TV guidance, Infrared Imaging Guidance (IIR), and fire-and-forget technology, offering image-guided targeting and target image memory functionality. Its control emission components feature passive target acquisition and fire control, with built-in day vision/thermal imaging mode offering magnification levels of four times and nine times.

In addition to engaging ground tank armor vehicles, the HJ-12 can target bunker fortifications, small boats, and low-altitude helicopters. It employs "soft launch" technology, allowing it to be launched from confined spaces like buildings or bunkers. This launch method minimizes exposure and smoke characteristics, providing tactical flexibility, especially in urban environments.


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