Jian-8 or Red Arrow-8 is the primary anti-tank missile system
of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The HJ-8 entered service
between 1984 and 1988 and was China’s attempt at a man portable
guided missile comparable to those used by NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
Like many Chinese-made weapons, the HJ-8 borrowed heavily
from foreign models. Its appearance and assembly suggests it was
influenced by the French
MILAN, the American
and the Soviet
Konkurs. These were all second-generation wire-guided
systems and the HJ-8 was a very late addition to the lineage.
Its worth noting the HJ-8’s guidance system and launcher
rests on a tripod—like the TOW—but its firing mechanism resembles
the MILAN. When launched, with the operator either crouched or
seated behind the guidance system, the missile pushes its launch
tube backward away from the operator. The latest variant of the HJ-8
used by the PLA even resembles the Russian
But the HJ-8 packs a serious punch. As a semi-automatic
command line of sight (SACLOS) system, the HJ-8’s range is an
impressive 3,000 meters. Its HEAT warhead is capable of penetrating
most first and second-generation tanks like the Centurion,
Its penetration for rolled homogenous armor (RHA) used to be just
100 millimeters but the HJ-8’s warhead has become more potent over
The HJ-8 apparently satisfied the PLA, who no longer bothered
acquiring another type of ATGM from abroad. What happened instead
was the HJ-8 was tweaked and improved to match the changing
requirements for modern anti-tank weapons. By the mid-1990s, the
HJ-8 was modified into a laser-guided system similar to
current-generation Russian ATGMs.
Manufactured by the conglomerate China North Industries Group
Corporation or NORINCO, the license for the HJ-8 was liberally
shared with client states in the developing world.
The first reported use of the HJ-8 in combat was in Bosnia
during the 1990s where Muslim fighters used the system against Serb
vehicles and fortifications. The HJ-8 has since been spotted in
Syria and Iraq, where they’re used to destroy aging Soviet-era tanks
and buildings. The HJ-8 was allegedly supplied to Wa rebels in
mountainous Northern Burma, although photographic evidence is still
By 1997 Pakistan successfully tested and then began
manufacturing its own version of the HJ-8, which it branded as the
Baktar Shikan. It is believed Iran, Sudan, and Egypt also
manufacture the HJ-8 under license. To date, some 20 countries in
Asia, Africa, and Latin America operate the HJ-8.
The HJ-8 begat the
the PLA’s primary vehicle-based ATGM and its closest variant to the
AGM-114 Hellfire although the HJ-9’s appearance resembles
the BGM-71D TOW 2 missile manufactured by Raytheon.
The HJ-9 is also the ATGM of choice for the PLA’s attack
helicopters like the Z-9, the newer
Z-19 scout. It is also believed to be the primary air-to-ground
missile for China’s armed UAVs.
During the 2014 Eurosatory arms exhibition in France, NORINCO
teased its latest ATGM, a flyover shoot down or top attack variant
of the HJ-8 called the HJ-12. Its appearance on promotional media
released by NORINCO shows a striking resemblance to the
Javelin. In typical Chinese fashion, the PLA’s defense
contractors are copying their way to innovation.
Arrow-8A, original HEAT missile.
Arrow-8C, tandem HEAT warheads.
Red Arrow-8F, bunker busting warhead.
Red Arrow-8S, anti-ship warhead.
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