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Anti-tank guided missile


The Chinese HJ-8 was heavily inspired by foreign anti-tank guided missiles

Entered service 1980s
Armor penetration 100-800 mm
Range 3 km
Missile length 875 mm
Missile diameter 120 mm
Missile weight 11.2 kg
Warhead weight ?
Warhead type HEAT
Guidance Wire-guided


   The Hong 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 BGM-71 TOW, 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 Kornet ATGM.

   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, Leopard 1, T-62, M60 Patton, and AMX-30. 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 years.

   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 non-existent.

   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 HJ-9, the PLA’s primary vehicle-based ATGM and its closest variant to the US-made 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-10, and the 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 FGM-148 Javelin. In typical Chinese fashion, the PLA’s defense contractors are copying their way to innovation.




   Red Arrow-8A, original HEAT missile.

   Red Arrow-8C, tandem HEAT warheads.

   Red Arrow-8F, bunker busting warhead.

   Red Arrow-8S, anti-ship warhead.


Miguel Miranda

   Article by MIGUEL MIRANDA

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