A New Threat to Modern Tanks

The Xinjiang Military District recently conducted a live-fire exercise in the hinterland of the Karakoram plateau, showcasing the precise strike capabilities of its forces under harsh high-altitude conditions.

Beyond the use of conventional weaponry, such as the 120mm mortar and Type 11 sniper artillery, the military exercise prominently featured the PLA’s latest individual anti-tank system, the HJ-12 (also known as Red Arrow-12).

The images released showcased a soldier clad in a Type 21 uniform operating what appears to be a simulation launching device for the HJ-12 anti-tank missile. Given the high costs associated with third-generation anti-tank missiles, the use of such simulation devices in training exercises is both cost-effective and pragmatic.

Visually, the HJ-12 resembles many third-generation anti-tank missiles, with a rounded head and elongated body. The missile features four wings and tail fins in an X-configuration. Its transparent fairing facilitates its thermal imaging phased array guidance system. Notably, this missile is the first in the Chinese arsenal to possess “lock-on before launch” and “fire and forget” capabilities.

Experts speculate the performance of the HJ-12 is comparable to the US Army’s active Javelin anti-tank missile and Israel’s Spike series. However, considering the 135mm diameter of the HJ-12 compared to the 114mm of the FGM-148 Javelin, the former likely boasts a heavier warhead and greater destructive power.

Frontline troops have praised the HJ-12 for its lightweight, stealth, and comprehensive targeting capabilities. Once launched, the missile’s wings and tail fins deploy, and it rapidly accelerates towards its target. The missile’s guidance system then locks onto its designated target, usually tanks or armored vehicles, ensuring pinpoint accuracy upon impact.

The HJ-12’s unique ability is its top-attack mode, targeting the vulnerable top section of tanks. This approach, combined with its armor-penetrating capability exceeding 1000mm, leaves no tank in the world capable of withstanding its strike.

Increasing numbers of PLA units are being equipped with the HJ-12. Its widespread deployment signifies the PLA’s world-class capabilities in individual anti-tank warfare. Recent battlefield instances from the Russia-Ukraine conflict demonstrate that top-attacking anti-tank missiles and suicide drones are becoming armored forces’ primary adversaries.

Analysts believe that military powers worldwide will invest heavily in developing individual anti-tank weapons, aiming for a strategic edge in future battlefields.

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