June 20, 2018

Quick Facts

PRC/NATO Designation HQ-15 (SA-10D Grumble / SA-20A Gargoyle)

HQ-10 (SA-20A Gargoyle A / S-300PMU-1)

HQ-15 (SA-20B Gargoyle B / S-300PMU-2)

Mobility and Role Ground-based/road-mobile; short-range air and missile defense
Interceptor and Range 5V55K missile (45 km), 5V55R missile (75 km), 48N6 missile (150 km), 48N6E2 missile (200 km)

Clam Shell continuous wave pulse Doppler acquisition radar

Flap Lid phased-array engagement radar

Big Bird F-Band long-range surveillance and tracking radar

Targets Cruise missiles, low-flying aircraft, short- to medium-range ballistic missiles
Status/Exports Operational; Exported to Greece, Slovakia, and Vietnam
Designer/Producer Almaz-Antey Concern/PLA


The Hong Qi-15 (HQ-15, previously referred to as the HQ-10) is a Chinese reverse-engineered copy of the Russian S-300PMU-1 aerial defense system. The first “deep modernization” of the S-300 series yielded the S-300PMU-1, which is designed to destroy anti-ballistic missiles.[i]The HQ-15 boasts extended radar footprints, more efficient automation, and advanced defensive capability against ballistic missiles “with re-entry speeds of up to 2.8 km/sec,” which make it comparable to the American PAC-2 system.[ii]The ABM ability is made possible due to 64N6E Big Bird radar, which has an aperture 30 percent wider than the U.S. TP/SPY-1 Radar.[iii]Further development of the HQ-10 precipitated the HQ-15, which is much more commonly used and is comparable to the S-300PMU-2. A typical HQ-15 battery includes Clam Shell continuous wave pulse Doppler acquisition radar, Flap Lid phased-array engagement radar, Big Bird F-band long-range surveillance and tracking radar, and up to 12 launch vehicles with capacity for four missiles each, along with command-and-control and generator units.[iv]Since the PLA initially imported several dozen S-300PMU-1 units in 1993, the system has been reverse-engineered and reproduced (the HQ-10) and upgraded with extended engagement range (HQ-15).[v]

Strategic Implications

The HQ-15 offers reliable protection for Chinese military assets around Beijing and Shanghai, and nearly guarantees China the ability to destroy Tomahawk cruise missiles in the event of a conflict. China continues to deploy HQ-15 batteries along its eastern coastal zone, which produces up to 60 percent of Chinese gross domestic product, as well as near the Taiwan Strait.[vi]The range the 64N6E Big Bird radar affords would prove challenging for U.S. and allied forces to deal with, plus HQ-15 can dispatch most Taiwanese Mirage-2000 fighters. Only the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning, and Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber can operate in airspace protected by the HQ-15. Moreover, China is attempting to upgrade the HQ-15 to achieve capability comparable to the S-400 system.[vii]Such a feat would jeopardize some American stealth aircraft and counter the threat of deterrence posed by most cruise missiles.[viii]


2007/2008:China deploys 4 additional battalions of the HQ-15.[ix]

October 1999: The PLA unveils its upgraded S-300PMU-1 systems, redesignated the HQ-15, in a military parade, stationing several around the eastern coastal zone.[x]

1995:Russia gives the PLA permission to license its S-300PMU-1 system for export and modification.

1993:The PLA receives at least two dozen S-300PMU-1 units from Russia and reverse-engineers a copy, the HQ-10.[xi]

1993:Almaz begins production of the S-300PMU-1, a downgraded version intended for export sales.[xii]

1985:The Russian military receives the S-300PMU (SA-20A Gargoyle) “second generation” system, featuring 5N64S Big Bird advanced radar capable of tracking 200 targets and engaging 24.

1982:Almaz develops theimproved S-300PS system, featuring a setup time of five minutes compared to the S-300PT’s thirty minutes.

1978:The S-300PT system enters service in the Soviet army.

1969:Almaz begins conceptual development of the S-300 BMD system.[xiii]

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