June 20, 2018

Quick Facts

PLA/NATO Designation HQ-18 (SA-12 Gladiator/Giant)

SA-12A Gladiator (S-300V with 9M82)

SA-12B Giant (S-300V with 9M83)

SA-23 Gladiator/Giant (S-300VM / Antey-2500)

Mobility and Role Ground-based/road-mobile; multiple-target, universally integrated surface-to-air missile
Interceptor and Range 100 km (9M82 missile); 40 km (9M83 missile)

9S15 Bill Board Surveillance Radar

9S19 High Screen Sector Radar

9S32 Grill Pan Guidance Radar

Targets Cruise missiles, low-flying aircraft, short-range ballistic missiles
Status/Exports Operational; Exported to Belarus, Egypt, Iran, and Venezuela
Designer/Producer Almaz-Antey / PLA


The HQ-18 is a highly-capable, hypersonic air and missile defense system developed by China; most scholars agree it is directly reverse-engineered from the Russian S-300V system, but relatively little information is publicly known about the differences between the two systems. S-300V has two different versions distinguished by the missile it uses: The SA-12A Gladiator is used primarily for targeting aircraft, whereas the SA-12B Giant is primarily for countering tactical ballistic and cruise missiles.[i]The Gladiator has a range of 75 km and a maximum altitude of 25 km, and the Giant has a range of 100 km and an altitude ceiling between 30 and 40 km.[ii]The S-300V system uses a phased-array sector-scan radar with a range of 175 km and can track up to 16 targets simultaneously.[iii]A modified version of the S-300V system was revealed in 1998, called the S-300VM, or “Antey-2500.” The Antey-2500 variant has a range of 200 km, a max altitude of 30 km, and can engage 24 targets simultaneously.[iv]A typical HQ-18 battery contains between two and six launchers, each of which can hold four missiles.[v]

Strategic Implications

The S-300V family is one of the most capable aerial defense systems in the world, and an upgraded Chinese version should worry Western defense agencies. S-300V was originally designed to destroy U.S. tactical ballistic missiles and ISR assets in a late Cold War setting; it has no Western equivalent. Moreover, no F/A-18 variant, nor the Joint Strike Fighter, were designed to penetrate the S-300V/VM’s aerial cover. The survivability of the F-35 “will not be significantly better than that of legacy combat aircraft,” and the U.S. Air Force envisions the F-22 Raptor as the primary aircraft to dispatch an HQ-18.[vi]Additional development and production of the HQ-18 will likely replace the HQ-9 for long-range missile defense.


June 2017: Egypt receives its initial shipment of an S-300VM system.

February 2017: Kaliningrad is outfitted with upgraded S-300VM systems, upsetting NATO.

October 2016: Russia deploys its first S-300V system to Syria.

April 2016: Iran receives its initial shipment of an S-300V system.

2014: The Russian military is outfitted with its first S-300VM systems with improved radar technology.[vii]

2010: Pakistan announces its intent to purchase four HQ-18 systems from China.

Early 2000s: China imports several S-300V systems from Russia and begins work on the HQ-18.

1996: Russia markets the S-300V system to the UAE in direct competition with the U.S. Patriot system.

1988: The first S-300V is received by the Soviet army.[viii]

1983: Antey achieves initial operational capability (IOC) for the 9M83 missile.

1969: Antey begins conceptual development of the S-300 BMD system.

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