Officials say a new Chinese air-to-ground missile was successfully test fired last month. Credit: Handout.

China has a new weapon in its quiver, according to state-owned media outlets.

The weapon’s developers say China has successfully test launched a “world leading” helicopter-based air-to-ground missile, The Global Times reported.

An undisclosed type of helicopter conducted the test firing of the missile at a test site in Alxa, North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on June 22, reported China Aviation News, a newspaper affiliated with the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC), on Tuesday.

The missile accurately hit its target, marking the successful, first test launch of the missile, Global Times reported.

“In the whole world, [the missile] is in a leading position,” the report quoted an unidentified test employee as saying.

However, the report did not reveal the new missile’s designation or its capabilities, and offered no evidence the weapon was in fact, “world leading” based on one test.

Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday that in order to be called “world-leading,” the air-to-ground missile must have a very long effective range, an advanced guidance system that enables very high accuracy, and a very powerful warhead that can penetrate a tank’s thick armor.

He pointed to the performance of previous missiles, such as the HJ series, as being highly successful.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) operates multiple types of attack helicopters, including the Z-10 and Z-19, both of which were recently upgraded, Global Times reported.

According to a photo released by PLA’s 80th Group Army in February, an upgraded Z-10 featured exhaust openings that face upward instead of outward, which experts said will make it harder to target by infrared sensors.

The Z-19, lighter than the Z-10, saw an extra millimeter-wave fire control radar installed on the top of its rotor at the Fifth China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin in October 2019, Global Times reported.

The new radar can give the chopper the capability to search and track targets over long distances in complex weather conditions day and night, and provide accurate targeting data for guided weapon systems.

When equipped with the new missile, the PLA’s helicopters will become even deadlier, particularly to enemy tanks, armored vehicles and fortifications, experts said.

China is also building amphibious assault ships that can carry helicopters and extend their capabilities across seas, analysts noted.

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