The Chinese PLA conducted a “whole-process live-fire test” of its TorM1 anti-aircraft missile systems in northwestern China’s Gobi desert on July 26, 2020 just a few days before Rafale fighter jets arrived in India.
The PLA conducts equipment tests in the Gobi desert as it mimics some of the conditions found along the Indo-China border in the high altitude Tibet region. Images published in the PLA’s official news website said that during the tests, missiles were fired at decoy targets.
The TorM1 is a short range air defence system (SHORAD) bought by China from Russia. Its unique feature is its ability to engage several air targets simultaneously; including aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions (PGMs). The Russians specifically developed it as defence against PGMs.
Hitting fast moving PGMs is made possible by its two types of radars; tracking radar and engagement radar. The latter is based on a passive electronically scanning array antenna. Tracking and missile firing time delay is said to be in seconds thanks to an automated target processing and firing system. The guided missile flies at a speed of 850 meters per second.
It is intended to destroy targets that long- and medium-range air defense systems failed to hit. It is as mobile as a tank thanks to its radar antennae that can be neatly folded during movement. The system is designed to quickly move away from the battle scene after firing a missile to avoid detection. It is also comes with anti-jamming features.
China has a reverse-engineered version of the Tor M1 called the HQ-17A built around a wheeled chassis.
The Tor is considered the air defence systems of choice against precision-guided munitions such as the HAMMER (Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range) air-to-ground precision guided weapon which India is reported to have ordered along with the Rafale jet.
The PLA has several layers of air defence system including its latest, the HQ-22 which is capable of engaging various aircraft including cruise missiles and bombers. Its radars are said to be among the most advanced in the world.
It is interesting that the PLA has brought to the fore its TorM1 and not it own HQ-17A which is a reverse-engineered TorM1 and considered comparable to the TorM2, the latest Russian version of the Tor. Or they could be deployed in conjunction to enhance air defence coverage.