Cruise missiles are relatively expensive weapons, but their ability to travel long distances at often extremely low altitudes, and strike from any direction, makes them difficult and expensive to defend against. They are more accurate and less expensive than ballistic missiles while offering similar capabilities, and the fact that they can be launched from multiple platforms further adds to their utility. With these attributes in mind, countries across the Asia-Pacific are investing massively in these weapons, alongside their strategic missile arsenals.
China has the most active and diverse missile development programme on the planet, with a big emphasis on ballistic and cruise missile capabilities. In addition to its many locally built cruise missiles, China also operates imported Russian weapons like the 3M80E Moskit and 3M54/3M14 Klub/ Kalibr. Its cruise missile arsenal is able to attack large naval vessels like aircraft carriers, ensuring dominance of its waters – and offensive capabilities in neighbouring seas.
People’s Liberation Army (PLA) cruise missile development dates back to the Cold War, but it was only in the 1990s that, with Russian assistance, capabilities greatly improved. Some of China’s earlier cruise missile projects resulted in the Hong Niao land attack series (HN-1/2/3), developed from the late 1970s. These are subsonic ground-, ship-, submarine- and air-launched weapons. The turbojet-powered HN-1 entered service in the late 1990s, and was followed by the longer-range turbofan-powered HN-2 in the early 2000s, and larger and heavier HN-3 from 2007.