China’s Arms Export Model

Another sector that should be significantly impacted by theglobal economic downturn is the international arms market, where tighter budgets will favorreverse-engineered knockoffs like the newly marketed Chinese HQ-9 surface-to-air missile:

To the extent that China enjoys export successes, it will depend oncustomers who are looking for high mid-range air defense performance ata low to mid-range price.

That pretty much sums up the Chinese arms export model. This particular system is basically a not-so-bad Russian S-300 for less money. That might not havemade for a very tempting sales pitch a year ago, but my hunch is thatit won’t sound half-bad for the foreseeable future. I’m curious to see whether Russia or China supplies Venezuela’s next major hardware purchase, for instance.

Of course, eventually performance will improve, meaning that any inroads China makes in the arms export market could prove durable beyond the belt-tightening period to come.

Meanwhile, here’s Defense Industry Daily on the system’s wider significance:

The steady proliferation of relatively advanced air defense systems to3rd world militaries has already become something of a concern to theUSA, whose 1980s generation fighters will be challenged to deal withthem on even terms. Depending on the HQ-9’s export pricing, that trendmay soon extend to a number of lower-tier militaries, extendingexisting challenges to American air dominance.

That wouldn’t be a plug for the F-22, now, would it?

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