Chinese state media briefly announced today that the country had successfully conducted another ground-based mid-course missile interception test on its territory on Wednesday (23rd July). No further detail about the test was given. This is the third exoatmospheric missile interception test conducted by China, following the two successful tests in January 2010 and January 2013.
China’s missile defence programme can trace its origin to Project 640, a multi-discipline strategic defence programme launched in the late 1960s. The programme was cancelled in 1980 but researches on relevant technology were being continued under Programme 863 since 1986. These researches began to yield results after 2000, which has led to a number of high-profile weapon tests since 2007.
China conducted an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test in January 2007, destroying a retired satellite in low Earth orbit using a booster-carried kinetic kill vehicle (KKV). The same technology was believed to have also been used in the two mid-course missile interception tests in 2010 and 2013, and possibly the latest test too.
The 2013 missile interception test was conducted in the missile impact zone in Xinjiang in western China, with a booster-carried KKV (reportedly designated SC-19) successfully intercepting a ballistic missile launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre.