China has developed a new variant of its HQ-16 self-propelled medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) with a significantly greater range compared to the original version of the projectile. As part of a major upgrade program, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) has given the HQ-16 improved rocket motor and revised wings.

With the enhanced capabilities, the new variant of the HQ-16 missile — referred to by some as the HQ-16B — will be able to reach a distance of about 43 miles while the original HQ-16 can hit targets nearly 25 miles away, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly reported, citing sources.

The development of the HQ-16 SAM — which is similar to the 9M38E series of export missiles — was jointly started by China and Russia in 2005 while the missile reportedly reached operational capability within the Chinese army in 2011.

Chinese_HQ-9_launcher An HQ-9 portable launcher during China's 60th anniversary parade in 2009. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“The HQ-16 would also seem to have some aspects of the vertically launched 9M317M, never supplied to China as far as can be ascertained. In its naval guise, the HQ-16 is known as the HHQ-16 (Red Sea-16),” according to the report from IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.

Over the last few years, China has ramped up its efforts in developing advanced new military equipment, including submarines, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles. According to recent local media reports, China is working on a high level of artificial intelligence and automation for its next generation of cruise missiles.

In its annual report on military and security developments involving China, the U.S. Defense Department said that Chinese leaders seemed committed to sustaining defense spending growth for the future, despite the country’s struggling economy.

“From 2006 to 2015, China’s officially disclosed military budget grew at an average of 9.8 percent per year in inflation-adjusted terms,” Abraham M. Denmark, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said in a statement. “The true expenditure, DoD estimates, in terms of total military-related spending for 2015, exceeded $180 billion in 2015.”