J-201

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J-201/202 antitank missile
Type antitank missile
Place of origin People's Republic of China
Service history
In service 1973 to 1979
Used by China
Production history
Manufacturer 1st Research Institute of the Artillery Technology Academy
Produced 1973 to late 1970s
Specifications
Weight ≈10 kg
Length ≈1 meter
Diameter ≈100 mm
Detonation
mechanism
Impact

Engine rocket motor
Propellant solid
Operational
range
400 to 2,000 meter
Speed 285 meter / second
Guidance
system
MCLOS
Launch
platform
ground based

J-201 missile, and its predecessor (265-I missile) and successor (J-202 missile) are members of a family of antitank missile (ATM) developed by the People's Republic of China. This is the first family of ATM in Chinese service, and also the first indigenously developed Chinese ATM.

265-I[edit]

Many missiles have been introduced to Chinese service from former-USSR during the honeymoon between the two countries in the 1950s, but ATM is not among them, because it was not considered a top priority in comparison to other missiles. It was not until July, 1958, when China finally to formally begun the development of its first ATM by preparing the basic infrastructures needed. However, the relationships between China and former-USSR had already begun to deteriorate, and Soviet advisors were soon withdrawn from China before China could obtain any information on ATM. However, the desperately needed technical info was filled by an unexpected source.

China had backed the leftist guerrillas in the independent movements in the third world countries against their western colonial masters and their puppet government set up by these colonial powers, dubbed as national / ethnical (racial) liberation movements by these leftist guerrillas and their Chinese supporters. In these armed struggles, captured samples of Nord SS.10 ATMs by the leftist rebels were sent to China for study. Although none of the samples were complete and all of them were too fragmented to be put back together to form a single completed unit, it was enough to form something close enough to provide a general knowledge for Chinese to have a basic understanding of how ATM works, its design principle, and idea for reverse engineering.

Beijing Industrial Academy, the predecessor of Beijing Institute of Technology, was tasked as the contractor to develop an ATM based on Nord SS.10, and the 724th Factory was tasked as the subcontractor for production. After two successful test flights, the missile was rushed into very limited service for evaluations, and it was designated as 265-I, named after the project number / code. However, the result was less than satisfactory from feedbacks, because like Nord SS.10 it is based on, 265-I ATM is a vehicle mounted ATM and could not carried by infantry. Chinese army was still mostly consisted foot soldiers because China could not field large numbers of vehicles like western countries at the time, and a man-portable ATM was needed. As a result, 265-I ATM never entered mass production like other Chinese missiles.

According to Chinese, the importance of 265-I ATM is that it paved the way for future Chinese ATM development by laying the foundation for the future. From the experienced gained from the 265-I program, Chinese government ordered the formation of dedicated ATM development establishment, consisted of the newly formed 1st Research Institute of the Artillery Technology Academy, Beijing Industrial Academy and the 724th Factory.

In 1962, Chinese government gave an order to develop a new ATM. Mr. Lu Weiru (卢伟如), the head of the newly formed 1st Research Institute of the Artillery Technology Academy was designated as the program manager, and a year later, he was joined by Mr. Wang Xingzhi (王兴治), a 1963 graduate of the Military Engineering Academy, who immediately became the chief designer of ATM, as well as future Chinese ATMs. The new ATM to be developed was designated as J-201. One of the difficulties the developer faced was that the 265-I ATM did not meet the requirements of the Chinese military, but it was the only source of information and experience China had, and although something new was needed, there was not any new source to turn to.

The developer of Chinese ATM would soon obtain a boost from returning trainees it had sent abroad earlier. Cao Gangchuan, the future top commander of the People's Liberation Army and his colleagues had returned to China at the time, after graduating from Military Engineering School of the Artillery Corps of the former-USSR, and they had brought the operational and training manuals of Soviet AT-1 ATM with them. These manuals became valuable reference for the developers, but the AT-1 design was not directly copied, because like Nord SS.10 and its Chinese development, 265-I, it is also a vehicle-launched ATM. However, most of the information gained from AT-1 was incorporated into J-201.

The most important source of information for J-201, was from western Cobra anti-tank missile. Sometimes after obtaining manuals of AT-1 ATM, China had also managed to obtain the logistic manuals of Cobra ATM issued by western Germany, which provided much more detailed information on the missile, so detail that information revealed in these manuals were enough to provide basic frame of reverse engineering. As a result, the Chinese J-201 ATM appears identical to Cobra ATM, with similar performance as well. How exactly China obtained these western German logistic manuals for Cobra ATM remains a closely guarded secret today.

Seven years after the program begun, J-201 completed trials in 1969, and received state certification next year. Due to the political turmoil in China, namely, the Cultural Revolution, series production on small scale did not begin until January, 1973, almost two years after certification. The missile entered very limited Chinese service for evaluation purposes, and based on the feedback from the field, improvement work on the missile began immediately.

J-202[edit]

J-202 ATM is the improvement of earlier J-201 ATM. In comparison to Cobra ATM, the maximum range is increased by a quarter to 2 km from the original 1.6 km of Cobra ATM. However, the minimum range is also doubled, from the original 200 meters of Cobra ATM to 400 meter for J-202. The guidance remained to be MCLOS and the ATM can pierce armor plates up to 120 mm thick when impacting at a 65 degrees angle. In 1978, the J-201/202 ATM had won a reward in the Chinese National Science and Technology Conference.

During its brief service, J-202 had experienced a grave mishap that almost ended in disaster. The missile was scheduled to have a demonstration in 1977, and on August 17, August 18, and September 15, the missile performed well in these separate occasions, scoring an impressive 15 out 21 hits against both mobile and fixed target 1.4 km away. The round failed to score direct hits were all near misses and the demonstration appeared to be going well. However, for the last extra round to be added at the very last moment, something went terribly wrong. This last round hit ground and then bounded up, turning 180 degrees, flew directly toward the launchers where it was originally fired. Though the missile eventually failed to detonate and dropped to the ground before reaching the launcher, everyone at the scene was surely spooked.

Like its predecessor J-201 ATM, J-202 ATM did not enter mass production either, and only saw very limited service with Chinese military. The main disadvantage of J-201/202 included that the wings cannot be folded, so the container was bulky and clumsy to carry, despite the ATM itself being intended for infantry use. Furthermore, in comparison to later Chinese ATM, namely, HJ-73, the effective range of the J-201/202 is shorter than the latter. Therefore, after the successful development of HJ-73, the small-scale production of J-201/202 ATM stopped and it is believed that all of 265-I, J-201 and J-202 ATMs in the inventory were exhausted in trainings. 265-I, J-201/202 ATMs are not known to be exported by China.

Operator[edit]

References[edit]

Zhang, Chun, Four Leap Forwards of Chinese Antitank Missiles from Ordnance Industry Science Technology, October 2005 issue, Shaanxi Provincial Scientific Technological Commission, ISSN 1672-4054, CN 61-1386/TJ