In a surprise to many PLA followers, this news of China winning the Turkish Air Defense competition came out today. A lot of us had followed the competition, but thought Chinese and Russian bids were only sought out to bring down the price tag of Western companies. It turned out that an export version of HQ-9 has beaten out PAC-3, S-300PMU2 and Aster-30.

Clearly, this is a huge win for the Chinese military industrial complex. While this was not China’s first export deal to Turkey (that would be WS-1B) or its first air defense export, Chinese firms have never won a major export deal like this in NATO countries. As shown in the dropping of price tag for $4 billion to $3 billion, the Chinese system obviously had a big advantage in price tag. Also, they are likely to be willing to share more technology and go for more local production than Raytheon and Lockmart. However, the lack of integration with NATO system along with general pressure from American government put both the Chinese and Russian bids at a disadvantage. What this result shows is that the Chinese system must have achieved at least comparable technical performance in the bidding process compared to its competition and probably won out due to cost + co-production.

On the other hand, one would think that S-300 would have similar advantages to Western systems. So, does this mean HQ-9 performed better than S-300PMU2 or was it more due to lower price? Either way, we do know that China has stopped purchase of S-300PMU2 while deploying new HQ-9 units. At the same time, there are also persistent rumours that China is looking to purchase S-400.

Going forward, I think we will only see Chinese firms doing better in international competition. SIPRI data from recent years have shown increased Chinese military export. Even if this deal does not go ahead, it really shows what PLA followers already know -> that Chinese military industrial complex is really catching up in many areas