2012-07-05 — The FanJi 1 (Counterattack-1) was a two-stage, semi-active radar-homing, hypersonic interceptor missile designed to intercept ballistic missile warheads at low- to medium-altitude. The first-stage of the missile used liquid propellant and the second-stage used solid propellant. The missile was 14m in length. Flight tests of two dummy missiles were carried out successfully in August and September of 1979. At the same time, the PLA proposed a missile defence zone around the capital Beijing using the FanJi 1. However, the development programme was cancelled by the Chinese government in March 1980 due to financial and political reasons.
On 15 December 1963, the then Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong said that China’s military strategy was defensive in nature, and therefore China should develop defensive (strategic) weapons as well as offensive weapons such as nuclear weapons and missiles. On 6 February 1964, during his meeting with Dr Qian Xuesen (‘Father of Chinese Rocketry’), Chairman Mao again expressed his views on the importance of the missile defence capability. According to Mao, missile defence capability should not be dominated by the two superpowers only, and China must also develop its own missile defence weapons, no matter how long it would take. This conversation, later known as “640 Directive”, was cascaded to the whole defence industry as Mao’s order to develop a missile defence system that could defend the country against nuclear-armed strategic missile attacks.
On 23 March 1964, over thirty top scientists from across the Chinese defence industry attended a meeting organised by the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (COSTIND) in Beijing to discuss the feasibility of a missile defence system. On 10 May 1965, the Central Special Committee issued a notice to the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Ministry of Machinery Industry, China Academy of Science, PLA Artillery Corps, and Base 20, asking them to list the missile defence in their annual and long-term plans. A plan outlining the missile defence weapon development submitted by COSTIND was approved by the Central Special Committee in August 1965.
On 23 February 1966, COSTIND organised another conference to outline detailed development plans for the missile defence programme, which was given a codename “Project 640” after Chairman Mao’s “640 Directive”. Under the plan, the whole project was divided into five key sub-systems. Key elements of the project included the FanJi (“Counterattack”) series anti-ballistic missiles (ABM), the XianFeng (“Pioneer”) anti-missile super gun, and a land-based missile early warning network. The meeting also decided to speed up the building of a dedicated ABM test range and the development of the nuclear warhead for the ABM system. The project entered full-scale development in the early 1970s.
Under the instruction of the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, the 2nd Academy of the 7th Ministry of Machinery Industry (Ministry of Aerospace Industry) was officially renamed Academy of Anti-Ballistic Missile & Anti-Satellite in 1969 to be in charge of the ABM system development. Its subordinated 210 Institute was assigned to the development of the anti-missile super gun. Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics was responsible for the development of the anti-missile laser. The 2nd Academy also began to develop the anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon technology in the early 1970s.
Project 640 faced enormous technical and financial difficulties from the very beginning. The country, troubled by its financial hardship and internal political turmoil of the ‘Culture Revolution’, was simply unable to support an expensive project like this. Additionally, the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union and later the closure of the U.S. Safeguard ABM system made an independent Chinese missile defence system seemingly unnecessary. After Mao’s death in 1976, the development of the missile defence began to slow down. In March 1980, the new Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping decided to cancel the whole project so that the country could concentrate on economic development.