MELBOURNE, Australia — China has delivered anti-aircraft missile systems to Serbia as part of a contract the European nation signed with China that also included drones.
Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters Monday the delivery was part of the two countries’ annual cooperation plan, does not target any third parties and “has nothing to do with the current situation.”
Zhao gave no further details.
It is believed the delivery, which took place over the weekend, was for a battery of FK-3 medium-range, road-mobile, surface-to-air missiles. Serbia had signed for the missiles in 2020 under a contract that also included the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation-made CH-92 armed drone.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić did not confirm the delivery of the FK-3 when asked on Saturday, although he added in remarks reported by The Associated Press that he would present “the newest pride” of the Serbian military on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The FK-3 is an export version of the HQ-22 surface-to-air missile system, and it retains the domestic version’s top speed of Mach 6, although its maximum range has been reduced from 170 kilometers to 150 kilometers (105 miles to 93 miles).
The missiles are guided by semi-active radar guidance with a secondary command guidance capability. It can reportedly engage ballistic and cruise missiles, aircraft, helicopters, and UAVs.
A typical HQ-22/FK-3 system consists of a radar vehicle and three launch vehicles equipped with four missiles each. Each battery can supposedly engage six air targets simultaneously. The HQ-22 entered service with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 2017.
Notably, the Chinese used an air bridge to transport the FK-3 missiles, and presumably other support equipment, to the Serbians, using the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s Xi’an Y-20 heavy airlifters flying between China and Serbia over two days.
Each day’s flights involved six Y-20s, which made stopovers in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Istanbul, Turkey, and also flew over central Asia, Armenia and Bulgaria before landing at Nikola Tesla Airport in Serbian capital Belgrade.
The Y-20s making the flights to Serbia and back were monitored on flight-tracking websites, which together with images and videos posted online from Belgrade indicated the aircraft were from the PLAAF’s 13th Transport Division, 37th Air Regiment based out of Kaifeng in China’s Henan province.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.