PLA soldiers seen handling HJ-12 "Red Arrow" man-portable anti-tank missile system in Tibet

China's domestically developed HJ-12 man-portable anti-tank missile, previously known as a made-for-export weapon, is confirmed to be in service with the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), after it made its debut in a recent exercise organized by the PLA Tibet Military Command.

The top-attack, fire-and-forget missile, often compared with the US' Javelin, can destroy any main battle tank in the world, and will significantly boost the PLA infantry forces' anti-tank capabilities, experts said on Sunday.

A brigade affiliated with the PLA Tibet Military Command recently conducted a series of exercises deep in the plateau region, according to a statement the command released on Thursday.

A photo attached to the statement shows that a soldier was carrying a portable anti-tank missile that can be carried by a single person during the exercise, and a report by Shanghai-based news website on Friday identified it as the HJ-12, as the weapon made its first public appearance in PLA service.

By providing individual soldiers with the capability to independently destroy a tank more effectively than older weapons, the commissioning of the HJ-12 will significantly boost the PLA's anti-tank capabilities, observers said.

Developed by the state-owned China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO), the HJ-12, or the Red Arrow 12, was put on exhibit for the first time at Air Show China 2014 in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province.

Comparable with the US' Javelin system, the HJ-12 is equipped with advanced focal plane array infrared guidance system with lock-on before launch and fire-and-forget systems, reported.

When performing a top-attack, the HJ-12 can destroy any type of main battle tank in the world, as the missile can penetrate homogeneous steel armour as thick as 1,100 millimetres protected by explosive reaction armour, quoted a report by China Central Television as saying.

The HJ-12 also offers strong anti-jamming capabilities with more types of guidance systems, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times. In addition to tanks, the HJ-12 can launch precision strikes on hostile bunkers, fortifications and buildings, Wei said.

The export version of the HJ-12, the HJ-12E, saw its first delivery to an undisclosed foreign buyer in early 2020, NORINCO revealed in March that year, labelling the weapon as a high-end product.

It was the first time a third-generation anti-tank weapon system developed by the Chinese company has been exported, NORINCO said in a statement, without disclosing the name of the buyer, the quantity purchased or the value of the deal.