China’s ‘satellite killer’ SLC-18 radar could find its way to Pakistan; Can detect and track multiple LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites

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China appears to be considering equipping Pakistan with its state-of-the-art SLC-18 active phased array radar for space surveillance, which would reduce the Indian military’s dominance over Islamabad.

The radar was displayed for the first time at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai (Guangdong), which ended on November 13. The ten meter high SLC-18 radar is said to be particularly successful in detecting and tracking multiple Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites in all conditions.

LEO satellites are located between 200 and 2,000 kilometers above the earth’s surface. Primarily used for data acquisition and military surveillance, these satellites have steadily become critical equipment for powerful countries seeking long-range intelligence.

LEO satellites can perform intensive 360-degree and all-factor hotspot surveillance thanks to their powerful capabilities, small size, and flexible orbits. China’s new radar is capable of monitoring such satellites.

The SLC-18 was developed by the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), which also manufactures electronic systems and components, missiles, radars and other weapons for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Sun Lei, CETC Deputy General Manager, said“This radar will enable friendly countries to locate targets in space.” The statement hints at China’s desire to equip Pakistan with a radar system.

The system provides situational awareness capabilities against low orbiting satellites to balance tactical posture. This radar is significantly less expensive than others in its class, adding an affordability factor for Pakistan.

SLC-18 P-Band Active Phase Array Radar at Zhuhai Airshow 2022: Twitter

It is important to note that India is a major space power with a multitude of satellites in orbit. This allows New Delhi to monitor Islamabad’s every action. However, with the SLC-18 radar, Pakistan could detect where the Indian satellites are located.

China and Pakistan have close ties and refer to each other as “iron brothers” and “all-weather allies” in their bilateral statements. China is Pakistan’s largest supplier of military equipment, including aircraft, missiles and warships.

Islamabad is also crucial to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Sun highlighted this point, stressing that the SLC-18 radar’s situational awareness over LEO satellites and low-cost ground-based space target surveillance can help the Belt and Road initiative.

In the five years between 2017 and 2021 according to According to data from the Swedish research tank SIPRI, which contains information on arms transfers, Pakistan imported 72% of its total arms from China and was also the final recipient of 47% of all major arms exports from China.

In addition, China has armed Pakistan with its HQ 9/P HIMADS (High to Medium Air Defense System), which entered the Air Defense Forces of Pakistan Army in October 2021.

With a single-shot kill probability, the HQ 9 can intercept various airborne targets such as aircraft, cruise missiles and weapons beyond its optical range of more than 100 kilometers.

SLC-18 radar capabilities

The SLC-18 radar, a P-band solid-state active phased array radar, is primarily used to detect space targets. It can track and measure multiple objects while searching and acquiring LEO satellites and other space targets.

Sun said the Global Times that the SLC-18 radar could identify and catalog satellites to create a radar database that could be used to instruct other devices to respond accordingly.

This development is also changing developing countries’ traditional practices of buying satellite data from developed countries, which are potentially vulnerable and very expensive because they lack the necessary space-based resources and platforms.

LEO satellite technology

The SLC-18 can detect satellites remotely and relay satellite data to the command center to make decisions. It has a long-range detection capability that allows it to instantly record a satellite’s orbit and enter it into a database. Based on the orbital parameters, he can immediately assess whether it is a new type of satellite and its primary use.

Sun pointed out that the radar has significant advantages such as all-weather, all-time, multi-target, immense power and extensive search areas, which can identify LEO targets in different airspaces and cover many LEO satellite targets.

He added that the radar will be built entirely in China, from chip production to manufacturing. It also uses a modular design to expand its capabilities as needed. This suggests that China’s radar development has advanced to a new level.

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