A decade after China supplied Bangladesh with surface-to-air missile systems, a maintenance and overhaul facility will come up there which can double up as a production assembly line of the same missile and its advanced variants.

Chinese company “Vanguard” has been selected as partner of this maintenance hub to be set up in Bangladesh for the FM-90 air defence missile, sources say.

At present, Bangladesh’s Air Force, Navy and the Army are respectively equipped with it. The People’s Liberation Army has the same missile in its arsenal.

The truck mounted FM-90 system is an improved version of the “Hong Qi”, a missile first produced by the China National Precision Machinery Import and Export (CNPMIEC) in 1998. It was supplied to Bangladesh in 2011. Bangladesh is surrounded on three sides by India, while the fourth side is the Bay of Bengal. The missile is an anti-aircraft system capable of all-weather operations against flying objects like planes, missiles or drones.

It can operate against multiple targets. It has a 25-km range radar and is capable of launching simultaneous offensive against multiple targets, which includes ability to hit ultra-low-altitude cruise missiles, air-to-surface missiles and anti-radiation missiles at a distance of more than 16 km.

The missile is among the clutch of Chinese military-related investments and supplies to Bangladesh that includes warships, naval guns anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missile systems.

China’s second largest arms customer is Bangladesh. The latest report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Sweden-based think tank, on arms sellers during 2016-2020 says Bangladesh procured some 17 per cent of all Chinese military exports.