"To your right you'll see a Chinese anti-ballistic missile coming toward us"

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:


Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Jan 31, 2009
Reaction score
'And if you look to your right you'll see a Chinese anti-ballistic missile coming towards us'
26 July 2017


The breath-taking moment that an anti-ballistic missile was launched into the night sky has been caught on camera by a stunned pilot, who described it as a 'once in a lifetime event'.

Dutch Pilot Christiaan van Heijst, 34, cannot resist pulling his camera out whenever possible in the cockpit of a Boeing 747-8 Freighter.

He took these breath-taking photos during a flight from Hong Kong to Baku in Azerbaijan on Sunday on an airway heading over the Himalayas.

'The airway and airspace where we flew was open and also the air traffic control gave us no prior warning.

'Later I found out that it was a Chinese test for an anti-ballistic missile system they are creating which are basically missiles to shoot other missiles out of the sky.

'Also, I learned that the restricted area north of our route was the launch site and the restricted areas south of our route were the places where the debris was expected to fall back to earth.

'The rocket basically flew right over us at very high altitude. For as far as we know, we were one of the very few - if not only - aircraft to fly there at that time. It was a once in a lifetime event.'

Thorough analysis of the event:



What happened

• China tests a Hit-to-Kill missile in Xinjiang, western China
• Proper warning notices filed
• Dutch air cargo flight delayed by weather comes along….
• … with a EXPERT photographer in the cockpit == KUDOS to Christiaan
• He takes images of the missile coming nearly head-on
• This viewing angle obscured the separate sequential features of the
missile flight path
• Chinese websites post other photos from both head-on and from the
side at various angles. and two videos as well
• Reports and images from earlier flights are located

What’s most interesting

• Apparently multiple restarts of upper stage engine in nearly random
• Flight scheduled for twilight [dark sky from ground but rocket and plumes
still in sunlight] suggests deliberate desire for visibility
• Coordination with target launch from other site still undetermined
• ..unless this WAS the target, and interceptor attacked later at lower
altitude – identities of players in this dance still ambiguous
• Some images of current event and previous ones show highly convoluted
smoke trails suggesting additional endo-atmospheric pluming – relation to
main missile activity not apparent
• Awesome collection of visual recordings provide insights & puzzles
• International Space Station NOT over area of test, so no images
• Degree of PRC citizen participation in posting images – impressive!

How we will explore this

• Context and precursor events of similar type
• Unearthly behavior of space plumes and fuel dumps continue to amaze
• Van Heijst airborne observations
• Ground observations of same event
• In-line like van Heijst
• Profile views
• Ground observations of previous near-identical events
• Open questions – smoke rings, and who was target, who the killer?
• Further analysis needed [further HELP needed!!]
• Conclusions