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Thread: China’s Navy Gets Its Act Together, and Gets Aggressive

  1. #1

    China’s Navy Gets Its Act Together, and Gets Aggressive

    By admin April 26, 2010 | 3:11 pm

    Abe Denmark directs the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. This is his first post for Danger Room.

    China’s decades-long military modernization effort is paying off. After assembling a revamped arsenal of new ships, subs, planes, and missiles, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is showing that they can use all those assets together, in an operation far from its shores. This display of improved military capabilities have occurred in conjunction with messages to the U.S. indicating a more aggressive approach from Beijing on China’s claims over disputed waters of the South China Seas. The United States must respond to this emerging challenge with a responsible approach that keeps tensions low while sending a clear message to Beijing that the U.S. will not accept China’s efforts to unilaterally control Southeast Asia’s maritime commons.

    The South China Morning Post recently reported that destroyers, frigates, and auxiliary ships from the North Sea Fleet (based in Qingdao) passed through the Bashi Strait between the Philippines and Taiwan to conduct a major “confrontation exercise” in the South China Sea. A few days later, Sovremenny guided missile destroyers, frigates, and submarines from the East Sea Fleet (based in Ningbo) passed through Japan’s Miyako Strait without warning Tokyo and conducted anti-submarine warfare exercises in the Pacific waters southeast of Japan. There have also been reports of naval aviators from several bases in the Nanjing and Guangzhou military regions conducting long-range exercises that incorporated radar jamming, night flying, mid-air refueling, and simulated bombing runs in the South China Sea.

    While provocative in their own right, these exercises are a sign that China’s Navy has taken a major step forward. The SCMP article quotes an unnamed Asian defense attaché: “We’ve never seen anything on this scale before - they are finally showing us they can put it all together.”

    The implications of “putting it all together” are significant. The U.S. military’s ability to dominate the skies over any battlefield is not just due to its technological superiority, but its ability to incorporate capabilities together to support one another. Anti-submarine warfare and mid-air refueling are very difficult and complex operations to undertake, requiring good technology, effective command and control, and highly skilled operators. China’s ability to conduct these operations demonstrates a significantly increased prowess in complex military operations.

    These exercises are also notable for their location and their timing. By transiting the Miyako Strait and operating in highly contested waters, China is sending a signal to the region that it is developing the ability to back up its territorial sea claims with more than just rhetoric. These exercises were conducted a few weeks after Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and NSC Senior Director for Asia Jeff Bader visited Beijing. As reported by the New York Times, they were told that the South China Sea is a “core interest” for the PRC. This is an important phrase for Beijing – it raises the South China Sea to the same level of significance as Taiwan and Tibet – and suggests a newly aggressive and provocative approach.

    China has long claimed that the South China Sea is within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) forces foreign militaries to seek permission from Beijing before they can transit through. Of course, xix other countries in the region also claim all or part of the South China Seas. So the United States has long identified EEZs as international waters through which military vessels can freely pass. “We do not favor one claim, or one claimant country, over another. We urged then, as we do today, the maintenance of a calm and non-assertive environment in which contending claims may be discussed and, if possible, resolved,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted in a 2008 speech, “All of us in Asia must ensure that our actions are not seen as pressure tactics, even when they coexist beside outward displays of cooperation.”

    By labeling the South China Sea as a “core interest” and conducting these exercises just days later, China has issued its reply: China will aggressively back its claims with a robust military capability.

    The other, more implicit, message from Beijing could not be more stark: China’s military is growing more capable, and the PLA Navy is now at the vanguard of China’s military modernization effort. By acquiring advanced military technologies and developing the ability to conduct complex operations far from shore, China is changing military balances throughout the region with implications far beyond a Taiwan-related scenario.

    The U.S. and China have been in a similar position before. The 2001 collision between a Chinese jet and an American EP-3E in international airspace over the South China Sea caused a significant downturn in U.S.-China relations. Disturbingly, aggressive Chinese behavior toward American naval assets in the South China Seas in recent years, as happened in 2009 with the USS Impeccable, suggest that a naval EP-3 incident is a distinct possibility in the future.

    While the U.S. has been adjusting its posture in the Asia-Pacific region to account for China’s military modernization, it must recognize that there is a political dynamic at play that should not be ignored. The South China Sea and the adjacent littoral waters off the coasts of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore will be the most strategically significant waterways of the 21st century. Already, 80 percent of China’s oil imports flow through the Strait of Malacca, and Japan and Korea are similarly dependent on access to those waters.

    The United States should continue to pursue the calm and non-assertive approach described by Secretary Gates at Shangri-La, and has been doing so through the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) dialogue with China. Yet there are two other avenues for the U.S. to ensure those important waterways remain open.

    First, the U.S. should ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which defines Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) as international waterways through which warships may make innocent passage. While the U.S. has long operated within its dictates, ratifying UNCLOS would add the weight of international law to American objections to claims of sovereignty over international waters.

    Second, the U.S. should adhere to the Law of Gross Tonnage, and regularly conduct freedom of navigation exercises through the South China Sea to ensure its continued openness. Continuing to treat the South China Seas as international waters will prevent habits of deference to Chinese claims from forming. This is not a bellicose or an aggressive approach, but is rather a continuation of long-standing American and international policies towards international waterways.

    China’s claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea, if left unchallenged, would make Beijing the arbiter of all international maritime traffic that passes through, which the U.S. cannot allow. As we can see from the U.S. Defense Department’s annual reports to Congress on the Chinese military (pdf), China has been developing these capabilities for some time, and there is no sign that its ambitions have yet been satisfied.

    Bottom line: this is just the beginning.

    [Photos: China Daily, Kobus/Picasa]

    Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010...#ixzz0mFgaBba9

  2. #2

    Starts out strong, but then falls apart from here on;

    Quote Originally Posted by Abe Denmark
    China’s ability to conduct these operations demonstrates a significantly increased prowess in complex military operations
    Is better written if it said :

    Quote Originally Posted by logic
    China’s ability to conduct these operations demonstrates a significantly increased prowess in being able to learn complex military operations
    Then he goes on to make 3 assumptions in the last 5 paragraphs while patently ignoring the elephant in the room -- that the United States of America claims the EEZ surrounding the USA as territorial waters. This has always been a bit of a buggaboo for us, as does anyone remember Libya in the 80's and how the USS JFK has a couple of mig kills painted on its citadel? That little incident occurred just after we claimed the EEZ as territorial waters. Libya then promptly followed suit (Like China is now) and ummm, we went in and shot down a few planes, because we were in International waters that would have been territorial waters, if it were the USA but wait, you guys are rag heads and we aren't. lol. Mind you, no one had ratified the territorial claim .. .I love it.

    Anyway, the point is, all we taught the world was that if you have the military might, you can do and say what you like and further undermined the UN.

    As to the report. Bit of scare mongering. Needs to go back to "Marketing to the Federal Government 101" if he is going to get any traction and stop making assumptions. Makes it Sound like an Aus Air Power NOTAM (?) by Eric Goon.


    Kung fu Panda. What can I say? The guy is brilliant.

  3. #3

    Chinese navy 'challenges regional order'

    April 28, 2010 - 12:19PM


    China's growing naval power poses a direct challenge to the US sea-based alliance system and the regional order that underpins it, a new study warns.

    The Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) aspires to be able to conduct distant operations but its key focus remained on seas closer to home, a paper by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) says.

    "China's East Asian maritime preoccupations, not its occasional bluewater forays, are of greatest strategic significance," said author Dr Chris Rahman, from the University of Wollongong's Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security.

    "They pose direct challenges to the US sea-based alliance system and the regional order that the system underpins."

    China's naval build-up during the past decade had been widely commented upon, with arguments that it was set on becoming a global naval power to protect its economic interests and project power globally.

    However, China has yet to spell out the strategic rationale for this buildup.

    Although it publishes a defence white paper, it has yet to reveal a specific naval strategy.

    Dr Rahman said China's bluewater naval capabilities - the ability for naval units to operate far from home - were not China's main focus.

    Although China has been building larger and more capable warships, it has not been building the replenishment ships needed to sustain distant missions.

    Similarly, China has constructed new nuclear submarines but most of its undersea fleet are conventional diesel-electric boats, less suited to distant operations.

    China appeared set on developing a capability to dominate regional seas and deny freedom of action to the US, Dr Rahman said, adding its preoccupation with Taiwan was driving this particular geostrategic agenda.

    "China's strategic focus on area denial capabilities since the US intervention during the March 1996 Taiwan Strait missile crisis has been intended to degrade US capacity to reinforce its allies and clients should conflict erupt, or even to deter intervention in the first place," he said.

    It was not China's current limited ability to conduct distant water operations or its potential aircraft carrier development that should be a primary cause for concern.

    "Rather, it is the PLAN's growing ability to deny access to east Asian seas in a crisis or conflict, and so to disrupt the security system led by US Pacific Command, that most threatens regional order and harmony at sea," Dr Rahman said.

    © 2010 AAP

  4. #4

    The news from Tokyo on 10 April 2010 that the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force had monitored ten Chinese warships passing 140km south of Okinawa through the Miyako Strait marked a new stage in China’s naval development. The deployment was of unprecedented size and scope for the Chinese navy, and was the second such operation mounted by China in rapid succession: in March, a smaller flotilla had been deployed on exercises. The two sets of exercises, along with Chinese counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, demonstrate the flexibility of China’s naval forces and their greater prominence in Beijing’s strategic calculations.

    The flotilla from the People’s Liberation Army Navy contained some of its most advanced warships, including two Kilo-class diesel-powered attack submarines and at least two Russian-built Sovremenny-class destroyers. The March and April missions were the first of any size beyond the ‘First Island Chain’ – the term used by China for the line formed by the Aleutians, the Kuriles, Japan’s archipelago, the Ryukyus, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo – and indicated that deployments beyond the chain were now official policy, having been discussed by naval officers for some years beforehand.

    South China Sea tensions

    The timing of the exercises appears to be directly linked to rising tensions in China’s long-running sovereignty disputes over islands in the South China Sea. The current Chinese boundaries for the region first appeared on a survey conducted by the Nationalist Chinese government in 1935, and were retained by the Communist government after 1949. They define as Chinese several island groups including the Paracels (Xisha), the Spratlys (Nansha), the Pratas (Dongsha), Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha) and Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Dao). For decades, China has disputed some or all of these islands with Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Mineral, natural-gas and oil deposits are claimed to be at stake, although the absence of independent surveys leaves the extent of these open to question. But this uncertainty has not deterred claimant nations from building military installations on many of the reefs. Currently China has installations on Cuarteron, Fiery Cross, Hughes, Johnson, Mischief, Gaven and Subi reefs. These range from small three-storey buildings with helipads, to facilities capable of acting as a refuelling dock.

    The fiercest arguments, which have intensified over the past year, have been between China and Vietnam, which officially claimed the Spratly Islands as a Vietnamese province in 1973. Vietnam occupies 29 of the islands and reefs in the area, while China is in possession of about nine. As the dispute is as much over the surrounding water as the islands, commercial activities such as fishing have evolved in recent years into a strategic issue. Vietnamese and Chinese fishing vessels routinely congregate in the same areas.

    In March, China responded to pleas from Chinese fishing vessels off the Spratly Islands that they had been subjected to harassment by the Vietnamese coastguard service. The Yuzheng 311, China’s largest fishery patrol vessel displacing 4,600 tonnes, was dispatched to the South China Sea from Sanya, Hainan Island, on 18 March, accompanied by the 202 patrol vessel. A Chinese news report specifically highlighted the presence of heavy machine guns on board the 311.

    On 1 April Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, escorted by two destroyers, visited the disputed Bach Long Vi (known as Bai Long Wei to China) island, which is located between Haiphong in Vietnam and China’s Hainan Island. Triet announced from the island that Vietnam would ‘not let anyone infringe on our territory, our sea, and islands’. Hanoi formally lodged a protest with Beijing over the seizure of nine fishermen by the Chinese fisheries department on 22 March near the Paracels.

    First operation

    Meanwhile, China had embarked on the first of what were described in official media as ‘long-range naval exercises’. A flotilla of six ships from the North Sea Fleet had left their base in Qingdao and sailed through the Miyako Strait near Okinawa in three pairs on 18 March, possibly in an attempt to avoid attention. The Japanese destroyer Amagiri reported seeing a Luzhou-class destroyer and a Jiangwei II frigate. Another destroyer, the Asayuki, detected both a Jiangwei II and a Jianghu III frigate. A Chinese tanker and a salvage vessel followed. Prior to the ships passing, a single Chinese KJ-200 airborne warning-and-control system aircraft was tracked by Japanese F-15s as it flew over the strait on 12 March.

    A report in the PLA Daily in mid-April described this as a ‘long-distance training exercise’. The official CCTV-7 Military News programme also offered clues as to the nature of the deployment: the deputy commander of the North Sea Fleet stated that ‘China needed to protect its maritime territorial integrity through long-distance naval projection’. The report also showed J-8 fighters providing long-range air cover, and anti-submarine warfare exercises (ASW) being carried out. The flotilla made its presence felt as it travelled through the Miyako Strait and later the Bashi Channel between the Philippines and Taiwan. The ships conducted numerous live-fire exercises, as well as confrontation drills with elements of the South Sea Fleet. The PLA report said the fleet visited Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, as well as conducting further exercises near the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Indonesia. The deployment and exercises were a clear message of the willingness of the PLA Navy to assert Chinese power in the region. The flotilla returned to base in early April.

    Second operation

    The Japanese were surprised once more when a second task group – consisting of as many as ten ships from the East Sea Fleet, including destroyers, frigates and several auxiliary vessels – sailed through the Miyako Strait on 10 April. Two Kilo-class submarines accompanied the flotilla, surfacing as they passed through the strait in accordance with international law. This time Tokyo decided to go public with the news. The Japanese destroyer Suzunami and surveillance aircraft were dispatched to take pictures of the Chinese flotilla which, rather than passing in pairs, sailed in one large group past Okinawa. The Suzunami was buzzed by a Chinese Ka-28 ASW helicopter, which came within 90 metres of the Japanese warship. By late April the flotilla appeared to have halted east of Taiwan, and was conducting ASW exercises. The halt of its journey southwards seemed to be directly linked to a change in the plight of the Chinese fishing vessels in the Spratly Islands.

    When the 311 and 202 Chinese fishery patrol vessels arrived in the Spratly Islands, they found that Chinese fishing boats were surrounded by large numbers of Vietnamese boats. The situation deteriorated after the first naval flotilla returned home as more and more Vietnamese vessels congregated around the Chinese ships. An embedded press reporter on the 311 claimed that on 8 April some 20 boats were encircling the vessel, and by 10 April the number had climbed to 60. They were only 200 metres from the 311, and were photographing the Chinese ships.

    The Vietnamese perhaps did not expect further Chinese naval action, since the first flotilla had reached the limits of its endurance after 19 days of sailing over 6,000 nautical miles. However, the report from Japan that the second group of ships had passed through the Miyako Strait had a startling effect on the Vietnamese vessels. The reporter on the 311 described the Chinese sailors’ amazement as every single Vietnamese vessel vanished from the area on 12 April.

    It appears that news of the second Chinese flotilla surprised the Vietnamese. Moreover, the decision to sail through the Miyako Strait without any of the caution displayed previously may have been intended to produce as much publicity as possible in order to send a warning to the Vietnamese boats surrounding the stranded 311. Once the Vietnamese vessels withdrew, the Chinese group halted its move south and began conducting ad hoc exercises.

    Evolving naval policy

    The operations were a testament to the modernisation of the PLA Navy over the past decade. They would not have been possible if it were not for the continued focus on long-range projection exercises that has dominated its training for the past decade. The Chinese decision in December 2008 to join the international anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden has led to Chinese naval ships using some of the world’s main maritime routes more often. For some Southeast Asian countries, the recent operations represent an attempt by China to set a precedent for the establishment of a long-term naval presence in the region. The navy’s strategy of continued expansion, including an aircraft carrier – refurbishment of the former Ukrainian carrier Varyag is under way – and new submarines, has also been a concern for China’s neighbours. In 2009, Vietnam responded by ordering six Russian Kilo-class attack submarines.

    It is clear that the PLA Navy is beginning to take on a much more prominent role in Chinese foreign policy. At its 60th Anniversary Review in 2009, President Hu Jintao said that it had reached a new ‘historical starting point’. Five years earlier, Hu had set out the PLA’s ‘historical mission’ for the future: to consolidate the ruling status of the Communist Party; to help ensure China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and domestic security; to safeguard China’s expanding national interests; and to help maintain world peace. Clear indications that a new policy had been officially adopted came when naval officers made ‘proposals’ to the National People’s Congress in 2009 and 2010.

    Reach and flexibility

    Underlining the results of the change of naval strategy, no less than 19 warships, including three returning from anti-piracy operations off Somalia, passed through the disputed islands in the South China Sea in March and April. Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa described this activity as an ‘unprecedented situation’.

    Most significant has been the PLA Navy’s demonstration of its ability to organise and conduct far-ranging operations with a wide array of platforms. This indicates an increase in command-and-control abilities, as well as improved coordination between the navy’s different fleets. Although the East Sea Fleet was favoured by former president Jiang Zemin as a priority force in dealing with the Taiwan issue (such as the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis), neither it nor the North Sea Fleet have previously been involved in deployments in the South China Sea. During Hu’s presidency, the South Sea Fleet has been radically modernised and has usually been the main force used by China to assert its maritime sovereignty.

    This new flexibility signals a considerable change in the navy’s strategic thinking. The interoperability and mutual support between the three fleets marks a shift towards a consolidated central command and away from the out-of-date system of having three independently operating fleets. It shows that the navy is willing and able to break through the First Island Chain and into the Pacific – a substantial change from previous doctrine. The new focus is now on ‘long-range maritime training’ in order to ‘protect national maritime sovereignty’. Senior PLA Navy officers have also called for the ‘formation and [maintenance] of lasting long-range combat capabilities’.

    Significant progress has been made towards achieving China’s objective of building a fully fledged blue-water navy by 2050. Substantial new funding has allowed it to evolve rapidly from a coastal defence force to a navy capable of limited power projection. The completion of the Varyag, due in 2012, will further extend its ability to project power by providing valuable training for a future indigenously designed carrier force.

    For the region, the strategic implications will be complex. Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries will have to contend with a more assertive China in the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Japan and other countries will have to get used to Chinese flotillas moving more frequently into the Pacific. However, its primary focus will be on preserving territorial integrity rather than on aggressive expansion.

    Copyright ©2006 - 2010 The International Institute For Strategic Studies

  5. #5

    China Extends Military's Reach

    Eyes Long-Range Airlifters; Navy Sails Off Africa


    Published: 24 May 2010

    BEIJING - The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is transforming a one-time barefoot peasant army into a modern and deployable military, racking up operational hours in an anti-piracy naval mission in the Gulf of Aden as military officials study strategic airlifter requirements.

    "Projection is one of the priorities," a European official said. "They are very interested in any industrial program, whether aircraft or naval, American, British or European, that offers projection."

    In March, Beijing dispatched missile destroyer DDG 168 and a fleet auxiliary supply ship, the fifth task force to sail since December 2008 to protect Chinese and other commercial shipping from pirates working off the Somali coast.

    The operations in the Gulf of Aden, the farthest China has ever deployed its ships, constitute valuable training, Navy Capt. Xie Dongpei, deputy head of the office of the Navy commander, said May 10 at a rare press briefing.

    Xie said the Navy is keen to cooperate with European and other foreign navies off Somalia and elsewhere.

    But Western forces see little to learn from the Chinese Navy, and little incentive to teach them, the European official said.

    Such power-projection missions will help China protect its maritime zones of economic interest and safeguard the foreign trade that powers its economy, said Army Gen. Jia Xiaoning, deputy director for foreign affairs in the Ministry of Defense.

    Jia said that China's modernization will require spending more on the Navy and Air Force relative to the Army, which has been the backbone of national defense.

    One thing that might show up on the shopping list: an aircraft carrier.

    "We're in the process of studying the possibilities and conditions for having a carrier," Jia said. "When you look around the world, other major powers have a carrier, all except China."

    Interest in A400M

    Another possibility is long-range airlifters. Beijing has ambitions to develop a replacement for its Ilyushin Il-176s, but no one knows how far it has progressed, the European official said.

    More intriguing to China is the A400M transport aircraft built by EADS subsidiary Airbus Military.

    "It's natural they're interested in the A400M because it's happening," the European official said.

    The unarmed A400M is certified as a civil aircraft, though it carries military equipment and self-protection gear. But selling it to China would be a charged and complicated political decision, requiring consent from each of the producer countries - mainly Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Turkey, said a French official in Paris.

    China remains under U.S. and European Union arms embargoes imposed after the 1989 killing of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for lifting the ban, arguing that China should be treated as an equal partner. Yet his efforts have earned him little credit with the Chinese, who have cold-shouldered France since Sarkozy met with the Dalai Lama in 2008, a second European official said.

    Neither has Spain, the current holder of the EU presidency, earned Chinese political capital for its own calls to end the embargo. This is because Beijing understands that it will have to deal with this question at a European level, the second European official said.

    But Britain, keen to nurture trans-Atlantic ties with Washington, has opposed an end to the EU embargo, a position supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    The ban hampers China's efforts to develop military equipment, said China's Jia. China has tried to import technology from countries, including France, but runs into the "system of blockage from the EU and other things," he said. As a strategic partner, there is no reason to restrict trade in technology, he said.

    China is talking to "other countries" but is in no hurry, he said.

    The second European official said China could help make its case for an end to the embargo by ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and increasing military transparency.

    Technology Leaks

    U.S. officials, who want to keep advanced defense technology from leaking to Beijing, still need reassurance that Europe has a robust arms-control regime in place.

    Such worries are holding up a prospective sale of French air-to-air missiles and fire-control systems to Pakistan, which wants to upgrade 50 JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft co-developed with China.

    "It's on standby," the French official said in Paris. "It's a region of the world which is complex, with different influences: China, India, Pakistan."

    France has refused to approve the export of the RC400 fire-control radar and other avionics for the JF-17, a Thales spokeswoman said in Paris.

    The sale of gear for the JF-17 also is opposed by India, which is in talks with Thales to upgrade its Mirage 2000H fleet and which is weighing Dassault's Rafale in the competition for 126 new fighters.

    "No one in French industry, neither MBDA or Thales, particularly wants this [JF-17 upgrade] deal," a French defense executive said in Paris.

    Even if the embargo were canceled, the new EU Common Position on arms sales is stricter and would impose legal restrictions on arms exports, said Alexander McLachlan, political councilor at the EU delegation here.

    The sanctions no doubt sting because China insists on being treated as an equal; indeed, its natural reference in military matters is the United States. Beijing also keeps alive the humiliation of 100 years of colonialism that began when Royal Navy Capt. Charles Elliot claimed Hong Kong for the British crown in 1841.

    Absence of Black Hawk Spare Parts

    For Col. Li Guo of the Army Air Corps, the American embargo has meant his helicopter regiment, based at Chengdu in the southwestern Sichuan province, has been unable to get hold of spare parts for around 10 Black Hawk transports. The U.S.-built helicopters entered service here in 1984 under the name of Black Eagles.

    Asked how he has been able to maintain the helicopters without spare parts for 20 years, Li said the regiment had built up stocks before the embargo came into effect.

    "They can be used indefinitely," he said.

    The pilots fly about 60 hours a year, about 40 percent as much as French Army helicopter crews.

    The Black Hawks, although they cost more to buy, are easier and cheaper to maintain than the regiment's 20 or so Russian-built Mi-171 helicopters, not to mention easier to fly and more maneuverable, Li said.

    "It comes out the same," he said.

    Li said the PLA lacks a modern heavy-lift helicopter and has not started designing one.

    In 2008, the regiment flew 2,500 missions - sometimes 20 flights a day - to help residents of the earthquake-devastated Sichaun region. After the Black Hawks picked up six foreign tourists there, the authorities asked the U.S. government for spares after the earthquake but received no answer, Li said.

  6. #6

    The Carrier In the Cornfield

    (Source: Forecast International; issued June 7, 2010)

    NEWTOWN, Conn. --- The Chinese Navy's aircraft carrier program appears to be picking up momentum with Chinese news sources reporting two major steps forward in the development of the necessary systems for these ships.

    The most remarkable of these steps is the construction of what appears to be a hybrid of an office building and an aircraft carrier. This has already been dubbed the "Carrier in the Cornfield" in reference to the famous U.S. Naval Surface Warfare "Cruiser in the Cornfield" facility at Moorestown, NJ. The New Jersey facility was used to test out the AEGIS air warfare system and subsequently provided a research capability to test new items of equipment under carefully controlled conditions. It is likely that the Chinese facility is intended for similar work.

    Aircraft and helicopters are frequently seen on the roof of this building. It appears that current efforts are aimed at developing the operational art needed for on-deck operations and flow, and then on training PLAN personnel in these functions. It also appears that the dummy superstructure on the roof of this facility is being used to test the phased-array radars being developed for the new carriers. It can be assumed that the facility is also being used to check for electromagnetic interference between the radar and the aircraft. One thing can safely be assumed - the Chinese are not landing aircraft on the roof of the building. The aircraft there are being lifted into position by a crane.

    The other new development is based on reports that Shenyang is designing a new J-15 naval fighter, possibly using technologies from its next-generation fighter bid for J-14, which appears to have been rejected in favor of Chengdu's design. Whether this is a development of the Su-33 (one example of which was reportedly purchased from Ukraine in 2001) or a completely new design is unknown.

    A J-15 prototype was seen parked at the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation airfield in May 2010, revealing its arresting hook retracted beneath the redesigned tailcone, enlarged folding wings, strengthened landing gears with twin nosewheels, and a pair of small canard foreplanes to improve its low-speed handling.

    These developments suggest that the CPLAN is very serious about establishing a carrier-based aviation arm. The degree of research that is under way speaks of a well-planned and systematic approach to developing an indigenous carrier force.

    The more interesting question is, why have the Chinese allowed this information to appear at this time? It is most unlikely they did so to satisfy the curiosity of Western naval analysts. A more likely hypothesis is that there is conflict between those who see the Chinese fleet as a primarily coastal defense force and those who envision a more assertive power projection role.

    For the last few years, the former group has appeared to dominate the debate, with Chinese major surface combatant construction slowed to a crawl while the building of frigates and fast attack craft has accelerated.

    Releasing information on carrier design and development may well be a ploy to use Western reaction to these programs as a way of motivating the Chinese authorities into increasing support for the carrier program,


  7. #7

    Russian Official Delivers Smackdown On China’s Carrier-Based Fighter Knockoff

    Back in the 1990s, China bought a prototype of the Russian built Su-33 Falcon (a navalized version of the Su-27 Flanker) from Ukraine, and has reverse engineered the plane to produce its own naval fighter, designated the J-15. The Chinese plan to fly the J-15 off an aircraft carrier, if they’re ever able to produce a working one.

    A Russian military official now says the Chinese fighter knock-off will be an inferior product:

    “The Chinese J-15 clone is unlikely to achieve the same performance characteristics of the Russian SU-33 carrier-based fighter, and I won’t rule out the possibility that China could return to negotiations with Russia on the purchase of a substantial batch of SU-33s,” said Col. Igor Korotchenko, a member of the Defense Ministry’s Public Council.

    Korotchenko said that China was unlikely to solve technical problems related to the design of the folding wings and to develop a reliable engine for the aircraft, although the first J-15 prototype reportedly made its maiden flight on August 31, 2009, powered by Chinese WS-10 turbofan engines.”
    Of course, this could be an indication that Russia fears China is encroaching on potential foreign military sales. Or, the Chinese still aren’t able to produce cutting edge fighter aircraft of their own. Although, its not like a lot of countries are flying jets off carriers so I’m not sure how many sales the Chinese could potentially take away from Sukhoi.

    – Greg Grant

    Read more: http://defensetech.org/#ixzz0qK3Bs3OA

  8. #8

    China to Test Carrier Killing Missile On Fourth of July?

    Chinese media reports that beginning today the People’ Liberation Army (PLA) will hold six days of military exercises in the East China Sea, a message, analysts say, to the U.S. Navy not to steam its carrier battle groups too close to Chinese shores.

    While a Chinese military official said the drills are routine, observers say the anti-carrier exercise is intended to pressure the U.S. Navy not to hold joint exercises with the carrier USS George Washington and South Korean ships in the Yellow Sea.

    Respected China analyst Andrew Erickson says the live fire training aims to demonstrate China’s ability to attack a U.S. carrier strike group and may include the first test of China’s long talked about anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). He sees hints that China’s Second Artillery, a powerful organization within the Chinese military which operates the country’s missile force, may be at a point where it’s ready to test an ASBM.

    Recent indications include the reported completion of a DF-21D rocket motor facility in 2009 and the recent launch of 5 advanced Yaogan satellites, three of which were apparently placed in the same orbit on 5 March–thereby perhaps offering better coverage of critical areas along China’s maritime periphery. Another possible indication is a recent news release attributed to China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation (CASIC) citing Wang Genbin, Deputy Director of its 4th Department, as stating that the DF-21D can hit “slow-moving targets” with a CEP (circular error probable, meaning half of missiles fired will strike within) of dozens of meters.

    I attended Erickson’s presentation at a recent National Defense University conference on Chinese naval modernization and he said China is rapidly putting into place the component parts of an advanced reconnaissance-strike complex, including launching a series of ocean observation satellites and electro-optical military satellites. An actual live-fire test of a missile would of course be a big step in ASBM development, he says.

    The U.S. military has the advantage of its GPS constellation, in addition to a fleet of electro-optical satellites, to provide precise targeting for its guided weapons. Analysts believe China would use ocean-surveillance satellites to get the initial bearing and distance to an approaching carrier strike group and then launch missiles towards the target that would rely on active-radar or radar-homing to hit a carrier (that’s how the Soviets planned to do it in the Cold War days with their missile launching Backfire bombers and Oscar class subs).

    Erickson says Chinese tactics would aim for “multi-axis saturation” of a carrier strike group’s missile defenses by combining swarms of missile boats (such as the Houbei Type 022 fast missile catamaran), missile launching submarines and land based ballistic missiles.

    – Greg Grant

    Read more: http://defensetech.org/2010/06/30/ch...#ixzz0sLbjEFCL

  9. #9

    China’s PLA Navy Sends Largest Surface Combatant to Gulf of Aden

    China is sending its largest surface combatant, the amphibious landing ship Kunlun Shan, to the Gulf of Aden to serve as a command ship for a PLA Navy anti-piracy task force, according to China Defense Blog. This marks the first deployment of the 071 LPD, launched in 2006, the largest naval ship of its own design China has built to date with an estimated displacement of around 20,000 tons.

    China is scheduled to command the multinational task force operating off the coast of piracy haven Somalia. Accompanying the Kunlun Shan is the destroyer Lanzhou and the supply ship Weishanhu. Available specs on the Kunlun Shan say it has a lift capacity equivalent to the U.S. Navy Austin class LPD; it has a large helicopter flight deck and a floodable bay that could fit up to 4 air cushion landing crafts (LCAC).

    There was lots of discussion about the challenges China’s PLA Navy faces in operating at long distances at a National Defense University conference on Chinese naval modernization I attended earlier this month. These range from difficulties in maintaining and repairing ships to providing medical care and fresh produce to personnel.

    A shortage of underway replenishment ships and the obvious lack of overseas bases places an upper limit on the number of ships China can deploy and how long they can remain on station in distant waters.

    The PLA Navy has been increasing their “out of area” naval operations incrementally in recent years. They are very methodical about it, using a small number of their most modern ships. These deployments have a noticeable political “soft power” component to them. Expect more of that soft power naval diplomacy when China soon deploys its purpose built hospital ship.

    Check out this really cool cutaway diagram of the Kunlun Shan provided by Hobby Shanghai.

    – Greg Grant.

    Read more: http://defensetech.org/2010/07/01/ch...#ixzz0sUeAqWBt

  10. #10

    China focuses on 'far sea defense'

    By Joseph Y Lin via Asia Times

    Recent discourse concerning the Chinese People's Liberation Army's (PLA) modernization has principally focused on technological advances and less on the human dimension of PLA force transformation. In particular, a review of these discussions revealed the absence of a publicly available database of Chinese military leaders with the rank of full general (shangjiang).

    Against the backdrop of the PLA's stated intention to reorient the armed forces as part of its modernization efforts, an analysis of promotion patterns of the 118 PLA generals (1981-2009) may yield important insights into the foci of PLA force transformation.

    PLA to build up navy and air force

    A string of recent statements by senior Chinese military officials alluding to the realignment of the PLA indicates that significant changes in the composition of the armed forces may be in the offing.

    In April, the Chinese Defense Ministry's spokesperson Senior Colonel Huang Xueping stated during an interview, "It's quite natural that we want to build up a streamlined [emphasis added] military force which has more focus on technologies rather than man power." Huang's statement, taken in the context of increasing Chinese naval assertiveness in international waters near Japan and in the South China Sea in recent years, has raised questions over the PLA's intentions and capabilities.

    To be sure, the Chinese military leadership seems to be signaling its intention to depart from its long-held emphasis on the army for the air force and navy. By enhancing the role of the navy and air force, the goal of its effort appears aimed at extending China's military power projection capability into the Pacific while reducing the size of its total military force.

    According to Senior Colonel Yang Chengjun, a researcher with the Second Artillery Force of the PLA, the proportion of the army in the Chinese military is a "problem" rooted in history and points out the need to "optimize the composition of different arms" in order for the Chinese military to meet its modern day challenges.

    Echoing the Chinese Defense Ministry's position, the director of the Center for Arms Control and International Security Studies at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, Teng Jianqun, considers China's focus on naval and air force development to be "inevitable".

    Taking the analysis one step further, Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA major general now with the government think-tank China Arms Control and Disarmament Association (CACDA), believes that China can achieve these transformative goals with a budgetary allocation among China's army, navy and air force at a 50:25:25 ratio, representing a shift from the current 60:20:20 ratio.

    Xu does not see a 40:30:30 ratio since he believes that China's naval and air power will "mostly be used to enhance the combat effectiveness of our [China's] ground forces". Xu's statement seems to imply that the PLA - at least for the time being - is not emulating American global power projection capabilities supported and enabled by US military budgets that have in recent years allocated resources among the army, navy and air force roughly along a 40:30:30 ratio [1].

    'Far sea defense' strategy

    The advent of the People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLAN's) "far sea defense" (yuanyang fangyu) strategy calling for the development of China's long-range naval capabilities, appears to be one of the major drivers behind the push to transform the composition of the Chinese armed forces.

    Yin Zhuo, a retired PLAN rear admiral who is now a senior researcher at the navy's Equipment Research Center, stated in an interview with People's Daily Online that the PLAN is tasked with two primary missions: preservation of China's maritime security (including territorial integrity) and the protection of China's burgeoning and far-flung maritime economic interests.

    And while the former is still the PLAN's chief concern, the PLAN is beginning to prioritize more attention to the latter. Rear-Admiral Zhang Huachen, deputy commander of the PLAN's East Sea Fleet argues, "With the expansion of the country's economic interests, the navy wants to protect the country's transportation routes and the safety of our major sea lanes." The rear-admirals' statements present a legitimate rationale behind the PLAN's new strategy.

    The far sea defense strategy is significant for two reasons. First, it declares that China's naval ambitions extend beyond its traditional coastal area or "near sea" (jinyang). Secondly, it expands the PLAN's defense responsibilities to include the protection of China's maritime economic interests - which China's latest defense whitepaper did not explicitly address [2].

    It stands to reason then that a possible key motivation behind the reorientation of China's armed forces stems from China's perceived need to project power beyond its coastal area to where the PLAN is required to carry out the newly expanded far sea defense duties.

    CMC as China's highest military commanding body

    As the highest military policy and commanding body in China, the CMC supervises and commands five service branches of China's armed forces: the PLA ground forces, PLAN, People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), Second Artillery Corps (SAC) and the People's Armed Police (PAP) (which falls under the joint leadership of the CMC and the State Council).

    Since the restoration of military rank (junxian) in 1988, the CMC has promoted 118 military leaders to generals: 17 under Deng Xiaoping (1981-1989), 79 under Jiang Zemin (1989-2004) and 22 to date under Hu Jintao (2004-present)

    The Chinese military has traditionally been influenced by its ground forces because of China's historical status as a land power. Additionally, the PLA ground forces can trace their roots to the 1920s, predating the founding of the People's Republic of China and all other service branches.

    Therefore, ground forces generals not surprisingly represent a lion's share or 71% of the total. Yet, Hu has promoted substantially more "non-ground forces" (PLAN, PLAAF, SAC and PAP) generals than his predecessors. In percentage terms, 45% of Hu's generals are non-ground forces, compared to 25% and 24% for Jiang's and Deng's, respectively.

    Strategic Second Artillery Corps

    The CMC directly supervises and commands the SAC, which controls China's nuclear arsenal and conventional missiles. Its small manpower (estimated at 100,000 or 3% of Chinese military manpower) notwithstanding, the SAC has produced a disproportionately large number of generals.

    Of the 118 military leaders promoted to generals, six (or 5% of the total) were SAC generals - which may be an indication of the SAC's special status in China's armed forces. Hu has promoted the most SAC generals in percentage terms (9%), compared to Deng (6%) and Jiang (4%). Hu's relative overweight in his SAC generals is a reflection of the strategic emphasis he places on the SAC.

    Internally oriented People's Armed Police

    While other service branches are externally oriented, the internally oriented PAP is charged with "the fundamental task of safeguarding national security, maintaining social stability and ensuring that the people live in peace and contentment" [3].

    Jiang successfully incorporated the PAP into the CMC's command structure by promoting the first PAP general in 1998. Altogether, he promoted five PAP generals, representing 6% of his total. Continuing the emphasis on PAP generals, Hu has promoted two PAP generals, representing 9% of his total. Since domestic stability remains among Hu's and the CCP's highest governing priorities, one can expect Hu to continue promoting PAP generals.

    Hu to promote more admirals

    Excluding the strategic SAC and the internally oriented PAP to determine the relative proportions among the army, navy and air force generals, one finds that 33% of Hu's generals are non-ground forces (PLAN an PLAAF), compared to 17% and 19% for Jiang's and Deng's, respectively.

    In other words, Hu's generals are 67% army, 11% navy and 22% air force. Jiang's generals were 83% army, 7% navy and 10% air force, whereas Deng's generals were 81% army, 13% navy and 6% air force.

    Hu appears to have begun the process of reorienting his generals by emphasizing the promotions of military leaders in the navy and air force. Given China's naval ambitions and the relative under-representation of PLAN admirals (when benchmarked against Xu's stated target proportion at 25%), one can therefore expect Hu to emphasize the promotions of PLAN admirals.

    As CMC chairman, Deng promoted 17 generals in a single "class" in 1988. Jiang on average promoted generals once every two years between 1989 and 2004, with the average "class size" at about 10 generals. Hu on average has promoted generals once every year between 2004 and 2009 with the average class size at four generals. Where Jiang appears to have institutionalized the promotion process, Hu appears to have regularized the promotion process.


    If Hu continues to promote generals at roughly the same pace as he has in the past, he could reasonably promote another 10 generals by the end of his tenure as CMC chairman in 2012 (although he may hold on to CMC chairmanship beyond 2012 following Jiang's example). Given the reorientation of China's armed forces as a PLA priority, one should expect to see an overweighting in the promotions of non-ground forces generals in Hu's remaining tenure.

    Of the additional 10 Hu generals, assuming one slot is set aside for each of the SAC and PAP, one may find it reasonably likely that the other eight could comprise three army, three navy and two air force generals.

    This combination will result in a final relative weighting of 58% army, 19% navy and 23% air force for Hu's generals - a directionally consistent outcome when compared with Xu's stated goal of 50% army, 25% navy and 25% air force.

    The number of PLA Navy admirals is not likely to leapfrog as Hu is expected to continue his gradualist and balanced approach in promoting his generals in the future, taking into consideration each service branch's interests and representation as in the past. This also reflects Hu's rather cautious approach to the military given his lack of a military background. Yet the goals are clear. This is only the beginning of a long-term trend.


    1. Todd Harrison, Analysis of the 2010FY Defense Budget Request (Washington DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, August 12, 2009): 38. When the "defense-wide" item is excluded from the US military budget, the relative budgetary ratio among the army, navy (including the Marine Corps) and air force has been approximately 40:30:30 in recent years.
    2. Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, "China's National Defense 2008", January 2009, Section V: 7.
    3. Ibid, Section VIII: 10.

    Joseph Y Lin currently studies at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies of Tamkang University in Taipei, Taiwan. He has held executive positions in multinational corporations and investment companies in the US, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Lin's most recent article "The Changing Face of Chinese Military Generals: Evolving Promotion Practices Between 1981 and 2009" was published in The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis in March 2010.

    (This article first appeared in The Jamestown Foundation. Used with permission.)

    (Copyright 2010 The Jamestown Foundation.)

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