Wednesday 29 April 2009

China's Defense White Paper What It Does (and Doesn't) Tell Us

China's Defense White Paper

What It Does (and Doesn't) Tell Us
Credit should be given where it is due, and if one reads between the lines, the four Chinese defense white papers released every even year since 2000 have provided clearer insight into Beijings strategic aims and defense planning than ever intimated by Zhongnanhai through the 1990s. While the Chinas National Defense in 2006 white paper should be primarily read as a piece of propaganda--part of Chinas public campaign to assure the reigning hegemon (i.e., the United States) of its peaceful intentions--the paper does reveal invaluable insights into Chinas thinking about the global strategic situation . Those reading the white paper as one would read a U.S. defense budget document or defense policy review, however, will be quite disappointed, for it leaves many questions about Chinas military capabilities and spending unanswered and provides no avenue for Chinas citizenry to question (let alone challenge) the defense plans of its leadership.
Readers of the defense white paper may be happy to learn that Beijing has determined that world wars or all-out confrontation between major countries are avoidable for the foreseeable future and that peace and development remain the principal themes in todays world. The latter of these saccharine phrases reflects a longstanding determination by Deng Xiaoping that China should focus on the development of its economy as the basis for greater national power in the future, rather than gird its loins for an immediate struggle with other great powers. This patient outlook is complemented by Dengs dictum to bide our time, hide our capabilities, while preparing for the future.

The white paper is concerned about the United States getting in Chinas way as it peacefully develops, and declares that hegemonism and power politics remain key factors undermining international security and just as ominously, that a small number of countrieshave intensified their military alliances and resorted to force or threats of force in international affairs. Just to make sure that the point is not lost, the paper proceeds to outline the major complications for security in Asia: The United States is accelerating its realignment of military deployment to enhance its military capability in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States and Japan are strengthening their military alliance in pursuit of operational integration. Japan seeks to revise its constitution and exercise collective self-defense. Its military posture is becoming more external oriented. Of course, lest Washington and her allies take all the blame for a complex security situation in Asia, the white paper adds that North Koreas ballistic missile and nuclear weapon tests have also made things more difficult. Taiwan, meanwhile, remains a challenge that must not be neglected. Indeed, the paper concludes that the struggle to oppose and contain the separatist forces for Taiwan independence poses a grave threat and that Washington makes matters worse by continuing to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan.

Enquiring minds are left wondering: how will China respond to this security environment, which is described in detailed, if euphemistic prose? It is here that the white paper becomes significantly less transparent in outlining Chinas future military ambitions. Although the white paper states that it is the mission of Chinas military to stop separation and promote reunification, guard against and resist aggression, and defend national sovereignty, territorial integrity and maritime rights and interests, it does not clearly identify what China views as necessary means to achieve those ends.

For example, despite the warning that Chinas armed forces will crush any major incident of Taiwan independence, the paper provides no guidance on what would be considered as such an incident: constitutional reform? The re-election of the DPP in 2008? The paper is thus left making a vague (if ominous) threat rather than a clarification of Beijings true intentions. Such a pattern was likewise seen in the March 2005 Anti-Secession Law, which provided little insight other than reveal Beijings willingness to employ force when it believes that Taiwans independence is unavoidable or that possibilities for peaceful reunification are exhausted (China Daily, March 14, 2005).

Perhaps the most problematic question is what China means when it says that it intends to defend its maritime rights and interests. Recent incidents involving expanded efforts by the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to probe into waters outside of its immediate control indicate what this effort entails. In November 2004, a Chinese submarine was detected in Japans waters, a provocation that heightened tensions between Tokyo and Beijing (The Washington Post, November 17, 2004). Then last October, a Chinese Song-class submarine approached within five miles undetected of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, an incident that could have easily escalated into an armed clash (Taipei Times, December 6, 2006).

These Chinese naval efforts point to two possible explanations. First, that China seeks to guarantee its penultimate goal of reunifying Taiwan with the mainland by establishing an ever larger zone into which the so-called anti-access/area denial threat faced by U.S. and allied forces prevents a rapid response to an invasion of the island. Second, is the degree to which these capabilities extend beyond the immediate question of Taiwans future to that of Chinese naval power for its own sake, a point that Chinese President Hu Jintao touched upon in a recent speech to the Central Military Commission (Peoples Daily, December 27, 2006). If China can establish maritime supremacy into the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, it will be able to prevent U.S. freedom of movement in the first island chain extending from Sakhalin through Indonesia, beyond to Southeast Asia, and even extending into parts of South Asia. Such a maritime sphere of influence will give Beijing options for exercising its power as it sees fit, thus remedying the serious imbalances in the international strategic alignment that it sees today.

As the key instrument in such a strategy, the white paper states that the PLAN aims at gradual extension of the strategic depth for offshore defensive operations and enhancing its capabilities in integrated maritime operations and nuclear counterattacks. The white paper does not discuss specific capabilities that will allow it to accomplish this goal, and indeed, does not mention any specific platforms that the military seeks to acquire. Chinas naval acquisitions, however, provide some perspectives into this question. In recent years, China has built a pair of Type 093-class fast attack and one Type 094 Jin-class ballistic missile nuclear submarines, expanding both the PLANs reach into the open ocean as well as Chinas second-strike capability. Perhaps even more critical, the purchase of twelve advanced conventional Kilo-class submarines from Russia have helped Beijing expand the sea area where it can deny U.S. operations: Kilo-launched wake-homing torpedoes are a particularly deadly threat to aircraft carrier battle groups, a target that Chinese strategists have focused on especially after the 1995-1996 Taiwan missile crisis [2]. This rapid buildup of open ocean and area denial capabilities means that Chinas naval sphere will only continue to expand.

Chinas Second Artillery Corps, or independent missile command, is also crucial for enhancing the countrys ability to limit the exercise of U.S. power in Asia. Chinas build-up of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles places U.S. and friendly assets at risk throughout the region, while the reported development of the DF-31 anti-ship ballistic missile variant poses an additional threat to U.S. aircraft carriers [3]. The recent successful test of the KT-1 anti-satellite missile likewise demonstrates that China is attaining the ability to limit U.S. intelligence gathering capabilities in Asia, a key asset for U.S. military decision makers (The Guardian, January 19, 2007; see also Motives and Implications behind Chinas ASAT Test). Except for some modest verbiage on the need to become a more streamlined and effective force with an improved command and control structure, the white paper addresses none of these developments.

This same lack of transparency on specific capabilities extends from Chinas development of its military force to the question of the scale of Chinas defense expenditure. On the defense budget, the Chinese government announced a budget of $35 billion in 2006, a figure that is viewed with skepticism among independent analysts. The Defense Intelligence Agency, for example, estimates Chinese defense spending in 2006 to be between $70-$105 billion, a figure that includes a tremendous amount of research and development funds that the Chinese figure does not include. But while the United States may be concerned with the lack of transparency on specific accounts of Chinas military plans, budget and hardware buildup, there is one area where U.S. concerns are particularly cogent--the absence of a broad, domestic debate in China about the appropriate use of the military and the best direction for the national strategy.

For all their differences, the United States once experienced Chinas current position of being a rapidly rising world power in the face of a global hegemon--then of course, the United Kingdom. Although Washington also sought to dress its rise in as peaceful a garb as possible, the citizens of Mexico, Spain, Cuba and the Philippines at the time would have disagreed. For its faults, however, the United States always found a domestic source of inertia to imperialism--the debate inherent to being a liberal democracy. Each of Americas expansionist wars inspired political opposition encompassing such figures as Henry David Thoreau, to Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Carnegie. This dissent did not always prevent the abuse of expanding U.S. power, but limited it. Most importantly, Britain watched the debate in Washington, ultimately concluded that America was no threat and accommodated her rise.

And this is the greatest risk that the biannual publication of Chinas defense white paper inadvertently highlights. While it is as thorough an examination of Chinas strategic environment and objectives as one may expect from Beijing, it will go publicly undebated and unopposed within China. Can it really be that in a society of 1.3 billion people no important segments of society oppose a military build-up to crush Taiwanese independence activities that are conducted by the elected representatives in a democracy? Is there no debate about the merits and costs of challenging U.S. preeminence? As long as China remains a closed society, it will have an opaque defense policymaking process, Washington will have to draw inferences about Chinas strategic intentions, and prudent policymakers will naturally take into account worse case scenarios.

It is a safe bet that in two more years, China will still be telling the world that it is peacefully developing and its military build-up is a response to the ills of hegemonism. Independence forces in Taipei will still pose a grave threat to Chinese sovereignty and security in the Taiwan Strait. Meanwhile Washington and her allies will continue to hedge against an unpeaceful rise, and this will remain the state of affairs until the Chinese people have the freedom to question their nations security strategy.

The Chinese Air Forceand Air andSpace Power

The Chinese Air Forceand Air andSpace Power
In an informal interview with James Reston of the New York Times in 1971, Zhou Enlai, premier of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), laid out in broad terms the PRCs foreign-policy objectives: (1) unification of the mainland and Taiwan, (2) removal of US military power from Asia, (3) withdrawal of the massive Soviet military force deployed along the Sino-Soviet border, and (4) prevention of the rise of Japan as a military power.1 Meeting these objectives would have established the PRC as the dominant military power in Asia. Even more important, meeting them today would produce the same effect. Equally notable is their ideological neutrality: any Chinese nationalist, Communist or otherwise, can support such policy aims. If the Chinese Communist Party continues its gradual drift from Marxism to Chinese nationalism as its justification for ruling, these objectives are not likely to change. Although diplomacy can finesse and conveniently obscure the issue, to a degree, and although the events of 11 September 2001 may have changed its tone, the overall circumstances of US-PRC relations make very possible a future of fundamental hostility.

Even though Chinas primary focus today remains on its internal development and even though it is probably satisfied with its land borders, such is not the case with its maritime borders- especially with Taiwan and, secondarily, the South China Sea.2 The status of Taiwan, in particular, could lead to war sometime in the future. Even more important, China is a profoundly dissatisfied power in psychological terms. It craves respect, but the United States is not likely to give it such respect as long as the PRC remains a dictatorship. To the degree that the PRC ultimately aspires to the leadership of Asia, it is likely to clash with the United States, Japan, and probably with Russia. A policy of containing China as a strategic competitor will be regarded by its government as hostile, while a policy of "engagement" has been and will likely continue to be regarded in the same light- as one of smiling containment and subversion. Some sources have indicated that the PRC government already regards the United States as a rival and has done so for several years; indeed, anti-Americanism is evidently widespread among the population.3 The overall circumstances of US-PRC relations provide at least considerable potential for a fundamentally hostile Sino-US relationship.

For these reasons, it is prudent to study China in general and its military in particular. If the Chinese are not an enemy, it is worthwhile to understand them so as to minimize the chances of inadvertently identifying them as such.4 If they are, we need to understand why and to judge accurately whether they represent a threat, since a powerless enemy is more a nuisance than a danger.5 If they are indeed a present or emerging threat, we must understand them in order to deter or, if necessary, defeat them.

In studying the Chinese military as a potential enemy, one must pay attention to more than just the capabilities of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and its component services. Specifically, one would do well to begin with the PRCs military doctrine, since it shapes objectives, strategy, force structure, procurement, and training. This article addresses the air and space power doctrine of the PRCs Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and analyzes its ability to carry out that doctrine.

Drew and Snow define three levels of doctrine: (1) fundamental, which deals with basic characteristics such as the nature of war, purpose of military power, and relationship of military force to other instruments of power; (2) environmental, "a compilation of beliefs about the employment of military forces within a particular operating medium" (functionally speaking, this is air and space power doctrine- a statement of how todays air and space power capabilities should be used to have a decisive effect on military operations and wars); and (3) organizational, which includes basic beliefs about the operation of a particular military organization and its roles, missions, and current objectives.6 In the US Air Force, Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, covers environmental doctrine, defining it as "most fundamental and enduring beliefs that describe and guide the proper use of air and space forces in military action"; AFDD 2, Organization and Employment of Aerospace Power, covers organizational doctrine.7

The PLA and its component services do not use the term military doctrine. The closest analog they have to Western doctrine is what they call military science, which links theory and practice.8 Chinese military science consists of (1) basic military science, the fundamental concepts that govern PLA military operations at the various levels of war (basic military science would include whatever environmental doctrine- air and space power doctrine- the PRC might have);9 and (2) applied military theory, the specifics of how to apply military force at each level of warfare (similar to US organizational doctrine).10

PLA military concepts, including those of the PLAAF, are not couched in terms of roles and missions, as is the case with the US military. Instead, they use the alternative concept of campaigns, defined as a series of battles fought under a unified command to achieve a local or overall objective.11 Campaigns primarily take place at what the US military would call the operational level of war, using a wartime operational structure called a War Zone. Depending on the size of the operation, a War Zone can encompass either a portion of or more than one Military Region.12

A critical point of the PLAs campaign planning lies in its expectations of the military environment in the type of war it expects to face. These expectations will obviously have a dramatic effect on strategy, force structure, and procurement. At present, the PLA views the primary threat as a local (i.e., regional) war under high-technology conditions.13 It expects such a war to have the following general characteristics:

It will be a limited war, fought in a restricted geographic area for limited objectives with limited means and a conscious effort to curtail destruction. It will not be a comprehensive or total war, fought to destroy the Chinese state and to invade and occupy the homeland. It will not threaten the survival of the states involved. In many ways, such a conflict is the modern equivalent of a border war.14 Overall, the threat of world war is minimal for the indefinite future, due to the revolutionary changes in external circumstances faced by the PRC over the last 15 years (i.e., the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War).15

Such a war will be fought with comparatively small, highly trained joint forces using mostly long-range, precision-strike weapons made available by the ongoing revolution in military technology.

The objective in such warfare is to defeat the enemy rapidly by inflicting strategic and operational paralysis through attacks on his weaknesses. In fact, it may be possible to defeat the enemy with one strike. This kind of war will not require annihilation of the enemy or physical occupation of his territory.

This multidimensional war will unfold in all dimensions (air, sea, ground, space, and the electromagnetic spectrum) simultaneously. Warfare in one dimension will integrate with that in the other dimensions. Forces will fight throughout the depth of the theater (a "full-depth strike"), and the battlefield will be extremely fluid and dynamic. Airpower and precision strike are now the primary means of conducting warfare, with ground operations secondary.16

This type of war, of course, represents a revolutionary change from the traditional PLA concept of Peoples War, which assumed a total war fought primarily by ground forces and a comprehensively mobilized population against an invading enemy seeking to destroy and occupy the PRC. At first glance, it would appear that this new war is tailor-made for air and space power, which can have a major impact by waging an independent air campaign against vital targets and supporting other arms of the military.17 Thus, one would reasonably expect the PLAAF to have a concept of air and space power that calls for such an air force and to restructure itself along the lines of the US Air Force (i.e., emphasizing all-weather offensive aircraft; precision-guided munitions; and sophisticated command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability). However, little evidence suggests that PLAAF military science thinks in these terms or that the PLAAF is building this kind of an organization. If anything, a massive disconnect seems to exist between what we might expect the PLAAF to do and what it is actually doing. Several likely explanations account for this situation.

For one, by assuming that the PLAAF would choose a course parallel to our own, we are mirror-imaging- that is, projecting our assumptions and thinking onto the PLAAFs. This practice proved dismally common and nearly disastrous during both the Cold War and, in fact, at times during our past dealings with the PRC.18 It is essential to remember that we are not dealing with Americans or, for that matter, Westerners. The PLAAFs aims are not necessarily the ones we would choose under similar circumstances (even if the PLAAFs aims were identical to ours, it might choose drastically different ways of pursuing them); its assumptions are not necessarily our assumptions; and its tactics and strategies are not necessarily the ones we might choose. We must remember that the PLAAFs history is not ours and, above all, that the circumstances it faces are profoundly different than those we face.

Beyond this explanation for the apparent disconnect, I suggest two others. The first is that local war under high-tech conditions is what some authors call aspirational doctrine.19 The second is that, at present, PLA military science, strategy, and procurement do not seek to wage a high-tech local war but to defeat an enemy who wages high-tech local war against them. These two explanations are not mutually exclusive.
Aspirational Doctrine

In aspirational doctrine, military theory is much more advanced than actual military technology and capability, and the concepts of a local war under high-technology conditions detail the kind of offensive war the PRC wants to be able to wage. Such doctrine does not necessarily suggest that the PRC can in fact fight such a war today. In this respect, Chinas military science bears a marked resemblance to Soviet doctrinal writings such as Marshal Sokolovskiys classic Soviet Military Strategy, which originally laid out an extremely ambitious strategy for fighting a nuclear war at a time when the USSR was only starting to deploy the capabilities necessary to fight such a war.20 One should note that the highest levels of the Chinese leadership have evidently recognized that at present the PRC cannot fight a high-tech local war.21

Preventing it from doing so are the PRCs geopolitical and historical circumstances, economic limitations, and technological limitations, as well as the legacy of its past military policies. Obviously, these factors have had- and continue to have- a profound impact on shaping the PLAAF and its military science. They constitute an enormously unfavorable legacy for the PLA and PLAAF and their military theory- one that will be difficult to overcome.

Geopolitical and Historical Circumstances

Historically for the Chinese, war has been a home game, fought on and over their territory; until recently, their military science has reflected this fact.22 In recent centuries, China has endured humiliation and partial dismemberment from invasion, and in recent decades it has largely been surrounded by states perceived as hostile or powerful or both. The PRCs strategic concepts and military strategy have reflected this situation by focusing on a Peoples War, mentioned above- a strategic, defensive war to defend the mainland from attack and invasion. China expected to wage a war of attrition designed to wear down and ultimately expel invading enemies. In this strategy, the PRCs ground army would be the preeminent service, supplemented by a comprehensively mobilized population. Power projection beyond Chinas borders was only a secondary concern, and any power projection would be by ground forces into adjacent territory. The air force played an even lesser role. In the conflict envisioned by Peoples War, the PLAAFs function was primarily defensive, with very limited offensive capability. China did not expect to use air and space power but did expect an enemy to do so. Indeed, the very name of the Chinese air force- the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force- speaks volumes in this regard. Clearly, China considered its air arm an extension of the army. Under such conditions, the PRC had no need for air and space power doctrine. Only recently has China, facing the challenge of local wars under high-technology conditions, reportedly granted the PLAAF an enhanced role. However, having a new role on paper does not equate to the ability to carry out that role. In many ways, the PLAAF now faces the worst of all worlds: it has a huge legacy force of obsolescent or obsolete equipment that was inadequate for the old strategy and that is utterly unsuited for the new one.

Economic Limitations

Chinas lack of wealth has severely restricted the resources available for military-related matters.23 Until fairly recently, the country spent much of its available military funds on infrastructure such as tunnel systems and the construction and dispersal of military industry to remote areas. Although economic reforms of the last 20 years have led to impressive (although often overstated) economic growth, the PRC still has neither a wealthy nor modern economy. Even partial replacement of the PLAs and PLAAFs antiquated equipment with modern assets suitable for major power projection would be enormously costly at best and ruinous at worst- undoubtedly one of the major reasons that the PLAAFs acquisition program for new equipment is proceeding so slowly.

Technological Limitations

Because of its poor and developing economy/ society, China has had only a very limited technology base to draw upon to support its military. Although the PRC has established an increasingly significant industrial base, its ability to support a technologically sophisticated military, let alone build one by itself, remains very much open to question. The countrys aviation-related military industry is limited, technologically backward, and inefficient.24 Most of the PLAAFs equipment, especially its aircraft and surface-to-air missiles (SAM), is based on Soviet designs of the 1950s and 1960s, such as F-6 and F-7 fighter aircraft, based on the MiG-19 and MiG-21, respectively, and the B-5 and B-6 bombers, based on the Il-28 light bomber and Tu-16 medium bomber, respectively. At best, these aircraft have only limited ability to operate at night, in bad weather, and in an electronic-countermeasures environment. Few are capable of using precision- guided munitions. Chinas attempts to design and build more sophisticated aircraft, such as the F-8, have met with limited success, as have its attempts to import, integrate, and maintain foreign technology.25 The PLAAF and PLA evidently have major programs aimed at developing high-technology weapons, but generally they are still in the technology-development phase- years (or decades) away from actual deployment.26
Campaign Theory of the

Clearly, the PLA and PLAAF have only an extremely limited ability to wage a high-tech local war at present, even against an enemy such as Taiwan, and any gains in capability are proceeding slowly.27 This situation suggests the second, probably more important, reason for Chinese military sciences adoption of this concept of war: It is the kind of war the PRC expects to have imposed upon it in any future conflict, especially one with the United States or a US-led alliance.28 Within the limits of the circumstances discussed earlier, China is preparing to try to survive and defeat this kind of war. Thus, it might be more accurate to say that the PLAAF does not have an air and space power doctrine so much as it has an antiair and space power doctrine.

At present, the national military strategy of the PRC calls for "active defense," which involves a nominal strategic defensive that uses offensive tactics, including preemptive war. In such a war, the PRC aims not necessarily to conquer enemy territory but to win decisively and coerce the enemy to change the particular policy that prompted the PRC to go to war in the first place.29 More than likely, the PRC will base its campaign strategy on three principles:

1. Using elite forces and sharp arms. The cutting edge will consist of "fist forces"- comparatively small, well-equipped, and highly trained elite joint forces.

2. Gaining the initiative by striking first. Evidently, the PRC is prepared to launch a war if diplomacy fails in a crisis. PLA preparations for such an attack emphasize a campaign of deception and disinformation to maximize the chances of surprising the enemy. Furthermore, the PLA seems prepared to launch a preemptive strike, preferably before enemy deployments are complete.

3. Fighting a quick, offensive battle to force a rapid, successful end to the war. A long war would likely prove both economically and militarily costly. Even more important, because any PLA superiority would probably be temporary, a long war would enable an enemy to recover, mobilize, reduce the PLA to a position of inferiority, and eventually defeat it.30

War-Zone Campaign

The PRC will likely structure the War-Zone or overall campaign as a joint effort aimed to integrate ground, naval, air, and special operations forces, as well as surface-to-surface missile forces of the II Artillery Corps, with service-based subsidiary campaigns functioning with relative autonomy within the campaign plan. Any PLAAF campaign would probably be subsidiary, but some writers theorize that it might serve as the primary campaign.31

PLAAF Air Campaign

The Military Region Air Force (MRAF) commander will direct aviation units assigned to the air campaign and have responsibility for coordinating with any other service units (e.g., II Artillery Corps, special operations forces, etc.) operating in support of the air campaign. The commanders purview will include the air defense campaign, the offensive air campaign, any air transport, and, presumably, any air support provided to other services, such as the ground forces and navy.32

Air Defense Campaign. Historically, the PLAAFs primary campaign entailed strategic air defense of the PRC mainland, especially the Beijing and Shanghai areas, with the air forces major arms (aviation, SAMs, and antiaircraft artillery) operating in parallel, not as parts of an integrated air defense system. It would provide defense in depth, with light screening forces located in a forward area and most forces concentrated close to key potential targets ("light front, heavy rear"). Strategic air defense remains the PLAAFs principal campaign; indeed, some authors suggest that, under some circumstances, it may be the wars only campaign.33 In fact, its importance is increasing, for three reasons:

1. In a local war under high-tech conditions, air and space power represents the major threat faced by the PRC. Air and space power has been central to all such wars fought since 1990.

2. The threat from air and space power is growing, a fact acknowledged by the PLAAF in its "three offenses and three defenses" training program.34

3. The PLAAFs legacy interceptor aircraft are suited only for short-range air defense missions, and most of its newer aircraft (F-7s and F-8s) face similar limitations. This situation is likely to change only very slowly as new aircraft enter the inventory.

The PRCs air defense campaign seeks to establish and maintain strategic air superiority over the War Zone by (1) achieving complete deterrence through denial (psychologically, the enemy becomes reluctant to attack because he expects any such attack to fail); (2) resisting attack by targeting hostile intelligence and surveillance platforms, as well as airborne warning and control system (AWACS) and jamming aircraft, with either long-range fighters or, preferably, long-range SAMs (resisting attack remains PLAAFs priority and will become an increasingly multidimensional activity with the integration of advanced surveillance systems); and (3) launching timely counterattacks against enemy air bases (PLAAF writers stress that a purely defensive air effort surrenders the initiative to the enemy and would likely guarantee defeat).35

Currently, the PLAAF is working to upgrade its extremely limited strategic air defense capabilities by deploying better equipment and developing an integrated (though probably rudimentary) air defense system, something it has lacked until very recently.36 However, modernization is proceeding slowly due to the relatively small number of Su-27s acquired thus far, either purchased from Russia or manufactured under license in China, and problems with other systems.37 The PLAAF is in the early stages of building an AWACS component through indigenous development and the leasing of aircraft from Russia after the United States vetoed a sale from Israel.38 Furthermore, it has just a few advanced SAMs (SA-10s purchased from Russia) although this situation may change if and when it initiates major deployments of FT-2000s.39 Overall, the PLAAFs limited means of projecting airpower, whether for timely counterattacks or any other reason, renders its ability to conduct an air defense campaign largely aspirational.

Offensive Air Campaign. This campaign seeks to maximize enemy weaknesses by "moving the battlefield as far as possible toward the enemys side" and forcing the enemy to fight on the defensive at Chinas initiative.40 It intends to exploit air and space powers advantages of initiative, versatility, and suddenness. The campaign can either stand alone as an independent air force effort or, far more likely, become part of an integrated joint campaign of surface-to-surface missiles, special operations forces, electronic and information strikes, and attacks by aircraft. The PRC could aim such a campaign at either strategic-level or campaign-level enemy target systems. The former includes political and economic systems, transportation and lines of communication, and supply and mobilization targets that will have strategic-level effects. The latter encompasses air defenses, air bases, and aircraft carriers (damage to or destruction of such targets can influence events in the War Zone).41

Historically, the PLAAF has not considered offensive attack a major mission since it has no capability for conducting strategic intercontinental air attack and extremely limited means for either a strategic- or campaign-level offensive in a local war- a situation subject to gradual change at best.42 Most of the PLAAFs current aircraft might prove useful only as a sacrificial first wave to soak up the defensive armaments of targets attacked in an offensive campaign; as mentioned earlier, its aircraft have little or no capability to operate at night, in bad weather, and in an electronic-countermeasures environment- and the greater part of the B-5/B-6 bomber force is obsolete.43 Furthermore, few, if any, of its aircraft can use precision-guided munitions against land targets; it has only a modest force of fighter aircraft (Su-27s) with the capability (not to mention the range) to conduct air-to-air offensive counterair; and, aside from the Su-30s coming from Russia, the PLAAF lacks the aircraft and specialized munitions necessary for airfield attack and suppression/ destruction of enemy air defenses.44 Thus, the Chinese air force will likely find itself relegated to nothing more than a supporting role in any offensive campaign, with the major burden carried by missiles of II Artillery Corps and by information warfare, for which the Chinese have vast enthusiasm.45 If the conflict should expand to intercontinental ranges, the PLAAF would probably have no role at all.

Direct Support of Ground Units. The PLAAF has a record of scant participation in close air support, battlefield air interdiction, and interdiction, and shows no signs of improvement in the foreseeable future. Interestingly, it evidently does not consider this mission a separate campaign. Although the PLAAF has a substantial force of attack aircraft, they are not equipped- nor are their crews trained- for direct support of ground units; nor is the PLAAF organized and equipped to function in support of a highly dynamic surface war of maneuver.46 Evidently, the air force has never successfully carried out direct support, preferring to provide indirect support by attacking targets in the enemys rear area, such as air defenses, campaign reserve forces, logistics support, communications, and helicopters.47 The PLAAF shows no sign of initiating major efforts to improve its capabilities in this area.
Conclusions and Implications

PLA military sciences concept of high-technology local wars gives the army an accurate assessment of the military environment it faces in the early twenty-first century in the form of challenges from either a local enemy or a "powerful country" such as the United States. The PLAs strategy of relying on surface-to-surface missiles, fist forces, and asymmetric warfare, while gradually modernizing its massive and obsolete military, is reasonably sound so long as it deals with an isolated Taiwan; over time the strategy may provide plausible capability to coerce or overwhelm Taiwan, so long as the United States does not intervene. But it does not provide plausible capability to defeat or even deter the United States at any time in the foreseeable future.

The situation is even worse for the PLAAF, which wishes (1) to move from the primarily defensive strategy and force structure of the past to one that combines offensive and defensive elements and (2) to initiate a qualitative transformation that reflects the ongoing revolution in military technology. In theory these wishes make reasonable sense. At present, however, they remain an aspirational concept that exists largely on paper. The PLAAF has moved very slowly to build the force it requires: out of a force of approximately 2,500 combat aircraft, fewer than 150 can be considered modern, and that number is increasing by fewer than 50 a year- with no sign of accelerating the acquisition process. The air force has not taken the obvious interim step of upgrading the capabilities of existing aircraft (e.g., by adding modern missiles, especially standoff weapons, and improved electronics). Nor has it taken more than preliminary steps toward making the qualitative improvements in organization, training, and tactics that have proved so central to the success of American air and space power. Finally, the PLAAF has not undertaken a major effort to build the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities it will need if only to partially duplicate American capabilities.

The PLAAFs military science, force structure, and acquisition make considerable sense if it is not expecting a conflict with the United States within the next 20 years. But the unsettled status of Taiwan makes that assumption uncertain at best. Against a major American effort, the PLAAF fundamentally would remain in the same position it found itself after Operation Desert Storm: incapable of either effective offense or defense- and its current efforts will not change that status in the foreseeable future. In fact, in all likelihood the United States is widening its lead and will do so even more rapidly as it deploys new capabilities, such as the F/A-22.

Chinese military science and strategy for a war with the United States over Taiwan call for defeating the island rapidly and presenting America with a fait accompli before it can intervene. Chinas published writings are extremely vague as to what it intends to do if its first effort does not succeed and a million tons of US diplomacy come roaring across the Pacific at flank speed and/or the speed of sound before Chinese forces have won. It seems that China hopes the United States will not be willing to endure the casualties and costs of a major war, but in that hope may lie an immense potential for danger. Such a mind-set has ominous parallels to the wishful thinking of the leadership of the Hirohito Shogunate before Pearl Harbor. The Japanese felt that they could rapidly overrun the western Pacific and that the soft, materialistic United States would not have the stomach for a long and bloody war. Three and a half years later, their country in ruins, they surrendered unconditionally. However, it is difficult to conceive of a nuclear-armed China surrendering on the aft deck of the USS Ronald Reagan.

Chinese Weaponry In The Early 21st Century

Chinese Weaponry In The Early 21st Century

The continuing weakness of China's armaments industry has profound implications for China's diplomacy, grand strategy and choice of conflicts it would be prepared to undertake for many years to come.

First, this weakness puts Russia in the driver's seat of the Russian-Chinese alliance. Although never formalized as such, this alliance has been a reality ever since both nations formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on June 15, 2001, with the residents of four former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

China therefore looks certain to remain dependent upon Russia for years, possibly decades to come, for two crucial staples of great power status: enough oil and gas to keep its rapidly growing industries operating; and the modern, rugged, state-of-the-art weapons, especially for ground forces and for the rapid overseas projection of military power, that China still cannot produce.

If the European Union finally loosens its sanctions on China, European high-tech weapons manufacturers may expect a floodtide of orders. China may order some German Dolphin submarines of the kind Israel operates to make itself less dependent on Russian-built Kilo subs. It may wish to buy French Scorpion submarines as well, but France may not want to endanger the growing demand for such submarines in India by selling to China, too. Companies like Britain's BAE Systems may be on the receiving end of major Chinese orders too, but BAE in particular is so dependent upon the U.S. government and armed forces for its sales that it may well be reluctant to make such a deal for fear of alienating Washington.

China remains especially dependent on Russian goodwill to buy Main Battle Tanks, multiple launch rocket systems and robust armored personnel carriers. If Russia continues in its refusal to sell such advanced systems to China, and if Sino-American relations do not dramatically and unexpectedly warm up in the near future, then China will remain weak in the deployment of large land forces against its immediate neighbors. This vulnerability will force China to seek continued good relations with Russia and defuse tensions with India and, indeed, these are exactly the developments we have seen over the past few years.

By contrast, China remains confident and aggressive in pushing its interests and expanding its naval and air presence in the South China Sea, in Southeast Asia and in the Indian Ocean. It is also moving energetically to secure its claim to the oil-rich region of the Spratly Islands, despite the strong opposition of Japan and Vietnam in particular.

Of course, this is in large part dictated by China's need to protect its long and vulnerable oil supply lines from the Middle East. But it is also a reflection of the current and probable procurement strengths and weaknesses of the Chinese armed forces.

China has an excellent air force with a large number of relatively low-tech but still formidable Sukhoi and Sukhoi-type interceptors and fighter-bombers, and it has expanded its navy with its own submarines, Russian-built Kilo diesel subs and four Russian-built Sovremenny destroyers with powerful anti-ship ballistic missile firepower.

Therefore, while the continuing structural weakness of the Chinese arms industry has shaped Beijing's broader strategy, it has not prevented the Chinese government from focusing on its armed forces' existing and growing strengths in shaping it.

Ironically, this appears to have been Russia's aim, too. Russian policy has not been to ignore or impose China's rise to superpower status on the Eurasian landmass, but to constructively engage China and try to direct Chinese expansion into directions that do not threaten Russia and that are compatible with Russia's own strategic goals. The continuing strength of the Russian armaments industry and China's continued need for the output of the Russian military-industrial complex have played a key role in allowing the Kremlin to successful prosecute this policy.

Friday 24 April 2009

How China Loses the Coming Space War (Pt. 3)

If China was to attack the strategically important deep-space satellites it would give the United States at least an indication of the impending attack two or more weeks prior to launch as it assembled its Long March rockets on their launch pads. There could be few other reasons for China to assemble so many rockets at its satellite launch centers for near-simultaneous launches. The US could, if it wished to initiate hostilities, destroy the rockets before they were launched using either stealth bombers or cruise missiles. Alternatively, it could wait and use its National Missile Defense interceptorswhich have an inherent ASAT capabilityto shoot down the first group of deep space ASATs as they wait for D-day in their parking orbit.

Once on their final trajectory, however, there is little or nothing the US could do to prevent them from striking their targets. It would be impossible, for instance, to move the targeted satellites out of the way in the final moments before the collision. The Chinese ASATs are known to be capable of very high speed maneuvers and trying to move a GPS or communications satellite to avoid a collision would require such dramatic changes in velocity as to shear off their solar cell panels and antennas. Having protector satellites in orbit near strategically important targets would also be counter productive. If such protectors raced out and destroyed an approaching ASAT they would simply create a shotgun blast of debris that would continue to circle the Earth and would every twelve (if attacking a GPS satellite) or 24 hours (for a communications satellite as the target) have another chance of colliding with its target. Time, in this case, is very much on the side of the attacker.Since China doesn't have enough deep-space ASATs to stop communications -- or even prevent GPS being used during most hours of the day -- Beijing might not even attempt to attack those targets. Which means the United States wouldn't have much of warning, to prepare for the onslaught. In that case, it is almost certain that China could destroy a number of surveillance and signals intelligence satellites in low Earth orbit before the US could take action.

If we assume that the US chain of command takes an hour, due to bureaucratic inertia, to react, China could destroy a total of nine such satellites before the US responds in the specific case examined here. This includes two out of the three functioning Keyhole high resolution photo-reconnaissance satellites, one of the three Lacrosse signals intelligence satellites in orbit, and six of the 15 NOSS satellites that the Navy uses to locate enemy ships at sea. This represents billions of dollars lost and, more important, a large fraction of the US space assets in low Earth orbit that could have been used in the subsequent conflict.

At that point, however, the United States could effectively stop Chinas attack simply by changing the remaining satellites orbital speeds by as little as 200 mph (they are typically moving at over 16,500 mph). This very small change will have a large effect in the position of the satellite the next time it crosses over China; effectively putting the satellite out of range of the pre-positioned ASAT launcher. This is not an excessive change in speed and, unless the satellite is very close to the end of its operational life, is well within the capability of its onboard fuel supply. Furthermore, it does not have to change its speed very rapidly the way a deep-space satellite would have to in order to avoid collision in its final moments. Instead, this relatively small velocity change has tens of minutes or even hours to change the position of the satellite before the next time it crosses over China. During this time, it is steadily moving away from its original position so that it could be hundreds of miles from where China thought it was going to be.

While it is possible that the pre-positioned ASAT missiles could still reach their target even after it had changed, they would not know where, exactly, to aim the missile. Instead, they would have to perform a radar search for the satellite in an ever expanding volume of space. This volume quickly becomes too large for even the most powerful of mobile radars. In fact, it would take a fairly large (perhaps 50 feet in diameter) to detect the satellite during its next pass and China does not have a lot of those radars. So most, if not all, of the satellites remaining after the first hour would be safe for the next 24. During that time, the United States could try to destroy all of Chinas fixed radars that are capable of tracking the satellites in their new orbits. (In other words, it does not matter how many additional ASATs China has to shoot at low Earth orbit satellites; a very different circumstance than the deep-space ASATs.)

This might, however, prove difficult; especially those facilities in the center of China that are out of reach of Tomahawk cruise missiles. Currently, only B-2 bombers could reach those sites with any chance of success and timing might prove difficult if they need to transit other countries during night time. A Global Strike capability, such as a conventionally armed Trident missile, might ease this task. Of course, even if all the radars are destroyed, China could still use optical telescopes to determine the new positions of the satellites but these methods are too slow to be used for aiming the ASAT missiles. And even then, China would have to spend days repositioning its mobile ASAT launchers, a task that would probably take several days and would extend the time the US could use for hunting down and destroying Chinese assets.

The short-term military consequences of an all attack by China on US space assets are limited, at most. Even under the worst-case scenario, China could only reduce the use of precision-guided munitions or satellite communications into and out of the theater of operations. They would not be stopped. China could destroy a large fraction of strategic intelligence gathering capabilities; but not all of it. With a greater than normal expenditure of fuel, the remaining US spy satellites could continue to survive their crosses over China and photograph Chinese troop movements, harbors, and strategic forces but, of course, at a reduced rate. The war would, however, quickly move into a tactical phase where the US gathers most of its operational photographs using airplanes, instead of satellites. US ships and unmanned vehicles might, theoretically, have difficulty coordinating, during certain hours of the day. Most of the time, they would be free to function normally. Chinas space strike would fail to achieve its war aims even if the United States failed to respond in any way other than moving its low Earth orbit satellites.

When it warned of a space Pearl Harbor, the Rumsfeld space commission was afraid that a lesser power could launch a surprise attack that would wipe out key US strategic assets and render the US impotent. This is what Japan tried, but failed, to do at the start of World War II. And much like Japans failure to destroy the US carrier fleet, a Chinese attack on US satellites would fail to cripple our military, Chinas strategic goal in launching a space war.

But if the short term military consequences to the United States are not that bad, the long term consequences to all space-faring nations would be devastating. The destruction of the nine satellites hit during the first hour of the attack considered here could put over 18,900 new pieces of debris over four inches in diameter into the most populated belt of satellites in low Earth orbit. Even more debris would be put into geostationary orbit if China launched an attack against communications satellites. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the debris from each satellite would continue to clump together, much as the debris from last years test. However, over the next year or sowell after the terrestrial war with China had been resolvedthe debris fields would fan out and eventually strike another satellite.

These debris fields could easily cause a run-away chain of collisions that renders space unusable -- for thousands of years, and for everyone. Not only is this a quickly growing and important sector of the worlds economy (sales of GPS receivers alone reportedly exceeds $20 billion annually), but space is also used for humanitarian missions such as forecasting floods in Bangladesh or droughts in Africa. We cannot allow space to be forever barred to our use for what turns out to be a very minor military advantage. If the military utility of attacks in space are so minor; if the active defense of space assets is impractical, counterproductive, and unnecessary; and if the danger resulting from the consequent debris affects all space-faring nations for thousands of years to come, it is clear that diplomacy is in every country's interest.

The first step the United States should take is a simple declaration that we guarantee the continued flow of information to any country whose satellite is destroyed by an ASAT. We could do this using either our military or civilian-owned satellites. After all, if the space assets of the United States are not vulnerable to attacks because of the inherent redundancy, the same cannot be said of Chinas other potential regional competitors such as Australia, India, or Japan. Each of these countries has only a handful of satellites that could be quickly destroyed if China chooses to attack them. This declaration would effectively eliminate any military advantage that a country might get from attacking its neighbors limited fleet of satellites. After that, we should adopt the code of conduct that is being developed by the Stimson Center that establishes rules of the road for responsible space-faring nations. Finally, we should work toward a treaty banning the future testing of these most dangerous of anti-satellite weapons: the so-called "kinetic kill interceptors" that create such large amounts of debris. It'd be a first step towards containing the worst effects on war in space.

How China Loses the Coming Space War (Pt. 2)

If China and the US are going to come into armed conflict with each other in the next several decades, it will almost certainly be over the status of Taiwan. China has, for instance, indicated that it would be willing to use force if Taiwan took steps to formalize its independence from the main land or otherwise prevent its eventual reunification under the rule of the Peoples Republic. In such a scenario, it is entirely likely China could consider trying to negate or drastically reduce the US ability to use space at a tactical level.
But China could not launch the massive attack required to have anything like a significant effect on US ability to utilize space without months of careful planning and pre-positioning of special, ASAT carrying missiles around the country. It would also have to utilize its satellite launch facilities to attack any US assets in deep space: the GPS navigation satellites and communications satellites in geostationary orbit. Most importantly, it would have to time the attack so as to hit as many US satellites as simultaneously as possible. And, despite all that movement, Beijing would somehow have to keep the whole thing secret. Failure to do so would undoubtedly result in the US attacking the large, fixed facilities China needs to wage this kind of war before the full blow had been struck. Even if the United States failed to do so, China would undoubtedly plan for that contingency.

Based on the orbits of US military satellites determined by the worldwide network of amateur observers, there appears to be a large number of low Earth orbit military satellites over China several times each week. To hit them, China would have to preposition its ASAT-tipped missiles and their mobile launchers in remote areas of China, one position for each satellite. (If reports of low reliabilities for these missiles are correct, two or more missiles might be assigned to each satellite.) Furthermore, these positions are really only suitable for a particular day. If Chinas political and military planners have any uncertainty at all about which day to launch their space war, they would need to pre-position additional launchers around the country. Thus, attacking nine low Earth orbit satellites could require as many as 36 mobile launchersenough for two interceptors fired at each satellite with a contingency day if plans changemoved to remote areas of China; areas determined more by the satellite orbits than Chinas network of road. (As will be discussed below, nine is about the maximum they could reasonably expect to hit on the first day of the space war.)

Xslc_launch_pads At the same time that China would be trying to covertly move its mobile missile launchers around the country, it would also have to assemble a fleet of large rockets -- ones normally used for launching satellites. The more large rockets China uses for this task, the more deep-space satellites it can destroy. At present, however, China only has the facilities for assembling and launching a total for four such rockets nearly simultaneously. Two would have to be assembled out in the open where they could be observed by US spy satellites and two could be assembled inside a vertical assembly building during the 18 days it takes to stack and fuel the Long March rockets stages while preparing to launch. [See right.] Even the two assembled indoors would need to arrive by train and eventually would have to be moved, one after the other, to the launch pad. Each of these rockets, usually reserved for launching satellites into geostationary orbits, could carry three to four interceptors and their special orbital maneuver motors to attack either US navigation satellites, at about 12,000 miles altitude, or communications satellites at about 22,000 miles.

Four days prior to the attack, China would launch the first of its Long March rockets carrying deep-space attack ASATs; the same launch pad would have to be used for the second rocket stacked inside the vertical assembly building. As the technicians renovated that pad, the first rockets payload would circle the Earth in a parking orbit at about 200 miles altitude waiting to be joined by the other deep-space ASATs. This would appear to be a tell-tale sign of an impending strike. But China could explain the delay to the international community by claiming that the third stage, intended to take the payload it its final altitude, had failed to fire and that they were working on it. Roughly six hours before the first the attack on the USs low Earth orbit military satellites, the other three Long March rockets would have to be fired since it takes roughly that long to get their payloads up to their targets orbits. Delays or failures to launch any of these rockets would strand their interceptors on the launch pad and subject them to possible retaliatory bombing by the US.

If all goes as planned, China would have launched between 12 and 16 ASATs, each capable of destroying a strategically important deep-space satellite. However, the United States military has many, many more deep space satellites. There are, as of December 2007, 32 functioning GPS navigation satellites even though the original design calls for only 24. [See above, left] In addition, the US has 23 military communications satellites, six early warning satellites that observe missile launches, and six surveillance satellitesmost of which detect and monitor electronic transmissions of potential adversaries but one, apparently capable of photo-reconnaissancein geostationary orbit. These satellites are reinforced by a private network of 90 commercial communications satellites, owned and operated by US corporations, that presumably could be used to replace destroyed military communications satellites. (Eighty-four percent of the space communications to military forces in the Iraqi theater of operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom used commercial satellites.) On top of that, there are 75 civilian and the 64 military/civilian communications satellites in low Earth orbit although they do not have the same transmission capacity as the geostationary satellites. The United States may be the country most dependent on space for its military activities. But it is also the least vulnerable, because of the tremendous redundancy of its space assets.

Of course, China does not have to destroy all these satellites to seriously hamper US military efforts in the Taiwan Straits. It would only have to destroy those satellites that have a direct line of sight to the conflict: this includes eight military and 22 US civilian communications satellites in geostationary orbits. Nevertheless, China would have to choose between attempts to destroy the satellites that guide US precision guided bombs and those satellites which relay the orders to drop those bombs. It simply cannot launch enough ASATs to destroy both systems.

But does China have enough to wipe out even a single set of American satellites? Lets examine the possibilities:

Attacking Navigation Satellites
You need a launch pad to attack a target in deep space, like an American GPS satellite. China has just three of these pads. This really restricts Chinas offensive capabilities in space. Assuming that China devotes all its deep-space ASATs on GPS satellites, it could destroy at most 16 satellites. At the current time, with 32 functioning navigation satellites, that would still leave 16 satellites still working. Over a period of years, the debris from those collisions would represent a significant threat to more than those satellites immediately attacked. They would pass, time and time again, through the belts of debris that resulted from the interceptions. However, it would probably take longer than the military conflict China initiated with these attacks before additional satellites were destroyed by subsequent collisions.

Usually, there are about nine GPS satellites over China at any given time. If China somehow managed to destroy all of these, it could eliminate America's use of precision-guided munitionsfor a few hours, until the orbits of other GPS satellites take them over the Taiwan Straits. Quite quickly, the constellations other 23 satellites would fill in the gap due to their normal orbital movement. Even if it destroyed 16 satellites, China could still only interrupt GPS over the Straits for about eight hours. During the other 16 hours there would be the four or more satellites present over the target area for bombing runs, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights, and ship tracking. This pattern of eight hours off followed by 16 hours when GPS could be used would be repeated every day until new satellites are launched. This outage would certainly cause difficulties; GPS not only guides American precision bombs it helps pilot UAV spy planes, and monitor ships. US casualties might increase , with air crews forced to fly missions during daylight hours and conduct some of the "dull, dirty, and dangerous" missions now flown by robotic planes. It's a situation no American commander would want to face. But it would not be a catastrophic one. And it would not eliminate precision weaponry, UAVs, or any other American activity that depends on GPS.

Keep in mind, this is the worst of the worst-case scenarios. It is highly unlikely that China could remove all the satellites over the conflict area at the same time. After all, attacking 16 satellites, all in different orbits with ASATs launched on just four different rockets involves some fairly complex orbital maneuvers. A much more likely scenario is that, at best, China could destroy four GPS satellites in the initial wave followed roughly seven hours later by four more, a third wave at roughly 45 minutes after that, and the final wave two hours later. Thus, the GPS attack is spread over ten hours and never eliminates all the satellites visible over the area of conflict at the same time. This Chinese attack on US navigation satellites would not eliminate or even significantly degrade the USs ability use precision-guided munitions..

Attacking Communications Satellites
While it is possible for China to eliminate the eight US military communications satellites in geostationary orbits that can broadcast to the Taiwan Straits, Beijing does not have enough the lauch capacity for as many ASATs as it would take to eliminate all 22 civilian communications satellites that could also be used. However, not all of these satellites have equal capacities for transmitting information; it might be possible for China to destroy enough of that capacity to limit the US military.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, US armed forces sent and received a tremendous amount of information via satellite. This included video conferencing between the Pentagon and the commanders in the field, satellite photographs downloaded to operations planners, orders directing jets where to drop their bombs, and soldiers emailing their families back home. At its peak, all of this added up to about three billion bits per second, a tremendous amount of information. Bandwidth was and continues to be a premium on the battlfield, particularly at the tactical level. And the appetite for information is only increasing. But the total amount of information transmitted over satellites is certain to increase by the next time we go to war; perhaps it could triple or even quadruple to twelve billion bits per second in the next ten years.

Assuming that the eight military communications satellites are destroyed first, that leaves at most eight ASATs to destroy the eight most capable civilian communications satellites. If these eight are removed, then there is still a total capacity of over 14 billion bits per second in US owned and operated civilian communications satellites. Thus, there should be enough transmission capacity for our military -- even if the demand for satellite communications increases by a factor of four. And the US military is used to using civilian satellites, as the 2003 invasion of Iraq showed. The vast majority (84%) of all military communications into and out of the theater of operations went through civilian satellites.

Attacking Early Warning Satellites
The United States has five satellites in geostationary orbit that detect missile launches using the heat released from their exhaust plumes. These satellites are primarily used to alert US nuclear forces to massive nuclear attacks on the homeland. However, in recent years, they have played an increasing role in conventional conflicts, such as both Gulf Wars, by cueing tactical missile defenses like the Patriot missile defense systems that gained fame in their engagements with Saddams SCUD missiles. Because of this new use, China might find it useful to attack them with ASATs. Since there are only five of them, China could destroy the entire constellation but at the cost of diverting some of the few available deep-space ASATs from other targets. Of course, China would not have to attack all five but could limit its attack to the three that simultaneously view the Taiwan Straits area.

If China did decide to destroy these early warning satellites, it would greatly reduce the area covered by US missile defenses in Taiwan against SCUD and longer range missiles. This is because the area covered by a theater missile defense system is highly dependent on the warning time it has; the greater the warning time, the more effective the missile defense systems radar is. Thus a Patriot battery, which might ordinarily cover the capital of Taiwan, could be reduced to just defending the military base it was stationed at. Some analysts believe that China would gain a tremendous propaganda coup by having a single missile make it through US defenses and thus might consider this use of its deep-space ASATs highly worthwhile even if it could not increase the probability of destroying military targets. On the other hand, China would run a tremendous risk of the US believing it was under a more general nuclear attack if China did destroy these early warning satellites.

Throughout the history of the Cold War, the US has had a policy of only launching a retaliatory nuclear strike if an incoming attack is detected by both early warning satellites and radars. Without the space leg of the early warning system, the odds of the US misinterpreting some missile launch that it detected with radar as a nuclear attack would be greatly increased even if the US did not view the satellite destruction as a sufficiently threatening attack all by themselves. Such a misinterpretation is not without precedent. In 1995, Russias early warning radars viewed a NASA sounding rocket launch off the coast of Norway and flagged it as a possible Trident missile launch. Many analysts believe that Russia was able to not respond only because it had a constellation of functioning early warning satellites. Any Chinese attacks on US early warning satellites would risk both intentional and mistaken escalation of the conflict into a nuclear war without a clear military goal.

Attacking Low Altitude Satellites
China would launch its first attack against a US electronic intelligence satellite in low Earth orbit minutes before the first wave of deep space ASATs hit their targets. The same type of ASAT used to target the deep-space satellites could also be launched on short range missiles from Transporter-Erector-Launchers (TELs). These are 22-wheeled vehicles that look very similar to tanker trucks. They're more sophisticated than the mobile launchers that Saddam used during the first Gulf War to launch SCUDs toward Israel and Saudi Arabia but would be no easier to find and destroy.

The exact order of attacks will depend upon the specific day and hour chosen but a typical attack might involve a first launch against a Lacrosse signals intelligence satellite followed within seconds by another, this time against a Keyhole 11 high-resolution spy satellite. Moments later, three ASATs would be launched against small groups of three NOSS satellites that the Navy uses to locate an adversarys ships at sea. These travel around the Earth in closely spaced groups of either two or three satellites and triangulate on the radio signals emitted by warships. During a span of about twenty minutes, China could attack and destroy a total of nine US military satellites in the scenario considered here. Inevitably, however, there would eventually be a lull in satellite crossings because of the random clumpings of satellites along their orbits.

If the United States does nothing to protect itself, such as change the orbits of its lower altitude satellites, China could continue to shoot down military satellites as they come over the horizon using pre-positioned ASATs. It is highly unlikely, however, that the United Sates would simply roll over while these attacks took place. Even today, with no formal satellite defenses, we could be fairly effective at stopping the destruction of our satellites.

Nevertheless, the loss of those satellites that were destroyed would be significant. It would increase the revisit times between spy satellites, which might not matter so much for reconnaissance satellites in a tactical setting. The loss of a significant fraction of the Navys enemy ship surveillance system, however, might be more important in battles around the Taiwan Straits. Without timely determination of enemy locations, the US would have to increase the number of aircraft devoted to scouting -- and subsequently
decrease the number of combat missions -- as these planes are diverted.

How China Loses the Coming Space War (Pt. 1)

A year ago to the day, China knocked a weather satellite out of orbit, and threw the international community into panic. Some figured the satellite-killer test was the harbinger of a future war in space -- the kind of conflict that could cripple a tech-dependent United States military. Geoffrey Forden, PhD -- an MIT research associate and a former UN weapons inspector and strategic weapons analyst at the Congressional Budget Office -- examines the possibilities of an all-out Chinese assault on American satellites. This is part one. Click for parts two and three.

High above Asia, as the bars and clubs of Beijing begin to fill up at the end of another work day, a US early warning satellite spots the tell-tale plume of a missile streaking out of the wastes of Western China. Warning bells sound all through the Pentagon. Tensions have been running high between China and the United States, as the two countries struggle to resolve the latest installment of the Taiwanese crisis. And China has had a run of unprecedented activity in space: the past two days have seen China launch four large missions into deep space, three within the last six hours.. Fortunately, a high-resolution American spy satellite will be over that second launch site within minutes, giving the US a unique ability to determine what is going on. But even though tasking orders are given to photograph the suspected launch site, none are returned. The satellite, code-named Crystal 3, no longer responds to commands. Within minutes, US Space Command reports that four NAVSTAR/GPS satellitesused to guide American drones and precision bombshave stopped broadcasting. Chinas space war against the United States has started.


For years, the American armed forces have worried about an attack on US satellites; this could be how it begins. The United States military has become increasingly dependent on space. It uses photo-reconnaissance satellites to observe potential adversaries, GPS satellites to guide munitions with pin-point accuracy, communications satellites to handle the flow of information into and out of a theater of operations, and early warning satellites to detect and track enemy missile launches to name just a few of the better known applications. Because of this increasing dependence, many analysts have worried that the US is most vulnerable to asymmetric attacks against its space assets; in their view US satellites are sitting ducks without any sort of defense and their destruction would cripple the US military. Chinas test of a sophisticated anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon a year ago, Friday -- 11 January 2007, when it shot down its own obsolete weather satellite -- has only increased these concerns. But is this true? Could a countryeven a powerful country like China that has demonstrated a very sophisticated, if nascent, ability to shoot down satellites at all altitudesinflict anything close to a knock-out blow against the US in space? And if it was anything less than a knock-out, how seriously would it affect US war fighting capabilities?

The answers to these questions should influence how the US responds to the threats Chinas ASAT represents. There is at least one way to answer these questions: war-gaming a massive Chinese attack on US satellites, where China is only limited by the laws of physics and the known properties of their ASAT, and see how much damage could be done. Such an exercise also reveals what the US could do, and what it could not do, to minimize the consequences. The results of my calculations are reported here. They assume that China launches a massive attack and that everything works exactly as planned: every ASAT launches, the US does not respond until after the attacks are launched even though it will have overwhelming evidence ahead of time, and every ASAT hits its target. Thus, this is a worst case scenario for the United States. In the end, we'll show, the US would still has sufficient space assets to fight a major conventional war with China, even after such an attack. America's military capabilities would be reduced, for a few hours at a time. But they would not be crippled. Back in 2001, a commission lead by Donald Rumsfeld warned of a "space Pearl Harbor," a single strike that could cripple America's satellite network. It turns out, there is no such thing.

Let's start with what we know about China's ASAT capabilities today. And we know quite a bit. Because there are few, if any, secrets in space. Amateurs around the world track most, if not all, of the classified US military satellites from their backyards, posting their positions on the internet. NORAD,is capable of tracking objects as small as four inches across. In fact, NORAD's measurements of the debris caused by Chinas January 2007 test were posted on the web. In the case of the Chinese test, the orbital tracks of that debris can be used to reveal the capabilities and limitations of Chinas ASAT weapon by reconstructing the collision -- much like forensic scientists reconstruct a crime scene. By backtracking the debris to the point where they all converge, we can determine the two most important aspects of the Chinese ASAT: how China destroyed that satellite, and just how capable its satellite-killer really is.

The interception was almost head on at a combined speed of almost 18,000 miles per hour. The pieces of debris wound up with the greatest speedsmuch higher than the original satellite. This means that China accomplished the most sophisticated of space maneuvers: a hit-to-kill interception, the equivalent of hitting a bullet with a bullet. This is equivalent to what the US is trying to develop in its national missile defense system and is much more sophisticated than the ASAT the Soviet Union was working in the 1980s: little more than a space mine that slowly snuck up on its target and detonated near by.

We also know that the ASAT was highly maneuverable. Yes, the target satellites orbit was known well ahead of the interception. However, that does not mean that the satellites position was known well enough that the ASAT did not need to steer itself to hit the target. In fact, it is very likely that the interceptor needed to maneuver at high speeds, perhaps as much as six times the acceleration of gravity, to hit its target.

The orbital speed of the target satellite, which is determined by its altitude, also provides us with significant insight into the interceptors capability. The closing speed of the interception, which is a combination of the target satellites orbital speed and the speed of the interceptor, determines how much time is available to make final adjustments. For instance, just one second before the collision on January 11th, the interceptor and target were five miles apart. During that one second, the interceptor had to make any final adjustments to its trajectory to hit a target smaller than six feet across. Any decrease in the closing speed makes the attack that much easier. Since orbital speeds decrease with increasing altitudes, the Chinese interceptor would find it considerably easier to hit a target in higher orbit.

Finally, the interceptor needed to track its target, so that it could determine where it should move to place itself in front of the obsolete weather satellite; we have a good sense of how that was done, too. The most likely method it employed to track the oncoming satellite was an on-board telescope using visible light. Locking onto a target this way -- as opposed to focusing on the infrared light emitted by the heat of the target, the way the US missile defense interceptor does -- imposes significant limitations on the system. In particular, until it develops a far-infrared capability, which is probably decades away, its ASAT will be forced to attack satellites while they are in bright sunlight. Indeed, even though the site from which the interceptor was launched was cloaked in darkness, the target satellite was high enough to be brightly illuminated by the sun. Until China does develop better sensors, this imposes a very severe constraint on how and when it could attack other satellites: it must wait to attack low Earth orbit satellites when they are in bright sunshine. Attacks against satellites in significantly higher orbits, such as GPS or geostationary satellites, are less constrained by this requirement since they are almost always in direct sunlight.

China has informally stated a number of times that it will never do this again. But after having paid a very high price for testing the system once, both in resources and in political capital, it seems unlikely that they would abandon it altogether. Fortunately for China, it can continue to develop the systemincluding its on board tracking, guidance, and control systemsin the guise of a missile defense system. Such interceptions could be arranged at similar, or even greater, closing speeds as the January 2007 test. Only now, China could arrange to have both the target and the interceptor collide when they are both in downward portions of their trajectories, much like the US does during its missile defense tests. That way, they can test their system again without creating orbital debris that might harm their own and other nations satellites.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Chinese Develop Special "Kill Weapon" to Destroy U.S. Aircraft Carriers

Chinese Develop Special "Kill Weapon" to Destroy U.S. Aircraft Carriers
Advanced missile poses substantial new threat for U.S. Navy
With tensions already rising due to the Chinese navy becoming more aggressive in asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy seems to have yet another reason to be deeply concerned.

After years of conjecture, details have begun to emerge of a "kill weapon" developed by the Chinese to target and destroy U.S. aircraft carriers.
First posted on a Chinese blog viewed as credible by military analysts and then translated by the naval affairs blog , a recent report provides a description of an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) that can strike carriers and other U.S. vessels at a range of 2000km.
The range of the modified Dong Feng 21 missile is significant in that it covers the areas that are likely hot zones for future confrontations between U.S. and Chinese surface forces.

The size of the missile enables it to carry a warhead big enough to inflict significant damage on a large vessel, providing the Chinese the capability of destroying a U.S. supercarrier in one strike.

Because the missile employs a complex guidance system, low radar signature and a maneuverability that makes its flight path unpredictable, the odds that it can evade tracking systems to reach its target are increased. It is estimated that the missile can travel at mach 10 and reach its maximum range of 2000km in less than 12 minutes.

Supporting the missile is a network of satellites, radar and unmanned aerial vehicles that can locate U.S. ships and then guide the weapon, enabling it to hit moving targets.
While the ASBM has been a topic of discussion within national defense circles for quite some time, the fact that information is now coming from Chinese sources indicates that the weapon system is operational. The Chinese rarely mention weapons projects unless they are well beyond the test stages.

If operational as is believed, the system marks the first time a ballistic missile has been successfully developed to attack vessels at sea. Ships currently have no defense against a ballistic missile attack.

Along with the Chinese naval build-up, U.S. Navy officials appear to view the development of the anti-ship ballistic missile as a tangible threat.

After spending the last decade placing an emphasis on building a fleet that could operate in shallow waters near coastlines, the U.S. Navy seems to have quickly changed its strategy over the past several months to focus on improving the capabilities of its deep sea fleet and developing anti-ballistic defenses.

As analyst Raymond Pritchett notes in a post on the U.S. Naval Institute blog:

"The Navy's reaction is telling, because it essentially equals a radical change in direction based on information that has created a panic inside the bubble. For a major military service to panic due to a new weapon system, clearly a mission kill weapon system, either suggests the threat is legitimate or the leadership of the Navy is legitimately unqualified. There really aren't many gray spaces in evaluating the reaction by the Navythe data tends to support the legitimacy of the threat."
In recent years, China has been expanding its navy to presumably better exert itself in disputed maritime regions. A recent show of strength in early March led to a confrontation with an unarmed U.S. ship in international waters.

Chinese Warships Struggle to Meet New Command, Control And Communications Needs.

Evolutionary introduction of assets leads to different combat capabilities.

China may be building a navy that features some world-class technologies aboard new ships, but its large numbers and variety of naval and air weapons still are operated in isolated methods because of the lack of effective command, control and communications and datalinks. Of 494 Chinese navy ships, the only combatant warships with credible Level III command, control and communications are four imported Russian Sovremennyi guided missile destroyers, 11 new construction guided missile destroyers, four 054A guided missile frigates, two upgraded Luda-class destroyers and 12 submarines, including nuclear strategic ballistic missile submarines.

Even these 33 vessels are handicapped by limited shore or space satellite command, control and communications (C3) support and the lack of integrated structure, organization, training and experience. The absence of technical expertise by sailors results in some computers being used as typewriters, which inhibits command and control (C2) missions. As many as 90 percent of Chinese warships have an obsolete C3 capabilityor none at all.

The Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has put together a core C3 shallow-water capability by datalinking new guided missile destroyers (DDGs) with new construction Houbei catamarans and 054A frigates (SIGNAL Magazine, May 2007). However, severe limitations remain for strategic or distant operations beyond coastal waters far away from nearby C3 shore support.

This is a recent problem. Traditionally, PLAN surface warships largely conducted coastal operations and functioned without coordination and tactical data sharing between ships or shore. Communications aboard old Luda destroyers and legacy frigates were adequate. But new construction missile destroyers and frigates are aimed at newer operation areas and missions that must employ aircraft and subsurface units. PLAN ships will be faced with new blue-water sea lines of communication protection or carrier battle group missions.

Three phases of evolution have taken PLAN warships from basic communications on a single platform to combined platform C3. The first phase involved simple communications. Each weapon was stand-alone, and each ship controlled only its internal sensors and weapons. One sensor to one weapon is a classic stovepipe system. The PLAN includes 62 mine warfare, 109 amphibious, 45 surveillance, 154 support and 32 auxiliary ships. A few large new construction vessels in this group, such as the 25,000-ton LPD 071, 21,000-ton to 37,000-ton oil replenishment ships, 10,000-ton Dajiang submarine tenders or 21,000-ton Yuonwang space event ships have respectable satellite and multiband C3, but they are not battle group warships. The 494 warships include 29 destroyers, 47 frigates, 63 submarines and 355 patrol boats. A baseline is the vintage Luda destroyers and early frigates that were the PLAN mainstay from 1960 to 1980. Luda and the Jianghu frigates both had seven external high frequency (HF) antennas. Jianghu frigate antennas varied from seven-foot to 32-foot whips. Later frigates increased to more modern sensors and weapons, but they still entailed stand-alone systems and ships.

The first Chinese-built ship with no imported equipment at all was the 10,000-ton freighter Fenquing in 1974, but for decades imported equipment or copies were common. Imported Decca surface search radars, Magnavox satellite communications and Redifon marine transmitters were on many PLAN warships from the 1980s on. In 1984, the PLAN paid $15 million for Seafox integrated communications from Marconi. A contract to have the United Kingdom provide a complete upgrade to Luda in 1982 fell through because of the $375 million cost. Instead, the Luda II refit DDG 105 added a helicopter hangar and three-dimensional (3D) radar in 1987. Luda DD 132 later replaced its 3D radar with a satellite navigation antenna, probably the Russian R-793 Pritsep GPS/GLONASS operating at 4-6 gigahertz. Other 1980s Luda refits added radars and weapons but no evident C3 systems.

Some impressive long-range cruises and distant operations occurred with phase one units. Examples include the PLAN seizing the Paracel Islands from Vietnam in the South China Sea in 1974, intercontinental ballistic missile test observation in the South Pacific in 1980, and more than 20 warships conducting large naval exercises in 1988-1989 coinciding with occupation of the Spratly Islands.

Phase two entailed various shipboard sensors, control and weapons being coordinated within a single platform. The Luda III upgrades and newer frigates typify this phase. A metric of increased C3 capability in the Jianghu upgrades is indicated with five antennas on Jianghu I, eight on the Jianghu II helicopter deck upgrade and 11 whip antennas on Jianghu III gun/surface-to-surface missile (SSM) fire control and electronic countermeasures upgrade. The last two Ludas launched in 1990-1992DDGs 165 and 166had the Luda III upgrades that included the Tavitac combat direction system (CDS) computer and Vega II weapon control computer from France. The CDS included the French Link Wa copy of Link 11and imported communications. The new generation Luhu DDG 112 and 113 also had Tavitac CDS installed, although the Chinese designation ZKJ-4 was used.

Though not reported in Western open sources, Chinas 716 Institute is believed to have developed a first-generation C2 system of unknown designation. The Chinese claim of wide fleet distribution hints that this system could predate the new post-1990 051 and 052 DDGs and was on newer 053H frigates and possibly updated Luda ships. The system had two computers and a display console. It featured a Pentium central processing unit with a Compact PCI bus and an FDDI high-speed local area network with a 100-megabyte Ethernet.

This technology somewhat dates the system. A crude Chinese-developed digital fire control systemdesignated Type 88was displayed publicly in 1991, the year the first Type 88 was installed on a 542-ton Houjian fast attack craft. It interfaces with gun, radar, electro-optic sensors, PL-9 surface-to-air missile and electronic warfare systems. The Houjian has no sonar or antisubmarine warfare weapons onboard. The Type 88 consists primarily of buttons and toggle-switch technology with four plug-in cards on the lower chassis.

The first of four new 1,700-ton Jiangwei frigates also was launched in 1991, and they were credited with the first computerized weapon control system, designated CCS-3 in references. It was more complex than the Type 88 because it had a datalink compared to the Type 88 point-to-point architecture. The datalink probably was the Chinese ISBC-900 series bus. Another metric to identify level II vessels is if they have a combat information center (CIC) in the architecture. The first PLAN warship claiming a CIC was the Luhai.

Chinas military is backfitting low frequency (LF), very high frequency (VHF) and ultrahigh frequency (UHF) communications and upgrading existing systems to digital technology. This is achieved through the use of Western imports and indigenous radio production plants. Existing South Fleet 053H frigates are adding HN-900 two-way datalinks similar to Link 11. FF 563 and 553 added satellite communications and HN-900 for C3 but retained old HY-2 SSMs and guns. The Eastern Fleet FF 513 received the less-capable one-way HN-900 datalink.

PLAN ships and modern J-10A and J-11 aircraft use the 1553B databus for their datalinks. The PCI bus card is manufactured by Chengdu Enpht Technology Company under the name EP-H6273. Protocol chips run from 512 kilobits up to 64 megabits. The 1553B chassis and slots, named ACE 1553, are manufactured by Beijing Shenzhou Feihang Company. The first Type Houbei catamaran missile boat was launched in 2004, and 20 had appeared by 2008 (SIGNAL Magazine, December 2007). They may be replacements for the aged Hegu (Osa) and Huangfeng (Komar) boats, but that may not be true. They all have Marine Corps paint, which indicates an amphibious support role such as fire support for landings. A high automation level is hinted at by a crew of only 12, compared to a crew of 26 on earlier, similar-size Huangfeng missile boats. With only five- and seven-foot HF whips on the bridge and no satellite communications radomes, it is surprising to see an HN-900 datalink to the DDG between the four SSM cells.

Examples of shore commands controlling tactical units include the 2001 J-8 interception of the U.S. Navy EP-3 off of Hainan and the 1994 Han SSN and 1996 Song diesel boat interception of the Kitty Hawk carrier battle groups in the Sea of Japan. The use of Chinese satellites for reconnaissance, navigation and communications is likely in coastal waters, but GPS and GLONASS would be required for distant operations.

Phase three of the evolution is for major PLAN warships to have C3 with other platforms, including aircraft and other surface ships. The PLAN warships with obvious phase three capabilities are the four modern new construction DDG classes. The Sovremenny 956EM DDGs certainly are the best C3 warships in the PLAN. The next indigenous nominees are the 052C Aegis DDGs 170 and 171, and the newest 051C DDGs 115 and 116 with the S-300 air defense 30N6E1 phased array radar and SA-N-6 vertical launch surface-to-air missiles. All of these types of ships were launched in 2006.

The 956EM warships imported in 1999 had the Russian Sapfir-U combat systems and associated datalinks and communicationsBell Crown datalink and two Light Bulb video datalinks for SSMs. Fore and aft mast yardarms mount four 200-1300-megahertz UHF dipole antennas. Twelve HF whips and a 45-foot-tall MF antenna were on the aft helicopter deck. LF wire bundles extend from the forward to the aft yardarm and then down to the O-2 deck.

In 1998, Neptune exported upgraded Buran-5ke automated communication complexes to Russian customers, and this would have been on the 956EM. In 2001, Russia exported the first four Band Stand radar/datalink systems to Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai for the new 052B DDGs. The Mineral-3 datalink and radar operates in the I band with a 30-kilometer range. The Mineral-3 can detect up to 200 contacts and designate nine as targets for SS-N-9 or SS-N-22 SSMs. China developed the HN-900 tactical datalink transmitter that has appeared on all modern 051 and 052 DDGs, 053H guided missile frigates (FFGs) and 022 catamarans, and it has been backfitted to a few Luda DDGs.

The two 052C DDGs reportedly are the initial ships for the second-generation JY10G Chinese multimission information processing system. The JY10G uses land-ship and air radar inputs to integrate with other sensor sources and weapon systems. Reports that this system also is on the Houbei SWATH missile boats probably are not credible because the boats do not even have satellite communication radomes.

Chinas Beijing Readsoft Technology Corporation has copied the MIL-STD 1553B databus under the designation GJB289A. It first appeared on Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) J-8 and J-11 aircraft and later on the naval J-10A and on the weapon system aboard the 052C. The 051 and 052 DDGs, as well as other warships, probably will follow suit. The most valuable Russian imports956EM DDGs, Su-30 long-range fighters and Kilo 636 diesel submarinesprovide proven interplatform datalinks that China can copy or try to emulate on its own indigenous platforms. Additionally, that will enable joint Russian-China naval operations with common datalinks.

Russian/Chinese cooperation includes military geopositioning satellites. The new generation-2 of the Chinese Beidou satellite navigation system will be compatible with the Russian GLONASS. The modern PLAN shipboard Dong Zhong Dong satellite communication system is designated AKD3000 and operates at 14 gigahertz in the Ku band frequency, and it consists of 0.6-meter, 0.8-meter and 1.2-meter diameter antenna variants. Lack of high-definition digital reconnaissance satellites hampers command, control, communications and intelligence mission accomplishment, and a lack of military navigation satellites inhibits many datalinks for target position information. It is known that PLAAF Su-27s must rely on voice communications, and Su-30 MKKs have the TSK-2 datalink, but it is not on PLAN units. The newest Su-30 MK2 naval fighter aircraft exported to China have a digital TSIMSS-1 communication system. The 052B and 052C destroyers and the J-10A fighters will have datalinks similar to the Russian AT-2M, which itself is a copy of the U.S. Navy Link 16.

Submarines are the most challenging command link platforms. Strategic or tactical communications with submerged submarines primarily come from shore very low frequency (VLF) stations. Russia built LF stations at three fleet headquarters by 1976. Chinas first VLF site was Lushun in 1965, and its most recent was an extremely high power site at Yulin submarine base on Hainan in 1982. The twelve Kilo diesel submarines digital CDS MVU-110EM and communications suite of R-625 UHF, R-680 VHF/HF to R-683 LF receiver covered all bands. Target designation for submarine-launched 3M-54E anti-surface-ship missiles can be possible by datalinks on 956EM, Su-30 fighters, helicopters and naval command aircraft. Russian Mi-24 helicopters, which are PLAN assets on warships, have Landaish analog mission computers to provide targeting data via a PK-025 datalink. Russian-provided naval air units had RSIU-5 VHF radios, which are on PLAN surface warships.

Some auxiliaries (AGI) and non-SSM ships now carry a Light Bulb antenna, indicating a functional change from a missile datalink to a high-capacity communication link similar to a Link 16. The main PLAN shore C3 commands are located at the North Fleet (Qingdao), East Fleet (Ningbo) and South Fleet (Guangzhou) headquarters with main control from the PLA Central Command in Beijing. Information integration for large DDG and naval shore commands use PIII ruggedized computers with VxWorks or Windows NT operating systems, 100-megabyte Ethernet and large, multipurpose video monitors.