Wednesday, September 30, 2009

China army parade may give clue to new missiles

China army parade may give clue to new missiles

BEIJING (Reuters) - When the National Day parade rolls down Beijing's streets next week, foreign observers will look beyond the goose-stepping soldiers for signs that China is developing a new missile able to threaten U.S. aircraft carriers.

If China is able to mount systems that support an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), it could force the U.S. carrier fleet to keep a greater distance, American defense analysts said, changing U.S. strategy for defending Taiwan should war break out.

On October 1, all eyes will be on the Avenue of Eternal Peace to see if China displays a Dongfeng 21-D missile, with maneuverable fins to help it find a moving target at sea, as well as a more finalized launch vehicle.

"The ASBM is far from operational, but it is close enough to make a splash," said Eric McVadon, a retired rear admiral whose 35-year naval career included a defense attache post in Beijing.

"It is something big. It represents the ability to make the U.S. think twice before sending carrier strike groups into the Western Pacific."

China is using the parade, which involves hundreds of thousands of marchers, to celebrate its modernization and the spectacular economic growth of three decades of reform.

Ten years ago, the military parade showcased new fighter jets and a model of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

This one will highlight achievements like the budding space programme -- illustrated in a topiary display along the route -- and the army's rescue work after a devastating 2008 earthquake in Sichuan.

New weaponry and priorities will stand out. This week, Defense Minister Liang Guanglie outlined plans to transform naval and air forces to project power far from China's shores.


Current warming ties between China and Taiwan make a military confrontation less likely, but both sides are still heavily armed against each other. The United States has committed to help the island defend itself in case of war [ID:nPEK217256].

The United States uses its carriers to maintain a presence near Taiwan and in much of the Pacific. It sent a carrier group through the Taiwan Strait to counter Chinese saber-rattling a few months before Taiwan's 1996 presidential election.

A weapon like an ASBM -- or even a credible threat -- that could keep U.S. ships far out at sea for longer would buy China the time to overwhelm Taiwan's defenses in the event of conflict.

An ASBM deployed from Chinese territory would have a range of about 1,500 km (930 miles), enough to reach far beyond Taiwan and cover much of Japan and the Philippines.

An ASBM would be an "asymmetric" weapon, since a carrier group has inadequate direct defense against it, especially if confronted with multiple missiles, unlike the more traditional submarines or bombers which a carrier group can counter.

McVadon credits China for choosing to develop missiles, rather than take the more uncertain route of trying to directly match the U.S. strength in ships and submarines.

"China's great success has been that it went to missiles," said McVadon, now director for Asia Pacific Studies at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis in Washington.

"It was a prudent decision to get around our strengths. They really made the right call."

Other analysts caution that successfully modifying the Dongfeng series missile to hit ships would not be enough to successfully hold an aircraft carrier at bay.

"Seeing it in the parade is not hard evidence that the missile is operative," said Matthew Durnin, a Beijing-based researcher with the World Security Institute. He recently coauthored a paper on the challenges of developing the systems -- including satellites -- needed to properly guide an ASBM.

"But U.S. intelligence believes that if this is credibly developed and deployed, it would change carrier strike group deployments."

Durnin predicts China will test the missile within the next two years, to prove it can hit a ship at sea. He estimates it will be about five years before China has the satellites in place to fully track a moving target on the vast Pacific.

"It will be very expensive to develop all the supporting infrastructure for such a system, and whether the Chinese will make the necessary investments is fundamentally a political question," said David Yang, a political scientist at RAND Corp. who has also written on the ASBM system.

Minister Liang said the Second Artillery Corps, which holds the keys to the country's nuclear weapons, would soon also control some conventional weapons. American strategists believe the ASBM could fall under that service's remit.

Even without full satellite cover, the threat to carrier groups is credible if China is able to launch multiple missiles and cripple, but not necessarily sink, a carrier or its escorts.

"I'm not forecasting its usage. They are doing it hoping it will deter, and never be used in combat," McVadon said.

"We may never know how well it works."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hongdu announces 60 K-8 trainer jet contract for an Asian country

Janes confirmed the news of 60 K-8 trainer jet export to an Asian country. My guess this Asian country is Indonesia.
Seems like K-8 is the most successful Chinese military product on the international arms market, with over 250 exported.

The Hongdu Aviation Industry Group has signed a contract with an unnamed Asian country to export 60 K-8 basic jet trainer/light attack jet aircraft, it was announced on 8 September.

In a statement the company said the deal was signed between the two parties and China's National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) on 6 September at Hongdu's headquarters in Nanchang, in Jiangxi province.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

China to build a new space launch center in Hainan

China breaks ground on space launch center

BEIJING — China broke ground on its fourth space center Monday, highlighting the country's soaring space ambitions six years after it sent its first man into orbit.

The space port on the southern island province of Hainan incorporates a launch site and mission control center for slinging the country's massive new rockets into space carrying satellites and components for a future space station and deep space exploration.

The reports portrayed the center as a major stride forward for China's military-backed space program, which has launched three manned missions since 2003, including one last year that featured the country's first space walk.

China's future space ambitions include building an orbiting station and sending a mission to the moon, putting it in the forefront of the tightening Asian space race involving India, Japan and South Korea. China says its space program is purely for peaceful ends, although its military background and Beijing's development of anti-satellite weapons have prompted some to question that.

The Hainan center, located near the town of Wenchang and slated to go into use in 2013, is located at a latitude of about 19 degrees north, far closer to the equator than China's other bases in the its southwest and northern plains.

Proximity to the equator is an advantage for launching payloads such as geostationary satellites used for telecommunications because less fuel propellant is needed. Reports said rockets launched from the Hainan base will be capable of carrying up to 14 percent more payload than those launched from Jiuquan, the home of the manned space program in northern China.

That added capacity should aid particularly in China's space station program as well as plans to assemble the Beidou, or "Compass," navigation system as an alternative to the U.S. satellite GPS network, the dominant positioning system.

The center is also served by a nearby port, allowing for the transport by ship of components such as the new generation Long March 5 rocket capable of launching 25-ton components for a space station or future lunar missions. China's other space centers are located in remote parts of the country that rely on limited capacity rail links to transport rockets and other components.

According to media reports, the Hainan center's construction involves upgrading a small satellite launch pad already on the site and building a second pad and other infrastructure. More than 6,000 area residents are being moved to procure the 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares) needed for the base.

China is just the third country after Russia and the United States to have launched a person into space, and has long operated a successful commercial satellite launch program.

Officials say plans call for an unmanned moon landing around 2012, a mission to return samples in 2015, and possibly a manned lunar mission by 2017 — three years ahead of an initial U.S. target date for returning to the moon.

Viewed as a source of national pride and patriotism, the program's strong public support helps shield it from the public doubts and budgetary pressures that constrain such programs elsewhere.

However, cooperation in space with other countries has been inhibited by wariness over the program's close military ties. Highlighting that relationship, Chang Wanquan, a People's Liberation Army general who sits on the ruling Communist Party's powerful central military commission, joined other officers and technicians in Monday's groundbreaking ceremony, the reports said.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Some of the new weapons that will be shown on the National day parade

Beijing Rehearsal Shows Off New Missiles

Taipei - Photos of the Sept. 6 rehearsal parade for the 60th anniversary of the Oct. 1 founding of the People's Republic of China are generating excitement among China watchers.

"Obviously, the Chinese are going to put on a real show for the 60th anniversary," said Richard Bitzinger, a former CIA analyst now with the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) exhibited a wide range of arms never before seen by the public.

During the 1999 parade, China displayed only three road-mobile Dong Feng 31 (DF-31) ICBMs, but this year the number jumped to eight. Analysts are assuming the missiles are the new DF-31A variant, capable of carrying three multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV). The DF-31A is the first road-mobile nuclear ICBM capable of hitting Washington.

"This is a sign they are sending a message to Washington that they have a counterstrike capability," said Andrei Chang, China defense analyst, Kanwa Information Center.

The DF-41 ICBM was a no show at the rehearsal despite speculation China would show the missile for the first time to the public. There is still a chance the missile could appear on Oct. 1.

"If the DF-41 is not shown, it could be that they are still testing it and don't want to look premature in revealing it," Bitzinger said. Based on the DF-31, the DF-41 will have a range of 11,000-13,000 kilometers and carry 10 MIRVs.

The PLA is moving toward a MIRV nuclear missile capability, said Richard Fisher, vice president of the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center.

The Dong Hai 10 (DH-10) long-range land-attack cruise missile (LACM) also made its first appearance to the public. The DH-10 is a three-missile tube variant of the Russian Raduga Kh-55 cruise missile. China procured six Kh-55s from Ukraine during the 1990s.

China has more than 200 DH-10s deployed along the coast across from Taiwan. The missile's range, in excess of 1,500 kilometers, also places Okinawa, at 700 kilometers, within striking distance.

"I think it's significant that they are taking the wraps off the DH-10, which openly demonstrates China's LACM capabilities," Bitzinger said. "The West has been talking for years about China's nascent LACM capabilities, and now it seems that the PLA has arrived. Obviously, this complicates missile defense, especially for regional U.S. forces and allies."

Photographs of the rehearsal also reveal there were several new short-range missile variants, including a DF-15 upgrade with new warhead stabilizer fins, a DF-11 with a modified warhead, possibly a penetrator, and a medium-range DF-21C equipped with a new engine.

"This is the first real opportunity to see the DF-21C with a pointed launch tube top," Fisher said. This missile is the basis for the future anti-ship ballistic missile program, which is part of China's anti-access strategy to deny U.S. navy ships from coming to Taiwan's aid during a war.

Another photograph, though unclear, could be the YJ-91 missile. Based on the Russian Kh-31 anti-radiation missile, the YJ-91 comes in both anti-radiation and anti-ship variants.

There were also two UAVs on display. One has been identified as the ASN-206 with a "curious saucer-bulb above the forward fuselage; a likely satellite com link or some kind of radar," Fisher said.

A second UAV photo is unclear, but could be the old ASN-205 that now serves largely as a target drone.

Infantry Vehicles and Equipment

The rehearsal also displayed a variety of new armored and infantry vehicles using a new digital camouflage pattern.

"This is intended to fox modern digitally enhanced imaging devices used in tanks, anti-tank devices and UAVs," Fisher said.

New vehicles on display include the ZBD97 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), 155mm PLZ05 self-propelled artillery, and the Type-99G main battle tank (MBT).

The ZBD97 appears to be an attempt by the PLA to produce a well-armed IFV similar to the Russian BMP-3 series.

The Type-99G MBT is the most modern variant of the new Type-98/99 series first seen in the 1999 parade. Improvements include an upgraded turret with detachable and upgradable composite armor, use of explosive reactive armor, plus improved engine and targeting systems.

There was also a new PLA Marine Corps blue camouflage IFV whose real designator remains unknown. Images have appeared on the Internet since 2005, but this is the first public display.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

China to show five new types of missiles on the National day parade

China will showcase five new types of domestically designed missiles at the Oct. 1 National Day parade, a leading missile expert from the Second Artillery Force, revealed Tuesday.

A number of advanced weapons of air and sea forces will also be on display, other sources said.

Five types of missiles, including nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles, conventional cruise missiles and medium-range and short-range conventional missiles, will be displayed for the first time at the highly anticipated military parade, said the expert, who asked to remain anonymous and has been closely following the preparations of the strategic force of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

"These missiles are domestically designed and manufactured and have never been officially reported before," he said, adding that they belong to a second generation of missiles that have already been distributed to the military and are ready for operation.

He declined to disclose the model numbers of the missiles, citing state-secrecy reasons.

"The third generation is still under development and is unlikely to be displayed this time," he said.

Military aficionados have been expecting to see the Dongfeng 41, known as the DF-41, and the CSS-X-10, which is said to be a third-generation, solid-fuel, intercontinental ballistic missile.

While China is a late starter in the milssile development, compared with the US and Russia – countries equipped with fifth-generation missiles and in the process of developing sixth-generation missiles – it has made rapid progress, the expert said.

"Our second generation can match their third and fourth generations, and the third generation under development is comparable to their fifth and sixth generations," he said.

Progress made by the Second Artillery Force in the decade since the last military parade in 1999 will be highlighted at the Oct. 1 event, with marching soldiers and vehicles carrying missiles, three for every type.

"The force has created weaponry and equipment with nuclear and conventional missiles, both solid-fuel and liquid-fuel missiles, with different launching ranges, quick emergency response and precision strikes," he said.

The Second Artillery Force is a strategic unit under the direct command and control of the Central Military Commission, and the core force of China for strategic deterrence, according to a white paper entitled "China's National Defense in 2008," issued earlier this year by the Information Office of the State Council.

One of the force's responsibilities is "conducting nuclear counterattacks," the paper said.

"The statement indicates that the force can survive a nuclear attack before carrying out a counterattack. Any country that attempts to attack China with nuclear weapons must get ready for revenge, even if it has an anti-missile system," the expert said, adding that China's nuclear missiles, though few in number, have a high strike accuracy and formidable power.

A new submarine-launched ballistic missile, Julang 2, also known as JL-2 and CSS-NX-4, is also highly anticipated by fans of military hardware to make an appearance at the parade. It is said to have a maximum range of 8,000 kilometers and be designed to be installed onboard current and next-generation Chinese nuclear-powered submarines.

Li Jie, a naval expert, didn't exclude the possibility of Julang-2's appearance on Oct. 1. Li told the Global Times that the navy would showcase some types of ship-to-ship missile, ship-to-air missile and multiple rocket launchers at the parade.

"Maybe two to three of them will be unveiled for the first time," Li said. "The new weapons will help enhance the navy's combat capability in any future sea war."

Dai Xu, an air force colonel and military strategist, told the Global Times that a large part of the weaponry and equipment of the air force would be showcased at the parade, including third-generation warplanes, land-to-air missiles and sophisticated radar equipment.

"The backbone warplanes of the major military powers in the world are third generation. The qualities of some of our warplanes are at a level that is advanced in terms of the rest of the world," Dai said.

Li Daguang, a senior military expert at the PLA University of National Defense, emphasized that the military parade is not for saber rattling but aims to promote national pride, confidence and awareness of national defense.

"Some countries, observing China's parade with colored glasses, show off their weapons around the world on the battlefield instead," Li said.

Li Jie argued that the parade can reflect the current situation and tendency of China's military weaponry, as well as a way of showing China's military openness and transparency, and how it is aligned with international military standards.

According to the arrangement, President Hu Jintao will offer a keynote address at the huge celebration at Tian'anmen Square on Oct. 1, followed by the military parade and a mass pageant involving 200,000 people, 60 floats and a fireworks display.