Sunday, January 17, 2010

China launches third Beidou navigation satellite

XICHANG: China took one step forward in its ambition to build an independent global navigation network capable of rivaling foreign congeneric systems with the successful launch of a new orbiter into space early Sunday morning.

China launches orbiter for navigation system
The Long-March-3III carrier rocket lifts off from the launch pad at Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Jan 17, 2010.

Boosted by a Long-March-3III carrier rocket into a geostationary orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, it was the third orbiter China has launched for the network, also known as Beidou, or COMPASS system.

It will join another two already in orbits to form a network which will eventually have a total of 35 satellites, capable of providing global navigation service to users around the world around 2020.

The new orbiter and the carrier rocket were researched and developed by Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and Chinese Academy of Carrier Rocket Technology respectively.

The network will have five satellites in geostationary orbit and another 30 in non-geostationary orbits, according to a plan for the COMPASS system.

According to the plan, the system will firstly provide navigation, time signal and short message services in the Asia and Pacific region around 2012.

The COMPASS system will provide both open and authorized services, according to China's satellite navigation project center.

The open service will be free of charge for the system's users within service area with a resolution of 10 meters for positioning, an accuracy of 10 nanosecond for time signal and an accuracy of 0.2 meter per second for speed measurement.

The authorized service will provide more accurate services for authorized users.

China started to build up its own satellite navigation system to break its dependence on the US Global Positioning System (GPS) in 2000 when it sent two orbiters as a double-satellite experimental positioning system, known as the Beidou system.

The Beidou system, China's first-generation satellite navigation and positioning network, made the country the third in the world after the US and Russia to have an independent satellite navigation system.

Monday, January 11, 2010

China successfully tests missile interception system

China's HQ-9 medium and long-range air-defense system

China announced its first test of a ground-based mid-range missile interception system Monday within Chinese territory, a move that military experts claim is a breakthrough in the air defense capabilities of the nation's military.

Details were sparse, but the official Xinhua News Agency said the test achieved the "expected objective" without elaborating further.

The missile is "defensive in nature" and did not "target any country," Xinhua said.

Yang Chengjun, a senior military strategist of missile studies, told the Global Times that the test ushered China into a new phase in terms of missile interception technologies.

"China needs an improved capability and more means of military defense as the country faces increasing security threats," Yang said, adding that it is China's legitimate right to carry out such tests.

"Compared with a previous test of anti-satellite technologies, the missile interception system is more advanced as the targets are moving objects and the satellite was flying within a preplanned orbit," Yang said.

China said it successfully tested its anti-satellite system in 2007.

The United States and Russia are the only two countries that have missile interception technologies.

Yang said China should display its determination and strength in national defense and the capability to safeguard its core interests on appropriate occasions.

Jin Canrong, a deputy director of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China, said the development of missile interception technologies is a step further on the country's course to military modernization.

"China has been pursuing a defense strategy. The missile interception system will not alter such a discipline, but strengthens the national defense strategy," Jin said.

The report of the Chinese missile test followed the Obama administration's approval last week to sell PAC-3, an upgraded Patriot air-defense missile system, to Taiwan. The PAC-3 can shoot down Chinese short-range missiles.

Monday, January 4, 2010

China Seeks A Naval Base West Of India

Chinese admirals are pushing their government to help them establish a support base near the Persian Gulf. The immediate need is for an easier way to supply the Chinese warships working with the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia. This could be done by negotiating basing rights, where some Chinese naval personnel would set up shop at a port in the area, and make arrangements for resupplying and repairing any Chinese warships operating in the area, as well as allowing the Chinese warships to tie up in the local port for extended periods of time. Such arrangements are basically a commercial undertaking, but must be negotiated government-to-government because military forces are involved. Many nations have such arrangements in the region, particularly the Persian Gulf. Chinese sailors coming ashore would basically be treated like tourists, and subject to local law. This can get sticky if sailors misbehave, as sailors sometimes do, and get arrested. Many sailors on Chinese warships have access to classified information, and no navy likes having their sailors under the control of a foreign government. It's feared that the police investigation will include agents from a local, or foreign, intelligence, agency.

Thus there is a tendency for the basing rights to evolve into a naval base, complete with a "status of forces" agreement which allows the Chinese navy to discipline misbehaving sailors, in cooperation with local authorities (so the sailors don't get away with anything, especially in the eyes of the locals.) Allowing a foreign navy to establish themselves on your territory is a touchy subject, and must be handled carefully. The Chinese would be expected to be generous and useful guests. But, at the same time, the full time presence of the Chinese navy would mean a military relationship with the local host, and a willingness to help the host out in the event of any diplomatic trouble or military threat. This works both ways, as a major rationale for a Chinese naval base in the region is to protect the growing traffic in sea traffic of raw materials headed for China, and manufactured goods coming in from China. Everyone has an interest in insuring that this sea traffic moves unhindered by pirates, or any other manmade threat. Well, almost everyone.

India is not enthusiastic about a Chinese naval base in the region. India sees China as a military, diplomatic and economic competitor. India sees itself as the master of the Indian Ocean, and China as an unwelcome interloper. Thus any Chinese effort to establish a naval base in the Western Indian Ocean would be opposed by India, and many existing Indian allies in the area.