China’s Hard Pipe Refueling Greatly Enhances J-20’s Combat Capabilities

China's successful hard-pipe aerial refueling. Photo: Beijing UCAS Space Technology Co,. Ltd

China’s successful hard-pipe aerial refueling. Photo: Beijing UCAS Space Technology Co,. Ltd

China’s J-20 stealth fighter is developed for air supremacy but its range restricted the area it can dominate; therefore, aerial refueling is the key for extending the area it can dominate. China has already mastered the technology of soft-pipe refueling, but it is too slow for real air battle. The US and France have developed the technology of hard-pipe aerial refueling to greatly speed up refueling.

China’s Beijing UCAS Space Technology Co,. Ltd revealed in its website on April 27 that China has transformed a Tu-204 transport into a refueling tanker to successfully conduct hard-pipe aerial refueling to greatly enhance J-20’s capabilities.

Source: Beijing UCAS Space Technology Co,. Ltd website “China has made breakthrough in developing hard-pipe aerial refueling that will greatly enhance J-20’s combat capabilities” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

For Sale: The Next Generation of Chinese War Robots

 China's unmanned high speed intercept boat The High Speed Intercept Boat is a very fast (80 knots!) USV still being tested by the PLAN, and already offered for export. Currently capable of being armed with machine guns, its arsenal will likely expand once it enters service.

China’s unmanned high speed intercept boat
The High Speed Intercept Boat is a very fast (80 knots!) USV still being tested by the PLAN, and already offered for export. Currently capable of being armed with machine guns, its arsenal will likely expand once it enters service.

DSA 2016 Kuala Lumpur is one of Asia’s leading arms shows, as arms manufacturers from around the world congregate in Kuala Lumpur to pitch their weapons to Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries. In spite of territorial tensions over the South China Sea, China has given its weapons makers carte blanche to offer advanced systems to Southeast Asian countries. Chinese defense contractors, in addition to pitching the usual array of frigates, fighter jets, anti-ship missile and air defense radars, have taken the leap of offering new unmanned systems that are still undergoing testing by, or have just entered service with the Chinese military.

Chinese Third Offset This concept from September 2015 shows a network of Chinese fast USVs undertaking various tasks, including escort, interdiction of civilian freighters, patrolling offshore assets and working in a system of systems with other unmanned systems, including drones and submersibles.

Chinese Third Offset
This concept from September 2015 shows a network of Chinese fast USVs undertaking various tasks, including escort, interdiction of civilian freighters, patrolling offshore assets and working in a system of systems with other unmanned systems, including drones and submersibles.

Poly Technologies, a subsidiary of China Poly Group Corporation, is selling a high speed trimaran unmanned surface vessel (USV), the High Speed Intercept Boat, to Southeast Asian coast guards and navies. The unnamed boat is 13 meters long, 4 meters across and has a draft of 60 centimeters, its twin 850 hp engines propel it to a top speed of 80 knots at a range of 200 nautical miles, can set its own course and chase targets, and comes with an advanced electro-optical camera and high bandwidth datalinks. Program manager Zhu Yingzi mentioned that a HSIB prototype is already undergoing testing in the PLAN, performing missions that include base patrol. The HSIB has an armament option of two 7.62mm light machine guns, or one heavy 12.7mm machine gun turret (the HSIB) is big enough to also carry small guided missiles). The PLAN’s official interest in USV shows that future Chinese robot boats would likely include USV swarming enemy forces and working with other unmanned and manned platforms in the littoral environment (as shown in Chinese defense contractor materials), anti-submarine warfare, minehunting and reconnaissance missions. And China is quite happy to sell its future USVs to make friends and influence people in Asia.

CH-901 The CH-901, a micro-UAV, is already in service with the PLA. While a useful recon tool, it can kamikaze into enemy forces and detonate its warhead for some quick carnage.

The CH-901, a micro-UAV, is already in service with the PLA. While a useful recon tool, it can kamikaze into enemy forces and detonate its warhead for some quick carnage.

The CH-901 small UCAV/loitering munitions is bringing aerial firepower down to the infantry squad level. Likely designed and built by China Aerospace Corporation (CASC), who also build the CH-4 UCAVs used by the Iraqi military against ISIS, the 9kg CH-901 is man portable UAV similar to the American Switchblade small UAV; both portable UAVs have onboard explosive warheads. Its quiet electric motor pushes the CH-901 up to speeds of 150kmh, with a 15km radius from its ground controller, for up to two hours. If its operator finds an interesting enemy target, like a tank, infantry squad or missile launcher, with the 2km range camera, he can order the CH-901 to crash into the enemy and detonate the warhead. Poly Group representatives note that select PLA units have already been equipped with the CH-901 for several years.

Switchblade The Switchblade is a similar micro UAV to the CH-901, with both reconnaissance and a suicide attack capability. The US Army and Marine Corps have been deployed with 4,000 Switchblades in Afghani operations.

The Switchblade is a similar micro UAV to the CH-901, with both reconnaissance and a suicide attack capability. The US Army and Marine Corps have been deployed with 4,000 Switchblades in Afghani operations.

The CH-901 would serve a wide range of uses for both the PLA and foreign customers in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Instead of having to rely on air support or artillery fire that may be unavailable for whatever reason, small infantry units can mount sneak attacks on vital enemy infrastructure. Also, the CH-901 would be a powerful force multiplier for the average solider in urban combat, and a cheap weapon in counterinsurgency fights.

More Guns for the Garuda The Indonesian Navy's Kapitan Pattimura-class corvette, KRI Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin, tested a 7 barrel Type 730 CIWS last year. The Indonesians liked it enough to purchase two for modernizing their fast attack boats, more order may soon follow.

More Guns for the Garuda
The Indonesian Navy’s Kapitan Pattimura-class corvette, KRI Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin, tested a 7 barrel Type 730 CIWS last year. The Indonesians liked it enough to purchase two for modernizing their fast attack boats, more order may soon follow.

Moving to a more conventional weapons category, Indonesia has agreed to purchase two Type 730 Close In Weapons System to arm its KCR-60M missile boats. The PLAN already uses the Type 730, a seven barrel 30mm Gatling cannon, for close area defense of warships like the Type 052D destroyer, against enemy missiles and small boats. The Indonesia Navy has already been testing the Type 730 CIWS onboard one of its missile boats since last year. Given the need for an effective CIWS to have top notch radars and cameras to target missiles in just a couple seconds, Indonesia must have judged it to be competitive with Western systems that Indonesia already has. Taken in conjunction with previous Indonesian purchases of C-701 antiship missiles, Indonesia looks set to be a repeat customer for Chinese weapons, in spite of occasional maritime disputes.

Special Forces ZH-05 This ZH-05 is a Chinese smart grenade/rifle, with a 20mm grenade launcher that can fired munitions programmed for individual engagements. China's development and field of smart rifles and micro attack drones are the first wave in Chinese innovations for infantry weapon technology, coming soon to the 21st century battlefield.

Special Forces ZH-05
This ZH-05 is a Chinese smart grenade/rifle, with a 20mm grenade launcher that can fired munitions programmed for individual engagements. China’s development and field of smart rifles and micro attack drones are the first wave in Chinese innovations for infantry weapon technology, coming soon to the 21st century battlefield.

China’s willingness to offer weapons already used by or even still in testing with its military is looking a look like a pivot by China to go beyond economic trade and aid when winning friends aboard. And in addition to the high profile categories like long range missiles and submarines, China also has the killer apps for the average grunt on the ground. If western nations like the U.S. won’t export personal infantry digital equipment and robots, China seems well positioned to fill that supply gap.

Source: Popular Science “For Sale: The Next Generation of Chinese War Robots”

China Tests New Weapon Capable of Breaching US Missile Defense Systems

The U.S.-made Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2). Credit: DARPA

The U.S.-made Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2). Credit: DARPA

Beijing has successfully tested a new hypersonic missile.

By Franz-Stefan Gady

Last week, China has yet again successfully tested the developmental DF-ZF (previously known as WU-14) hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), Bill Gertz over at The Washington Free Beacon reveals.

The test of the high-speed maneuvering warhead took place at the Wuzhai missile test center in central China’s Shanxi Province, some 250 miles (400 kilometers) southwest of Beijing.

“The maneuvering glider, traveling at several thousand miles per hour, was tracked by satellites as it flew west along the edge of the atmosphere to an impact area in the western part of the country,” Gertz reports.

The test has also been confirmed by the People’s Daily Online: “China has successfully completed a seventh flight test of its new hypersonic glide vehicle last week in its northern central Shanxi province.”

China has now tested the new weapon a total of seven times. The last launch of the DF-ZF– an ultra-high-speed missile purportedly capable of penetrating U.S. air defense systems based on interceptor missiles–occurred in November in November 2015 (See: “China Tests New Hypersonic Weapon”).

The DF-ZF HGV can allegedly reach speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10, or 6,173 kilometers (3,836 miles) per hour and 12,359 kilometers (7,680 miles) per hour. I previously explained the sequence of a DF-ZF HGV launch:

The DF-ZF warhead is carried to the boundary between space and Earth’s atmosphere, approximately 100 km above the ground, by a large ballistic missile booster.

Once it reaches that height, it begins to glide in a relatively flat trajectory by executing a pull-up maneuver and accelerates to speeds of up to Mach 10.

The gliding phase enables the HGV not only to maneuver aerodynamically – performing evasive actions and evading interception – but also extends the range of the missile.

U.S. defense officials confirmed in June 2015 that the DF-ZF performed “extreme maneuvers” during a flight test.

What makes the DF-ZF particularly dangerous is that as of now there is no adequate defense against the new hypersonic weapon as I reported last year:

[U]nlike conventional reentry vehicles, which descend through the atmosphere on a predictable ballistic trajectory, hypersonic glider vehicles are almost impossible to intercept by conventional missile defense systems, which track incoming objects via satellite sensors and ground and sea radar.

Once deployed, the DF-ZF warhead mounted on intercontinental ballistic missile (e.g., the DF-41) would give the PLA a global strike capability. The HGV could also be mounted on short and intermedium-range anti-ship ballistic missiles capable of penetrating the layered air defenses of a U.S. carrier strike group.

A weakness in high-performance computing is allegedly plaguing China’s DF-ZF program and slows down Chinese efforts to design hypersonic weapons, according to some media reports:

[T]he lack of computing power slowed down scientists’ effort to create and verify innovative designs for hypersonic weapons (…). A good supercomputer could be used as a “digital wind tunnel” to quickly develop prototypes for test flights and help the decision on the choice of models for production.

U.S. super computers are currently ten times faster than their Chinese counterparts. “Without faster computers, Chinese researchers would have to waste time breaking down sophisticated calculations into smaller jobs so they could be run on less advanced machines,” the South China Morning Post reported last year.

Experts assume that that China is still about two decades away from fielding a missile with an operational DF-ZF warhead capable of hitting a moving target, although some analysts believe that the new weapon could be deployed as early as 2020.

This blogger’s note: According to ExtremeTech’s report titled “China’s Tianhe-2 is still the world’s fastest supercomputer, but Cray is on a resurgence” on November 16, 2015, China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer is the fastest in the world with 33.86 petaflop/s while US Titan, a Cray XK7 system at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with 17.59 petaflop/s ranks the second.

If the US had been able to develop a supercomputer ten times faster than Tianhe-2, it would have been a sensational piece of news, but I am sorry that there has been no report whatsoever so far about such a supercomputer. Full text of ExtremeTech’s report can be viewed at

Source: The Diplomat “ China Tests New Weapon Capable of Breaching US Missile Defense Systems”

France Makes China’s WZ-10 Attack Helicopter Rival to Apache

WZ-10 attack helicopter, China's Apach

WZ-10 attack helicopter, China’s Apach

AH-64 Apache Longbow

AH-64 Apache Longbow

I have just had a post titled “Higher Paid Scientists Help China Surpass US” on the factor that enable China to surpass the US—High remuneration for scientists. In fact, the scientists are not limited to Chinese ones. China is now employing quite a few expatriate scientists.

Another important factor that helps China surpass the US is US allies’ export of high technology to China that helps China’s not only economic but also military development.

China’s local newspaper Qianjiang (Qiantang River) Dialy says in its report that a Chinese-French joint venture has developed WZ-16 turboshaft, which is now produced for export but will soon be used to replace the unsatisfactory weak Chinese homegrown engine now installed on China’s WZ-10 attack helicopters to enhance its capabilities to rival US Apache.

The report says that when China developed WZ-10, it wanted to make it rival to US Apache. At that time, WZ-10 prototype used advanced Canadian powerful PT6C-67B turboshaft engine of 1,250 kW.

However, as the US told Canada not to sell the engine to China, China could not find satisfactory engine from other sources and had to use a Chinese homegrown turboshaft much weaker. As a result, WZ-10’s armor is thinner than Apache and it can carry only 8 instead 16 missiles that Apache can carry.

Now, according to experts, China’s WZ-10 will become rival to Apache if it uses WZ-16 turbofan.

Source: Qianjiang (Qiantang River) Dialy “WZ-10 changes to using WZ-16 turboshaft due to tremendous help from France” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

China To Build Nuclear Aircraft Carrier Soon with Reactor Ready for Use

China's small modular nuclear reactor

China’s small modular nuclear reactor

The Depth Column of China’s website says in its report yesterday that according to the report China has provided the International Atomic Energy Agency, China’s small multipurpose modular reactor ACP100 has passed the Agency’s safety examination, which means China has obtained permission for export of the reactor.

That achievement means China now has safe, cheap and high energy-to-size ratio reactor for its nuclear submarines and especially aircraft carriers. There is speculation that China will soon build a nuclear aircraft carrier with displacement of 80,000 tons bigger than the 65,000 tons of the conventional aircraft carrier it has been building.

Source: “China will soon begin building nuclear aircraft carrier: Japan also wants to but cannot due to past failure” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

China Flexes Its Military Muscles (And America Does Absolutely Nothing)

In the last few days, China has undertaken several new military actions. These include landing a military aircraft on one of their new artificial islands in the South China Sea, a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to a newly established military headquarters, and testing a new ICBM. The purpose is simple: To send messages to the rest of the world:

– China’s inflexible commitment to its territorial claims in the South China Sea, and

– China’s major military reforms which will make it a much more capable opponent

As the Chinese have been putting the finishing touches on their artificial islands, they have been emphasizing the ability to land large aircraft on the runways placed on those islands.

They have already landed commercial airliners on the 3,000-meter runway on Fiery Cross Reef—a runway long enough to handle B-52s. Now, they have landed military aircraft, as a reminder that these islands are Chinese territory, where China can act as it sees fit.

This landing occurred even as Xi Jinping was visiting a new “joint operations command center.” These command centers are part of the overhaul of the Chinese military. They are part of the transition from seven “military regions (junqu)” to five “war zone commands (zhanqu),” which will also see the permanent establishment of joint operations command headquarters, such as the center Xi visited.

Reflecting the prominence of these new joint operations commands, Xi was described in Chinese press releases as “CCP General Secretary, National president, Central Military Commission Chairman, and Military Committee/Commission Joint Command Overall Commander.” (Emphasis added.) This last title is brand new, and appears to have been added for the occasion.

Since Xi, as chairman of the CMC, is already essentially the commander-in-chief of the Chinese military, the addition of this title is superfluous, insofar as it describes his roles. But including it in his list of titles does serve as a reminder to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the importance of these new joint headquarters. The use of joint headquarters is no longer temporary; instead, like the war zones, these are now permanent establishments, compelling the Chinese services to interact with each other regularly and extensively.

Similarly, the apparent test of a DF-41 ICBM, complete with multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), over the South China Sea serves multiple ends. Most obviously, it tests a new missile with a new warhead configuration. Until now, China has not deployed MIRVs, and is still apparently working on the DF-41. But by testing in the South China Sea, and blandly restating that these are “within China’s boundaries,” Beijing reiterates its claim to the region.

Finally, as part of the major overhaul, the Chinese nuclear forces have been elevated from a “super-branch,” known as the Second Artillery, to a full-blown service, the PLA Rocket Forces (PLARF). The prompt employment of PLARF assets in political signaling, like Xi’s visit to a joint operations command center, is likely aimed at reminding both foreign and domestic audiences of the PLARF’s new status.

Message Neither Received nor Understood in the White House:

Meanwhile, the United States continues to demonstrate its utter lack of resolve. Efforts by the Navy and the Pacific Command to respond more assertively have apparently been muzzled by the White House. National Security Advisor Susan Rice and President Obama clearly feel that getting the Chinese to sign the Paris agreement on climate change matters more than mere ICBM tests and island-building. The relative threat posed by the former clearly eclipses the latter, from the Oval Office’s perspective.

The Chinese ICBM test occurs even as the Department of Defense insists on inviting the Chinese navy to participate in RIMPAC 2016—the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise. It would seem that the experience from the last RIMPAC, where China showed up with intelligence gathering ships as well as its official delegation, only whetted the appetite of those intent on engaging the PLA.

The PACOM commander of the time, Admiral Samuel Locklear, even argued that the dispatch of Chinese intel-gathering ships was a feature, since it would show that China accepted international rules regarding freedom of the seas!

Similarly, while Beijing continues to strengthen its grip on the South China Seas, the United States continues to send mixed messages through its FONOPS program, which was designed to maintain freedom of the seas.. After three years of not sending ships to the disputed areas around the Spratly Islands (and only admitting this absence under repeated, persistent questioning by Congress), the Department of Defense has conducted three FONOPs, two of which were actually “innocent passage.”

While Secretary of Defense Carter keeps insisting that the US will “go where we want, when we want,” in reality, the United States has still avoided actually conducting military activities of any sort off the Chinese man-made islands, despite there being no legal reason not to do so.

Most recently, the USS John Stennis battlegroup has been touted as operating in the South China Sea. As with the transit of the USS Lassen last fall, though, the refusal of Department of Defense to indicate exactly where the carrier group conducted its activities should raise doubts about the actual actions undertaken (and therefore what message was actually sent).

Beijing is sending its messages as loudly as it can, but for this administration, there are few so deaf as those who will not hear.

Higher Paid Scientists Help China Surpass US

A Chinese scientist

A Chinese scientist

I said in my book that Chinese military has an unlimited budget so that it can surpass the US. Now, not only the military, Chinese government in general has allocated huge funds to attract scientists from abroad to help China rise to the top in the world.

SCMP gives a story about Chinese top scientists are better paid than their counterparts in its report today titled “The rise of China’s millionaire research scientists”. It says:

Government’s push to put science and technology at forefront of nation’s development is creating new breed of highly-paid scientific academics

They may be small in number and keep a low profile, but the ranks of millionaire scientists in China are growing and they are leading the nation’s rise as a global power in scientific research.

This new breed of scientist works in state-of the-art laboratories and are increasingly carrying out groundbreaking research published by top international scientific journals such as Science or Nature.

Why? SCMP says:

Better salaries and other financial benefits – thanks largely to the government largesse – help swell the ranks of China’s research teams.

In addition to better payment, Chinese scientists’ dedication due to their patriotism is also an important factor.

Comments by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP report “The rise of China’s millionaire research scientists”, full text of which can be viewed at

Taiwan’s Tsai says democratic principles will rule ties with China

Taiwan president-elect Tsai Ing-wen attends an event in New Taipei City, Taiwan, March 18, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu -

Taiwan president-elect Tsai Ing-wen attends an event in New Taipei City, Taiwan, March 18, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu –

Taiwan President-elect Tsai Ing-wen said she will maintain the status quo in the island’s relationship with China, but that her policy will be based on democratic principles and transcend party politics, a nuance likely to be lost on Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

China regards self-ruled Taiwan as a wayward province to be taken back by force if necessary and wants the new government to stick to the “one China” policy agreed upon with the outgoing China-friendly Nationalist government.

Beijing distrusts Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which it believes supports formal independence for Taiwan.

“Only in this way, can the cross-Strait relationship last and give ‘maintaining the status quo’ real meaning,” Tsai, referring to the body of water separating the two sides, said in a speech.

“In these 10 years or so, the rise of China’s economy and its increasing overall influence has changed the structure of the cross-Strait relationship,” Tsai said. “It has also resulted in far-reaching impact in all aspects of interaction.”

Her comments come less than a month before she takes power amid keen interest in what she will say during her inauguration speech on May 20.

Tsai has always said she will maintain the status quo but has not elaborated on how she will engage Beijing beyond broad principles.

Tsai and her independence-leaning DPP were voted into power in January on growing concern, particularly among younger citizens, that the island was not benefiting from its economic ties with China.

China has been stepping up pressure on Taiwan. In the past few weeks, China has established ties with former Taiwan ally Gambia, sent a top general to inspect troops based in a frontline province and scooped up dozens of Taiwanese from Kenya wanted in China for fraud – a move denounced by Taipei as being more about politics than crime.

Only 22 countries recognize Taiwan as the “Republic of China”, with most having diplomatic relations with the “People’s Republic of China”, with its leaders in Beijing.

Ties warmed considerably when Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalists was elected Taiwan president in 2008, ushering in regular high-level exchanges and overseeing the signing of a series of landmark economic deals.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the island.

Tsai reiterated that the new government would maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and forge a consistent, predictable and sustainable relationship with China.

“I will abide by the commitment,” Tsai said.

(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters “Taiwan’s Tsai says democratic principles will rule ties with China”

President Xi Jinping’s Most Dangerous Venture Yet: Remaking China’s Military

The Chinese leader’s plan to revamp the armed forces, a milestone in the nation’s emergence from isolationism, faces hurdles at home

BEIJING—China’s stock market was swooning. Investors were panicking. Yet when Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke that first Monday in January, he didn’t address the global angst about the world’s second-largest economy.

Clad in an olive-green Mao suit, he was talking instead to Chinese troops about another challenge that consumes his time and political capital: the biggest restructuring of the People’s Liberation Army since the 1950s, a plan that unnerves America and its Asian allies and could upset the global balance of power.

“We must emancipate our minds and change with the times,” he told troops of the 13th Group Army on Jan. 4. They should not, he said, “wear new shoes to walk the old road.”

Four days earlier, Mr. Xi had started to implement a plan to transform the Soviet-modelled military, long focused on defending China from invasion, into a smaller, modern force capable of projecting power far from its shores.

The plan, to be implemented by 2020, is one of Mr. Xi’s most ambitious and politically risky undertakings yet.

If it succeeds, it could lay the ground for China to conduct combat operations as far afield as the Middle East and Africa. That would mark a milestone in the nation’s emergence from a period of isolationism that began under the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century.

It could enable China not just to challenge U.S. military dominance in Asia, but also to intervene militarily elsewhere to protect its shipping lanes, resource supplies and expatriates, as other world powers have. While an expeditionary Chinese military could help in humanitarian and counterterror operations, the concern for the U.S. and its allies is that Beijing might use force in ways that conflict with Western interests.

The challenge for Mr. Xi is that his overhaul strikes at the core of one of China’s most powerful interest groups, an institution that swept the Communist Party to power in 1949 and enforced its rule against Tiananmen Square’s pro-democracy protests 40 years later.

The president’s plan is “much more complex and disruptive than previous military reforms, which just tinkered within the existing system,” said Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel and military analyst.

“If the reforms fail, you could lose popularity and have to take responsibility and resign, so there’s a big political risk,” he said in an unusually stark warning from a Chinese military figure about the high stakes involved.

China’s State Council Information Office, the government’s official mouthpiece, referred inquiries to the defense ministry, which responded in a faxed statement saying The Wall Street Journal’s queries contained “pure speculation and did not correspond to facts” without specifying what points were inaccurate. The ministry said military and civilian authorities had done “intensive studies” to “ensure the smooth transition from the old system to the new one and also the security and stability of the troops.”

The PLA had begun taking tentative steps abroad even before Mr. Xi’s plan. It has sent ships and submarines into the Pacific and Indian Oceans, installed military equipment on reclaimed land in the South China Sea and challenged U.S. naval forces around China’s coast.

Internally, though, the PLA has been hobbled by a structure and mind-set rooted in the revolution and dominated by the Army, which before the overhaul accounted for some 70% of troops and seven of 11 officers on the Central Military Commission that commands China’s armed forces.

Interests abroad

Under his new plan, Mr. Xi, who heads that commission, is trying to shift power to naval, air and missile forces, which are vital for his ambitions to enforce territorial claims in Asia and protect China’s swelling economic interests elsewhere. He is doing that by forming new service branches and downgrading the status of the Army.

He is wresting power from senior generals by dismantling command structures including the PLA’s seven “Military Regions” and four “General Departments,” through which its officers have for years wielded authority, resisted central oversight and sometimes lined their pockets.

He is taking direct command of combat operations: Official media named him for the first time as “commander-in-chief” of a new joint battle command center that he visited on Wednesday in a rare appearance in camouflage fatigues and combat boots.

And he is trimming 300,000 of the PLA’s 2.3 million troops, a move he announced last year, the biggest cut in two decades. That means putting out of work large numbers of soldiers experienced with weapons, just as the state sector, which absorbed previous troops cuts, also plans to lay off millions.
Changing PLA

The cuts add to a pool of at least six million PLA veterans, thousands of whom have joined well organized protests in recent years, including one last June outside Central Military Commission offices in Beijing, over what they see as insufficient government support.

The government has ordered state firms to reserve 5% of new jobs for veterans and pledged at a March parliament meeting to spend 39.8 billion yuan ($6.1 billion) this year on allowances for demobilized troops, a 13% increase over 2015. Premier Li Keqiang told parliament: “We will see that demobilized military personnel are settled into new jobs or have good access to employment and business startup services.”

China’s restrictive political system makes it hard for the plan’s opponents to speak freely. Top military figures have warned officers in speeches not to express opinions on the subject.

Still, there are signs of dissent. The PLA Daily, the main military newspaper, in November posted online and then removed an article warning that if restructuring is “not done properly, this could affect the stability of the military or even all of society.”

Retired Maj. General Wang Hongguang, a former deputy head of one of China’s military regions, told reporters at the March parliament meeting that local authorities can’t afford to support all the demobilized soldiers. “This is hundreds of billions” of yuan, he said, adding that the defense budget needed to increase by more than 10%. The next day, the government announced a 7.6 % increase, the lowest in six years.

Mr. Xi’s ultimate goal is to enable the PLA to conduct complex joint operations combining air, sea and ground forces with information technology—the kind of operation the U.S. has pioneered.

Reagan-era echoes

His plan echoes the Reagan-era Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which revamped the U.S. military to address the inter-services rivalry and insufficient civilian control exposed during the Vietnam War and 1983 Grenada invasion. Despite fierce institutional resistance, it cut American forces and reduced powers of the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. It bolstered the authority of regional commanders to oversee all services in combat. That “joint operations” approach means commanders can mobilize whatever air, navy or other forces they need when trouble arises.

Chinese leaders have hankered after similar capabilities since observing the 1991 Gulf War, when U.S. leaders coordinated a complex array of forces to devastating effect, say Chinese officers and military historians. Mr. Xi has indicated he sees a comparable capability as essential to the “China Dream” he outlined after taking power in 2012, when he ordered the military to prepare to “fight and win wars.”

A defense white paper last year gave the PLA a new strategic task to “safeguard the security of China’s overseas interests” on top of its traditional defensive duties. Beijing has since announced plans to build its first overseas military outpost, in the African nation of Djibouti, which is home to U.S. and Japanese bases and has served as a supply stop for Chinese naval ships on antipiracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden. The PLA has also established an Overseas Operations Office as part of its overhaul.

China must adapt to a “global revolution” in warfare as threats to its expanding interests intensify, said Maj. Gen. Chen Zhou, a top PLA strategist who led the government white-paper team, in a group interview in March. He cited the Chinese navy’s evacuation of Chinese citizens last year from Yemen, in the midst of a civil war, as an example.

Restructuring and finding jobs for 300,000 troops is an unprecedented challenge, he said. But “any revolution has a price to pay.”

Mr. Xi first must strengthen his control over the military, which has long been a rival power center to China’s civilian leadership. Founded in 1927, the PLA formed the backbone of the Communist uprising that ushered Mao Zedong into power in 1949. For years afterward, military officers were central in Party leadership.

When Deng Xiaoping came to power in 1978, he started sidelining the military from politics, winning support by letting it build business empires spanning nightclubs, pharmaceuticals and real estate.

By the 1990s, though, Beijing worried about the military’s readiness, especially after a 1996 standoff with the U.S. over Taiwan. In 1998, then-President Jiang Zemin started crowbarring the PLA out of business, extending budget increases in return.

His successor, Hu Jintao, struggled to stamp his authority over the PLA. In 2011, U.S. officials said President Hu seemed unaware of a provocative test flight of China’s new stealth fighter hours before meeting Robert Gates, U.S. Defense Secretary at the time.

The incident fueled speculation among military experts that hawkish elements in China’s armed forces were increasingly driving Chinese foreign policy. Chinese officials declined to comment.

Corruption was also becoming endemic, especially the buying and selling of ranks, with a generalship costing at least 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) but generating far more through graft, according to Chinese officers.

Eliminating fiefs

Mr. Xi, son of a famous revolutionary commander, came to power in 2012 making clear he was determined to clean up the PLA and reaffirm Mao’s maxim, “The Party commands the gun.”

His main weapon has been a nationwide anticorruption drive. At least 41 serving generals have been detained or convicted since 2013. So widespread was corruption that evidence from investigations now acts as a “Sword of Damocles hanging over any officer foolish enough to question” Mr. Xi’s plans, said James Mulvenon, a Chinese military expert at Defense Group Inc., a Virginia-based research firm.

As part of his plan, Mr. Xi on Jan. 11 dissolved the four main PLA General Departments—political, general staff, armaments, logistics—that top generals ran like personal fiefs. Replacing them are 15 less-powerful offices under the Central Military Commission’s direct control, letting Mr. Xi oversee everything from procurement to intelligence.

On Feb. 1, he scrapped China’s seven Military Regions, which the PLA operated like mini-states with their own schools, hospitals, hotels and newspapers, many of them moneymaking. The regions resisted central supervision and focused more on internal management than preparing for combat.

He moved to cut noncombat roles, shutting the newspapers in January. Several acrobatic, operatic, theatrical and song-and-dance troupes the PLA established in the 1930s to spread propaganda—and which have been a source of corruption—are being merged and reduced in size.

The seven regions were replaced with five new “Theater Commands,” designed to have more fluid boundaries and focus more on projecting power outward, according to military insiders. Each command’s head will have more-direct operational control of all air, naval, ground and conventional missile forces in its area, much like heads of U.S. regional commands, experts said.

“This should improve response time and effectiveness,” said Phillip Saunders, a PLA expert at the U.S. National Defense University. “They’ve looked at how the U.S. has fought and see a lot of advantages to this ‘joint’ kind of concept,” adding that it took the U.S. 15 to 20 years “to really get it right.”

Mr. Xi appears to have made some compromises, appointing Army officers to head all the new Theater Commands, although further personnel changes are likely in the coming months.

To reduce the Army’s authority, Mr. Xi has established a new Army General Command handling only ground forces, a Rocket Force overseeing missiles, and a Strategic Support Force combining capabilities in space, cyber and electronic warfare. Most of those areas were previously under Army control.

That puts the Army, which had higher status than other services, on more-equal footing, giving the others more say over budgets and operations. Ground forces are expected to account for many of the troop reductions.

Some officers support Mr. Xi’s changes, especially combat-operations leaders frustrated by graft, said people who have spoken to senior PLA figures.

Resentment, they said, comes from generals who controlled large budgets and are reduced to running relatively lowly offices. Senior officers find it harder to supplement salaries with other, sometimes illicit, activities and have lost perks such as luxury cars.

“Some senior officers might feel: ‘I used to be a commander, I’m a general, I controlled a military region,’ ” said Gen. Xu Guangyu, a former vice president of the PLA Defense Institute who held a senior post in the general staff department, “ ‘but after these cuts, I don’t command anyone.’ ”

Source: Wall Street Journal “President Xi Jinping’s Most Dangerous Venture Yet: Remaking China’s Military”

Japan scrambled fighters against China a record 571 times in fiscal 2015

Japan scrambled Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets against Chinese aircraft approaching its airspace a record-high 571 times in fiscal 2015, the Defense Ministry said.

The number is up from 464 times registered the previous year and the highest since the ministry’s Joint Staff Office began releasing data by country and region in fiscal 2001.

The office on Friday said Chinese military planes were often spotted flying over the East China Sea and between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island.

The number of scrambles by Japanese fighter jets against Chinese aircraft has been on the rise in recent years and the Defense Ministry is analyzing operations of the Chinese military.

“The numbers of scrambles alone do not tell the whole story, but we should recognize that the increase . . . indicates a tougher security environment,” Kazuhiko Fukuda, head of public affairs at the Self-Defence Forces’ Joint Staff, told reporters.

“China is modernizing its air force and is clearly aiming to improve its air combat capability in faraway skies . . . Concrete activities based on those targets are reflected in these numbers.”

Japan’s ties with China have been strained by a dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, regional rivalry and the legacy of Japan’s World War II aggression.

Patrol ships and fighter jets routinely shadow each other near the uninhabited islets that are controlled by Japan, raising concern that an unintended collision or other accidents could develop into a larger clash.

Japan scrambled ASDF fighters a total of 873 times in fiscal 2015 through March, including 288 times against Russian aircraft, many of which appeared to be involved in information-gathering.

Russia continues to carry out large-scale military drills frequently, a senior official of the ministry noted.

Source: The Japan Times “Japan scrambled fighters against China a record 571 times in fiscal 2015”