China’s military tech is becoming less of a joke and more of a threat

China’s new homegrown aircraft carrier. (Reuters/Stringer)

Steve Mollman May 04, 2017

China’s first nuclear submarine was a joke. Launched in the 1970s and now an exhibit in a museum, it was loud, couldn’t fire missiles while submerged, and exposed its crew to high levels of radiation.

But it got the ball rolling. The nation’s modern subs make the US nervous with their technical advances, and China is now constructing the world’s largest submarine factory.

It isn’t just the subs. While China still lags the US badly in some areas, and its exported weapons have had reliability issues, signs abound that its military hardware is either catching up or becoming good enough to pose a real challenge in a potential conflict. A military modernization program pushed by Chinese president Xi Jinping is spurring things along.

“A ship that can fly”

Last week the world’s largest amphibious aircraft made its first taxiing test. The AG600, made by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, is about the size of the Boeing 737 and is designed for marine takeoff and landing (or it can use conventional airstrips). One of its designers describes it as a “ship that can fly.”

The company says the plane will be used for marine rescue missions and fighting forest fires—it can scoop up 12 metric tons (13.2 tons) of water in 20 minutes. But given Beijing’s maritime ambitions in the South China Sea and elsewhere, the plane, with room for 50 passengers and a range of 4,500 km (2,800 miles), can also serve the People’s Liberation Army nicely, including via maritime patrols and troop and supplies transport—in other words, power projection. The hefty plane’s maiden flight over land is scheduled for this month, and over water later this year.

A made-in-China aircraft carrier

For years China has had just one operational aircraft carrier—hardly befitting an emerging maritime power. To make matters worse the Liaoning CV-16 was refitted from a laughably outdated Soviet-era Ukrainian ship. Last week China unveiled its first domestically built carrier at the northeast port of Dalian (see top image). The as-yet-unnamed vessel, to be fully operational in a few years, is technologically well behind its US counterparts. For instance it lacks a catapult to boost planes off the runway (making for inefficient operations) and uses conventional rather than nuclear power. But like China’s early subs, it’s a stepping stone to greater things. A third carrier is already under construction—one that more closely resembles a US carrier.

Stealthy fighter jets

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet. photo

China is making real progress in fighter jets, as evidenced by the J-20 that went into service in March. The supersonic aircraft packs stealth technology, advanced radar and sensor capabilities, and a nifty 360-degree helmet display that lets the pilot see “through” the aircraft itself. It’s also bigger than the US’s F-22 Raptor—to which it’s often compared—allowing it to hold more fuel and travel farther. While it might be stealthy from the front, however, it probably isn’t from the side. But China is testing another advanced fighter jet (the J-31) that does better in the stealth department and will possibly operate from aircraft carriers.

A new spy ship

China launched in January a new electronic spy ship. The CNS Kaiyangxing, or Mizar, is capable of conducting all-weather, round-the-clock reconnaissance on multiple targets. During its unveiling, China shared an unusual amount of detail about the ship and the rest of its small intelligence fleet, now at about a half dozen vessels (the US has at least 15). That openness was probably for the deterrence factor: Beijing wants other navies know to that, should they operate in disputed waters, its forces will be able to detect them. Vessels like this one lack firepower but can be more dangerous than warships.

A (really) long-range air-to-air missile

Being able to hit enemy aircraft in a combat zone is expected. From well outside that zone? That’s a useful bonus. In January the state-run China Daily reported on a new, long-range air-to-air missile that could, a Chinese military researcher speculated, hit high-value targets like early-warning aircraft from up to 400 km (249 miles) away. That would be far better than China’s current range of less than 100 km for such missiles. It would also outdo US capabilities in that department—one where China might actually be in the lead.

Source: Quartz Media “China’s military tech is becoming less of a joke and more of a threat”

Note: This is Quartz Media’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


10 Comments on “China’s military tech is becoming less of a joke and more of a threat”

  1. Simon says:

    You what is a joke?
    Korea were American troops under their greatest general Douglas McArthur wer taken to the cleaners by the people who runs launderettes in their country.
    In Vietnam were American army defeated by a third world guerilla force trained by people who runs launderettes forcing the Yanks fleeing with tails between their legs.
    USS Carl Vinson chikened out of fear of being sunk by North Korea forcing Trump to launch fake news.
    America cant even send anyone into space anymore.


  2. Simon says:

    China tested an atomic bomb in 1964. Not many Americans will see that as a joke if one was dropped on their city.


  3. Simon says:

    And America’s military is becoming more of a joke and less of a threat.


  4. Joseph says:

    Actually, China’s military tech was never a joke. The American would want it to be a joke, but they knew it was not. Chinese first nuclear submarine was actually as useless as American first nuclear submarine which was so radioactive that it was actual lethal. It has to be scuttled in an undisclosed deep trench to prevent radiation leakage. Of course the American would prefer to parade the USS Nautilus, American first ‘operational’ nuclear aubmarine. American first aircraft carrier, the Langley was an attempt to copy British one. It was so useless that the Japs built better aircraft carrier. In the end, the Langley was not even effective as an an aircraft transport barge. It was a far cry than Chinese first aircraft carrier the Liaoning, no matter how bad the American tries to discredit it. Despite American offers of American ‘modern’ hardware, their Nothern Alliance allies in Afghanistan prefered Chinese Type-62 tanks because of their mobility and convenient shell reloadings. The American had to buy from the Albanians for second hand Chinese tanks. The Type-62s were one of the biggest menaces in 2003 Iraqi invasion that the Americans often called up airstrike to level up the whole buildings to get a sneaking Type-62 tank. The Iraqi was known to even shoot down a hovering helicopter with the tank shell. The ISIS made a big mistake when they raided American M1 Abrams tanks from Iraqi army arsenal depots. They deployed the M1s against Iranian brigades of Chinese tanks, and got wiped out. The American would, of course, claimed expertise problem, but they still wanted to keep it quite. The ISIS didn’t so bad with Chinese tanks when they captured the Iraqi American arsenal depots. Despite American claims that Chinese frigates and destroyers are ‘inferior’ to them, they would dare to challenge Chinese Navy with their ‘superior’ ships. In the point of view of Indonesian navy who operates American tech in the past and currently Chinese tech, they only commonly assumed that Chinese techs is inferior because it is ‘Chinese’ and the American is always ‘better’. But as time goes, they find out that both techs are similar, with Chinese tech is actually cheaper and easier to maintain.


  5. johnleecan says:

    If China’s military was a joke before, then way back to the Vietnam and Korean war, it must be super embarrassing and mega humiliating to be defeated by the China.


    • Steve says:

      True – best joke


    • Joseph says:

      In Korean War, American WW2 veteran ace pilots were pinned down by Chinese farm boys with 3 hours flying lesson. What more could be more humiliating? No wonder Kim Jong-un wants to send female infantry to scare the American marines.


      • Red Flag says:

        “…In Korean War, American WW2 veteran ace pilots were pinned down by Chinese farm boys with 3 hours flying lesson.”

        Now that is a real joke!


  6. Steve says:

    ” China’s military tech is becoming less of a joke and more of a threat ” — True and No Joke

    ” US military tech is becoming less of a threat and more of a joke ” — True and What a Joke