Exclusive: Satellite images reveal show of force by Chinese navy in South China Sea

Satellite photo dated March 26, 2018 shows Chinese ships south of Hainan, China. Planet Labs/Handout via REUTERS

Satellite photo dated March 26, 2018 shows Chinese ships south of Hainan, China. Planet Labs/Handout via REUTERS

James Pearson, Greg Torode March 27, 2018

HANOI/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Dozens of Chinese naval vessels are exercising this week with an aircraft carrier in a large show of force off Hainan island in the South China Sea, satellite images obtained by Reuters show.

The images, provided by Planet Labs Inc, confirm a Chinese carrier group has entered the vital trade waterway as part of what the Chinese navy earlier described as combat drills that were part of routine annual exercises.

The Liaoning carrier group last week traversed the Taiwan Strait, according to the Taiwanese defense ministry.

The photos, taken on Monday, show what appear to be at least 40 ships and submarines flanking the carrier Liaoning in what some analysts described as an unusually large display of the Chinese military’s growing naval might.

Sailing in a line formation more suited to visual propaganda than hard military maneuvers, the flotilla was headed by what appeared to be submarines, with aircraft above.

Jeffrey Lewis, a security expert at the California-based based Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies, said the images showed the first confirmation that the carrier was joining the drills.

“It’s an incredible picture,” he said. “That’s the big news to me. Confirmation that, yes, the carrier participated in the exercise.”

While the Liaoning has previously entered the South China Sea as part of drills in uncontested training grounds south of Hainan, its annual exercises are closely watched by regional and international powers eyeing Beijing’s growing military might.

It is unclear where the flotilla was headed, or how long operations will last. China’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

Collin Koh, a security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, described the deployment as unusual for its size and scope.

“Judging by the images, it does seem they are keen to show that elements of the South Sea Fleet are able to routinely join up with the carrier strike group from Dalian in the north,” he said.

“It does seem they want to show inter-fleet interoperability – something the (Chinese) navy has been quietly working on for some time.”

Chinese naval and coast guard forces have expanded rapidly in recent years and now patrol the vast swathes of the South China Sea, but little is known about their combat readiness and co-ordination.

Koh said as well as the destroyers, frigates and submarines that would ordinarily support a carrier, the flotilla appeared to include a large oiler for re-supply as well as smaller corvettes and possibly fast attack catamarans.

“While it highlights an extensive ability to deploy, we are still left to guess at the PLAN’s combat readiness,” Koh said.

As well as Vietnam, China’s claims in the South China Sea are disputed by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei while Taiwan also has claims.

The exercises come amid fresh signs of tension in the resource-rich waterway, with Vietnam recently halting oil exploration off its coast by Spanish firm Repsol under pressure from Beijing.

Beijing also objected to a so-called freedom of navigation patrol by a U.S. warship last week close to one of its artificial islands in the Spratlys archipelago further south.

Reporting By Greg Torode and James Pearson, additional reporting by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: Satellite images reveal show of force by Chinese navy in South China Sea”


A Chinese shipbuilder accidentally revealed its major navy plans

Nuclear submarines, giant aircraft carriers, robot warships.

By Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer March 16, 2018

Dalian Shipyard
Dalian Shipyard, part of CSIC, is where China’s first domestic carrier, CV-17, was built. It will also likely be the builder for China’s first, nuclear powered supercarrier.

For a brief moment, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), put online China’s next big naval projects (but quickly pulled them down). The revelation, of which screenshots were taken before censors intervened, provided a picture of China’s ambitions for a world class navy.

Type 003
This new display at the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution, was newly installed for the PLA’s 90th anniversary. While it has speculative features like four catapults, J-20 fighters and stealthy UCAVs, the nuclear powered Type 003 supercarrier probably won’t enter service until after 2030.
Oedo Soldier

CSIC is a major shipbuilder for the People’s Liberation Army Navy, responsible for high ticket items like aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. The biggest item in CSIC’s not-so-secret portfolio is China’s first nuclear-powered carrier. Popularly identified as the Type 003, it will be the largest non-American warship in the world when its launched in the late 2020s. CSIC’s Dalian Shipyard, which refurbished the aircraft carrier Liaoning, and launched China’s first domestically built carrier, CV-17, in 2017, will presumably build China’s first “Type 003” CVN.

The Type 003 will displace between 90,000-100,000 tons and have electromagnetically assisted launch system (EMALS) catapults for getting aircrafts off the deck. It’ll likely carry a large air wing of J-15 fighters, J-31 stealth fighters, KJ-600 airborne early warning and control aircraft, anti-submarine warfare helicopters, and stealth attack drones. When joined with Type 055 destroyers and next-generation attack submarines, it would provide the PLAN a highly capable task force for representing China on global missions.

The Type 095 SSN, seen in this speculative fanmade CGI, will likely have VLS cells for launching a wide range of cruise missiles, pumpjet propulsion and improved quieting technology. The first Type 095 will likely begin production in late 2017 at the giant new BSHIC factory, with many more to follow in the 2020s.

CSIC’s website also boasted that it would build a new nuclear-powered submarine, likely the Type 095 nuclear attack submarine (SSN). The Type 095 SSN would be built at CSIC’s Bohai Shipyard, which is China’s sole nuclear submarine shipyard. Compared to the Type 093 SSN, the Type 095 SSN will include new noise reduction measures, like an integrated electric propulsion system and possibly a shaftless rim drive, single hull, and electronic noise cancellation. CSIC is also working on a separate ‘quiet’ submarine project, presumably to be built at its Wuhan conventional submarine shipyard. This submarine is presumably quieter than the air-independent propulsion (AIP) Type 039B Yuan submarine; it’ll likely have quieting measures like a single hull, a new AIP system, and lithium-ion batteries. A new generation of Chinese submarines could help the PLAN remedy its historic technologic disadvantage against the submarines forces of the American and Japanese navies.

Large AUV
This large AUV, similar to the USN’s LDUUV, is used for long term autonomous missions; its size allows for it to carry modular payloads of sensors, mine warfare and ASW. It could be the precursor to larger Chinese armed UUVs carrying torpedoes and missiles.

The big CSIC announcement also covers 21st century naval wish lists, like autonomous robot submarines. This is the first official confirmation of China pursuing armed unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), in addition to unmanned surface vehicles already offered for exports. Autonomous UUVs, armed with torpedoes and missiles, could act as expendable scouts or wingmen for manned Chinese submarines and surface warships, such as undertaking dangerous missions like probing enemy minefields, launching sneak attacks, and drawing away enemy forces.

Underwater Great Wall of China
The Underwater Great Wall may be centered around stationary sensors on the ocean bed, but autonomous UUVs will be a critical enabler in not just tracking enemy submarines, but finding them.

To defend Chinese home waters and expand the anti-access/area denial umbrella underwater, CSIC is designing an underwater attack and defense system. It could likely be an armed variant of the “Underwater Great Wall” of UUVs, other maritime robots and seafloor sensors. With built in modularity, it could be tailored to defend naval bases with surveillance UUVs and counter torpedo defenses on one end, and at the other end of the spectrum; a networked minefield of armed and smart UUVs supported by automated underwater listening posts. These capabilities would require not just the platforms, though; CSIC would need to master emerging technologies like underwater high capacity datalinks, combat AI, and multi-spectrum sensors.

Source: Popular Science “A Chinese shipbuilder accidentally revealed its major navy plans”

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

China has plan to build nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

Reuters Staff February 28, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is developing technologies to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, state media reported on Wednesday, as Beijing pushes forward with an ambitious military modernization program.

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged in October last year to turn China’s military into a world-class fighting force by 2050, and has made new technology development a key policy plank, investing in stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and missiles.

State-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), the country’s largest naval vessel manufacturer, revealed on Tuesday the ambition in a list of technical developments the company hopes to achieve as part of weaponry upgrades for the Chinese navy by 2025, according to the state-backed Global Times.

The announcement by CSIC appears to have been subsequently edited on the company’s website to remove the mention of nuclear-powered vessels, but it remains widely available on the Chinese internet.

“We must…speed up key breakthroughs such as the realization of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, new-style nuclear submarines, quiet submarines, and unmanned intelligent underwater defense systems,” the original document said, according to the Global Times.

CSIC declined to immediately comment on the Global Times report.

CSIC built China’s first home-built aircraft carrier, which was launched in April last year and is expected to enter service in 2020, once it has been fitted out and armed.

The vessel was designed based on China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, which was bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted for China.

CSIC has also said that it is working on a third carrier that will be designed, constructed and equipped entirely using the company’s own technology.

Little is known about China’s aircraft carrier program, which is a state secret.

Chinese state media has quoted experts as saying that the country needs at least six carriers, an endeavor expected to take decades. The United States operates 10 and plans to build two more.

China’s navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role over the last year, with its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

Source: Reuters “China has plan to build nuclear-powered aircraft carrier”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

Chinese warships enter East Indian Ocean amid Maldives tensions

Reuters Staff February 20, 2018

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Eleven Chinese warships sailed into the East Indian Ocean this month, a Chinese news portal said, amid a constitutional crisis in the tiny tropical island chain of the Maldives now under a state of emergency.

A fleet of destroyers and at least one frigate, a 30,000-tone amphibious transport dock and three support tankers entered the Indian Ocean, news portal Sina.com.cn said, without linking the deployment to the crisis in the Maldives or giving a reason.

“If you look at warships and other equipment, the gap between the Indian and Chinese navy is not large,” Sina.com.cn said on Sunday.

It did not say when the fleet was deployed or for how long.

Rivalry between old foes India and China for influence in the Maldives became evident after President Abdulla Yameen signed up to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond.

India, which has had longstanding political and security ties to the islands about 400 km (250 miles) away, has sought to push back against China’s expanding presence in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 400,000 people. Maldivian opposition leaders have urged New Delhi to intervene in the crisis.

China’s Ministry of Defense did not respond to requests for comment.

On Friday, the People’s Liberation Army posted photos and a story on rescue training exercises taking place in the East Indian Ocean on its official Twitter-like Weibo account.

China earlier this month advised Chinese citizens to avoid visiting the Maldives, famous its luxury hotels, scuba-diving resorts and limpid tropical seas, until political tensions subside.

China has been striking deals with countries in Asia and Africa in line with its Belt and Road initiative to improve imports of key commodities, upgrade infrastructure and trade routes in the region and boost its diplomatic clout.

Yameen imposed the emergency on Feb. 5 for 15 days to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed convictions against nine opposition leaders and ordered his government to free those held in prison. He sought parliamentary approval to extend the emergency for 30 days on Monday.

China has drawn criticism in the West for its perceived military buildup of the neighboring South China Sea, where it has built and expanded islands and reefs.

China claims most of the sea where neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

(The online version of this story fixes spelling of Weibo in paragraph eight)

Reporting by Engen Tham in Shanghai, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Wang Jing in Shanghai; Editing by Nick Macfie

Source: Reuters “Chinese warships enter East Indian Ocean amid Maldives tensions”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China’s Success in Its Belt and Road Initiative in 2017

According to CCTV primetime news report titled “China’s trade with Belt and Road countries amounted to 7.4 trillion yuan in 2017”, in 2017 China’s trade with countries along the Belt and Road increase 17.8% to 7.4 trillion yuan, Chinese enterprises’ direct investment there amounted 5 $14.4 billion and new contracts for projects were worth $144.3 billion, a increase of 14.5% over 2016.

On the other hand, USN’s article “Outpacing the Competition: A Systems Engineering Challenge” gives the impression that USN has to increase spending to enhance its capabilities in order to counter Chinese navy’s Growth, which means its spending shall increase.

China is making money in its Belt and Road projects and will make more so that its influence in the world will grow. To counter that the US has to spend more money to enhance its military capabilities.

As a result, China will grow increasingly richer while the US will become increasingly poorer.

Who will be the winner?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on mil.huanqiu.com’s report and USN’s article full text of which can respectively been viewed at http://tv.cctv.com/2018/01/25/VIDEmctMWBoxlrMPhL3Gz6K8180125.shtml and https://ndiastorage.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/ndia/2017/systems/Tuesday/Keynote_Grosklags.pdf.

Chinese navy’s amphibious capabilities continue to grow

Andrew Tate, London – Jane’s Defence Weekly

23 January 2018

China’s latest 20,000-tonne Yuzhao-class (Type 071) landing platform dock (LPD) vessel was launched on 20 January at the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. It is the sixth ship of the class and joins the previous vessel, which was launched in June 2017, fitting out alongside. All ships of the class have been built at the Hudong-Zhonghua yard.

The first Type 071 entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in late 2007 and was joined by two others in 2011 and 2012. These first three ships are all based in the South Sea Fleet base in Zhanjiang, which is also close to the PLAN’s marine corps’ base.

Source: Jane’s 360 “Chinese navy’s amphibious capabilities continue to grow”

Note: This is Jane’s 360’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China’s Navy Inducts 2 More Sub Killer Stealth Warships

The People’s Liberation Army Navy commissioned two stealth corvettes into service this month.

By Franz-Stefan Gady

November 30, 2017

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has inducted two Type 056/056A Jiangdao-class corvettes into service this month.

The two new warships, Guangyuan (hull number 552) and Suining (hull number 551), were commissioned on November 16 and 28 respectively at a naval base in Guangzhou, Guangdong province in southern China. Both vessels will serve in the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet, the force responsible for Chinese naval operations in the South China Sea.

The Type 056 Jiangdao-class has been designated by the PLAN as light missile frigates. There are currently two types of Jiangdao-class ships in service with the Chinese Navy: a multi-purpose and a specialized anti-submarine warfare (ASW) variant. The Guangyuan and Suining are of the latter kind and feature specialized equipment including towed and variable depth sonars in addition to the standard fit that I outlined previously:

Next to four YJ-83 anti-ship missiles (two launchers with two missiles each) and a 76-millimeter main gun, the ASW variant is also equipped with two 324 millimeter triple torpedo launchers, as well as variable depth and towed sonars. The ship’s flight deck also allows operation of a Harbin Z-9 military helicopter, specifically equipped for ASW missions.

However, “the corvette does not feature a helicopter hangar suggesting that it will be difficult to permanently station a helicopter with airborne dipping sonar aboard a Type 056A corvette,” I noted. ASW remains one of the top priorities of the PLAN and the service aims to rapidly improve its capabilities in the field.

Type 056A corvettes have been designed for patrol and escort operations in the exclusive economic zones of China within 200 nautical miles from the Chinese coastline. According to a Chinese Ministry of Defense statement quoted by Navy Recognition:

Type 056 Corvettes are new-generation light guided missile frigates independently developed by China. It has a length of 89 meters, a beam of 11 meters and a full-load displacement of 1,500 tons.

The warship, independently developed, designed and constructed by China, is equipped with a variety of weapons and equipment, and is featured by good stealth performance, strong compatibility, and a wide range of applications of advanced technologies.

After commissioned to the PLAN, the warship[s] will perform such missions as patrolling, alert, fishery protection, escort, antisubmarine operation and anti-surface operation.

The PLAN reportedly aims to build a fleet of up to 60 Type 056/056A Jiangdao-class corvettes with one new ship launched ever six weeks. This year alone, the PLAN has commissioned seven Jiangdao-class corvettes (all of the Type 056 ASW variant) into service. Four more corvettes are expected to be commissioned in December and January alone.

Overall, the PLAN operates a total of 37 Type 056/056A Jiangdao-class corvettes.

Source: The Diplomat “China’s Navy Inducts 2 More Sub Killer Stealth Warships”

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