China Is Testing Even More Anti-Ship Missiles in the South China Sea

A US aircraft carrier in danger of being sunk by China’s ballistic ASBM. Image: Wikimedia

Not good.

by Sebastien Roblin

August 4, 2019

Since the 1960s, the principal anti-ship threat has come from cruise missiles, which skim on a horizontal trajectory a few meters above the surface of the ocean have served as the principal anti-ship weapon.

When lobbing gigantic rockets into the stratosphere traveling at many times the speed of sound, it’s both a basic courtesy and common sense to forewarn pilots in the area to stay out of the way.

Therefore, late in June 2019, China issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) warning of ballistic missile tests into distinct areas in the South China Sea: one zone stretching from Hainan island to the disputed Paracel islands, and a second box-shaped sector north of the Spratly islands.

On July 1, two U.S. officials informed NBC News that intelligence had identified a “series of anti-ship ballistic missile tests in the South China Sea.”

(This first appeared in July 2019.)

This is the most dramatic indication yet that China is finally moving forward with testing its growing arsenal of land-based ballistic missiles designed to threaten vessels over a thousand miles away at sea.

Since the 1960s, the principal anti-ship threat has come from cruise missiles, which skim on a horizontal trajectory a few meters above the surface of the ocean have served as the principal anti-ship weapon. While most cruise missiles are little faster than an airliner, some like the Kalibur or Brahmos can surge to several times the speed of sound and perform evasive maneuvers to lower the chance of interception.

Compared to the low, slow, and relatively stealthy cruise missile, Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBMs) fly high, fast and indiscreetly. While comparatively easy to detect on radar or with satellite-based sensors, ASBMs may accelerate from four to ten times the speed of sound as they plunge down from the stratosphere.

Furthermore, while some cruise missile can attack ships from a distance of a few hundred miles, China’s DF-21D and DF-26B ASBMs can possibly fly over 900 or 2,000 miles away respectively. This is a longer range than the jets on a U.S. aircraft carrier can fly without in-flight refueling.

At the Zhuhai airshow in 2018, a Chinese missile manufacturer also unveiled a new short-range CM401 ASBM mountable on trucks and warships. This new missile officially has a range of 180 miles and a maximum speed of Mach 4, though some observers suspect the actual range may be much greater.

Most warships lack the fast and high-flying interceptors necessary to defend against ASBMs. However, the U.S. Navy developed and began deploying SM-3 and SM-6 missiles on its destroyers and cruisers to help protect against the ASBMs.

Yet, there remain huge challenges to exploiting the vast threat range posed by long-range ASBMs. First, they depend on the ability to rapidly acquire and relay the approximate position of a target ship—which requires a very well-oiled maritime surveillance apparatus involving satellites, patrol planes, submarine-sensors and so forth to form a kill chain connected with the launcher. China is working to develop and deploy the necessary satellites, aircraft, and undersea surveillance systems, but it’s still a formidable challenge.

Then the ASBMs itself needs its own seeker and maneuvering capability so it can track and adjust its course to hit a surface warship likely moving at 20 to 33 knots.

While ASBMs by definition have infrared or radar seekers and maneuvering fins designed to enable tracking of moving targets, it’s unclear whether the Chinese ASBMs have ever been tested on a moving target.

Certainly, the tempo of tests has been increasing, however. In 2013, satellite photos appeared to show that People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) had been test-firing DF-21D missiles at a carrier-sized mock target in Mongolia, with two craters “scouring” a 200-meter-long concrete “flight deck.”

Later in 2017, DF-21Ds or DF-26Bs may have been tested on a target in the Sea of Boha.

In January 2019, Beijing trumpeted that it had re-deployed units of road-mobile DF-26 missiles to Inner Mongolia and Tibet “in response” to the U.S. destroyer McCampbell passing by the disputed Paracel islands. This maneuver was intended highlight how the PLARF could move its anti-ship missiles far inland and still threaten U.S. ships that in turn would lack the range to retaliate. Leveraging China’s geographic bulk also creates a huge needle-in-a-haystack problem for surveillance assets trying to locate the batteries for a counter-strike. Indeed, during the 1991 Gulf War, coalition forces had very little success hunting down road-mobile Scud missile launchers in the open deserts of Iraq.

The latest round of Chinese missile tests thus serve a dual purpose, both helping the PLARF evaluate the actual effectiveness of the ASBMs against maritime targets, while serving a notice to potential adversaries in the South China Sea that their ships are vulnerable to attack from Chinese missile batteries even when hundreds of miles away from the Chinese mainland.

Of course, it’s not clear how well those rockets performed in the latest tests, whether they were tested against a fixed or moving target, and how close or far the ASBMs stand from being a genuine operational capability. But the fact that these tests are finally being performed suggests the PLA is serious about developing a genuine capability to hold ships at risk even at very great distances from its coastline.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Source: National Interest “China Is Testing Even More Anti-Ship Missiles in the South China Sea”

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

China’s New stealth jet project moving ahead on pace

By ZHAO LEI | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-09 07:13

A Chinese FC-31 stealth fighter jet takes off during a demonstration flight ahead of the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, also known as Airshow China 2014, in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, on Nov 10, 2014. [Photo by SONG FAN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Military aircraft in development will be able to carry out air, land, sea attacks

China’s development of the FC-31, the country’s second stealth fighter jet, is proceeding smoothly and on schedule, according to its chief designer.

Sun Cong, president of the Chinese Aeronautical Establishment under Aviation Industry Corporation of China, said at a news conference on Thursday in Shenyang, Liaoning province, that people should be patient and wait for good news from the project.

“You will see its latest developments in due course, in the near future,” said Sun, who is also the chief researcher at AVIC’s Shenyang Aircraft Design and Research Institute.

Sun’s comments indicated that China has never wavered in its attempts to develop and build a second series of stealth combat aircraft after the J-20 entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 2017.

His remarks are likely to reassure anyone concerned about the fate of FC-31 because of its virtual disappearance from public view over the past two years.

The twin-engine, radar-evading fighter jet was unveiled in October 2012 when a prototype made its maiden flight, becoming China’s second 5th-generation fighter jet, following the J-20.

The FC-31 has a high survivability rate, a low radar signature, advanced electronic countermeasures, strong information gathering and handling capacity, outstanding situational awareness and beyond-visual-range combat capability.

In addition to air combat, it can also carry out strikes against land and sea targets, according to its designers.

The aircraft has a large weapons bay and can carry multiple external missiles.

According to AVIC specifications, the FC-31 has a maximum takeoff weight of 25 metric tons, a combat range of 1,200 kilometers and a top speed of Mach 1.8, or 2,205 kilometers per hour. It can carry 8 tons of weapons and has a designed life span of up to 30 years.

The FC-31 will enter service in the PLA as the Shenyang institute and Shenyang Aircraft Corp’s latest major accomplishment, following the J-15 carrier-based fighter jet and the half-century-old J-8 series fighter jet.

Last week in Shenyang, AVIC marked the 50th anniversary of the J-8’s maiden flight, as well as the 10th anniversary of J-15’s first flight.

The J-8 was China’s first domestically developed combat plane capable of executing high-altitude, high-speed operations, and the series has several variants still in service with the PLA Air Force and PLA Navy. The J-15 is the spearhead of the Navy’s carrier battle group and has taken part in many long-distance combat exercises over open seas.

Source: China Daily “New stealth jet project moving ahead on pace”

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

Type 001A aircraft carrier of the PLA Navy in final sea trials

May 2019 News Navy Naval Maritime Defense Industry Posted On Monday, 27 May 2019 15:49

China’s first locally-made aircraft carrier, “Type 001A” headed out on Saturday, May 25, for its final sea trials before its formal induction into the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy fleet later this year, local media reported.

“The likely sixth sea trial could feature comprehensive and final tests before the warship’s commissioning into the PLA Navy,” Li Jie, a military expert, told Global Times.

Chinese media on Saturday posted several unverified photographs and videos of the carrier leaving from the Dalian Shipyard in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province under the assistance of multiple tug boats.

A notice published Friday stated that a military mission is scheduled to begin on Friday in the Bohai Strait and in the northern part of Yellow sea, just outside Dalian where the Type 001A carrier is moored. The sector is now off limits for other ships, the report added.

The warship is said to have already successfully tested its avionics, radar and communication systems in previous trials, so it is likely fighter jets will conduct takeoffs and landings this time. Electronic warfare version of the J-15 warplane and a Z-18 helicopter were spotted on board the Type 001A as it embarked on the sea trial in March, according to reports published in that month.

After the completion of its fifth sea trial in March, the Type 001A stayed at in the Dalian Shipyard and underwent outfitting works including flight deck painting and conducted a replenishment drill within the shipyard with the supply ship Hulunhu in late April, media reported.

Li said the sixth sea trial could again test those problems that were encountered during previous trials and then solved during the past months. “If the ship can smoothly finish this trial mission, it indicates that it is basically fit to be delivered,” Li added.

Source: “Type 001A aircraft carrier of the PLA Navy in final sea trials”

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

Former Navy Intel Officer: Chinese Navy ‘Very Competent,’ Getting Better

By: John Grady
May 15, 2019

China’s rise as a naval power goes well beyond its growing number of ships and submarines but the People’s Liberation Army Navy growing capability to operate jointly with the Chinese air force and rocket corps, a maritime intelligence expert said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., James Fanell, a retired Navy captain, said, “we need to respect that” growth in capability as much as China’s increasing numbers of modern warships, including carriers and ballistic missile submarines.

“I’m not surprised they’re becoming more and more like us,” Fanell said, down to China’s new emphasis on building a robust noncommissioned officer corps to improve quality afloat.

Fanell is considered a controversial figure in maritime security discussions on China and the Pacific, because of his belief the U.S. Navy should not engage in high-level military-to-military meetings. In his experience as U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence officer, Fanell said, Chinese officers “would ask a thousand questions, and we’d give them a thousand answers. We’d ask one question and get nothing back.”

However, he warns China’s capability must be respected. In short, “they are very, very competent,” and have progressed a long way in exercising command and control. The Chinese Navy also strengthened their skills in targeting and improving intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance thanks to an active satellite-launching program at a rate far outpacing the United States’ satellite launching program.

Beijing’s operations in the South China Sea and now their extended submarine patrols into the western India Ocean are examples of increased expertise in operations over great distances, he said.

“Where will they next operate,” Fanell asked rhetorically. The answer lays in where Beijing is dispatching its oceanographic fleet. They are currently mapping the Atlantic Ocean’s floor, he said.

But when it comes down to numbers and tonnage, Fanell said China “is determined to be first” in naval power by 2049, the centennial of the Chinese Communist takeover of the mainland. Their goal is to achieve “sea dominance,” the ability to bully or intimidate any nation so that they can impose their will in a crisis, he said.

With its modern shipyards, skilled workers and low costs, China is capable of producing two nuclear attack submarines and one ballistic missile submarine annually. The yards producing surface combatants have the same production efficiency, Fanell said. Beijing’s naval building program for all combatants “may be greater than originally estimated.”

The People’s Liberation Army Navy has at 450 surface ships and 110 submarines today, Fanell said. The fleet is concentrated regionally to keep the United States and its allies at bay. As for the United States’ long-term fleet planning strategy, he doubts the Navy could reach its goal of having a 355-ship fleet, according to its latest 30-year shipbuilding plan. To meet current global naval commitments, Fanell said the U.S. would likely need an even larger fleet than what’s planned.

In conjunction with expedited shipbuilding, Beijing is investing in sophisticated weaponry to keep the U.S. Navy and its allies and partners at bay. Using anti-ship cruise missiles as an example, Fanell said, “they simply dominate in numbers, range [200 miles] and speed — all supersonic.”

And that’s what is known.

“We know the Chinese hide many things from us” when the U.S. government, U.S. allies and partners try to gauge Beijing’s activities, he said. “Assumptions [about what the Chinese are doing, planning and considering] must be rigorously tested [and] thrown out if found to be wrong. Bad assessments have made us less secure.”

The Chinese are very open with work in the South China Sea to convert coral reefs and rock formations into militarized artificial islands. “Three of these [seven] islands] are the same dimensions as Pearl Harbor” or the size of the Beltway around Washington, D.C., he said.

Instead of engaging in open conflict, Fanell said China prefers to bully or intimidate over the islands it claims as sovereign territories in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea. With 10,000-foot runways and port facilities for large surface warships and submarines, “fish isn’t really the driver” in this crash building effort, nor is it energy development, he said.

The effort “has a military application,” allowing China “to have the ability to operate with impunity in the South China Sea.” Fanell said. The next move may come in militarizing Scarborough Reef, about 140 miles from Manila, the capital of U.S. ally the Philippines. Doing so, he said, gives Beijing “a vector of attack from the south on Taiwan.”

Freedom of navigation transits through disputed waters are valuable, Fanell said, but the real deterrence and assurance come with presence. “Stepping up our presence” and adding more exercises with allies and partners in the Pacific and Indian oceans sends a signal to China and other nations that the United States and its partners are serious when saying “the global commons are open to everyone.”

Source: USNI “Former Navy Intel Officer: Chinese Navy ‘Very Competent,’ Getting Better”

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

Armed to the Teeth; China Adds Two 7,500 Ton Type 052D Class Destroyers to its Fleet


Two Type 052D Class destroyers built for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy were reportedly launched on May 10th at a shipyard in Dalian in the country’s northeast, the latest addition to the service’s fast growing surface fleet. The rate of growth of the PLA Navy’s fleet surpasses that of any navy in history, with the Type 052D representing the third largest vessel type constructed after the 70,000 ton Type 001A Class aircraft carrier and 13,000 ton Type 055 Class destroyer – a heavier counterpart to the 7,500 Type 052D of which three were constructed in 2018. The Type 052D first entered service in March 2014 representing the fourth indigenous destroyer type developed – ten years after the first Type 052 designed known as Type 052B was commissioned in 2004. The new destroyer class pioneered many of the technologies later integrated onto the Type 055, including canister type vertical launch system (VLS) and a flat panelled active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The radar system used is known as the H/LJG-346A ‘Dragon Eye,’ and provides a level of situational awareness with few rivals among warships of its size. Propulsion systems also demonstrated advances over previous warship designs, providing the Type 052D with a cruising speed range of 4,500 nautical miles. The destroyer’s VLS was the first in Chinese service to be compatible with anti ship and land attack missiles, making the Type 052D China’s first multirole ship of its kind. The warship was also the first to deploy the YJ-18 and YJ-100 anti ship cruise missiles, which have since been integrated onto the Type 055 Class, making it one of the best suited warships for ship to ship combat in the world.

Type 052D Class Destroyer. Military Watch Magazine photo

The Type 052D deploys 88 vertical launch cells, 24 of which are reserved exclusively for HHQ-10 surface to air missiles with the remaining 64 capable of deploying a variety of air defence, anti ship and anti submarine munitions. Complementing the capabilities of the HHQ-10, the HHQ-9 are HQ-16 and quad packed DK-10A surface to air missiles can all be deployed from the destroyer’s other cells providing a highly sophisticated multi layered air defence network. This is further supplemented by the H/PJ-12 close in weapons system. Perhaps the Type 052D’s most remarkable feature, however, is its access to highly sophisticated anti ship cruise missiles which allow it to neutralise enemy warships at extreme ranges. The YJ-18 in particular stands out among modern cruise missiles carried by destroyers for its combination of a long range and a high impact speed – with 540km range allowing it to neutralise most hostile destroyer types well beyond retaliation range. The American Arleigh Burke Class, for example, is currently restricted to using Mach 0.7 speed 124km range anti ship Harpoon missiles – with the new Harpoon Block III offered by Boeing but yet to be integrated retaining a 310 km range – 43% lower than that of the YJ-18. The missile is also over four times faster than the Harpoon upon impact, accelerating to Mach 3 in its terminal phase. This speed makes the missile extremely difficult to intercept, and is sufficient to tear most warships in half with a single direct hit. This damage is supplemented by a 300kg warhead. The Type 052D can theoretically carry up to 64 of these missiles, allowing a single destroyer to potentially destroy an entire fleet at standoff range.

For an even longer range the Type 052D can deploy the YJ-100 anti ship cruise missile, an enhanced navalised variant of the CJ-10 with an estimated engagement range of 1000km. While subsonic, the missile compromises with a trajectory specialised to evade interception and a heavier 500kg warhead. This provides the destroyer with an overwhelming range advantage. The PLA Navy is estimated to be planning to deploy up to 18 of the Type 052D destroyers, with a new elongated variant (161m rather than 157m) reportedly laid down in July 2018. The warships will serve as escorts for the Navy’s carrier strike groups currently forming, and given their high endurance they could potentially be used for power projection operations beyond the Western Pacific. How the deployment of the PLA Navy changes as the fleet grows larger and increasingly gains fully blue water capabilities comparable to the United States remains to be seen.

Source: Military Watch Magazine “Armed to the Teeth; China Adds Two 7,500 Ton Type 052D Class Destroyers to its Fleet”

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

Special Report: China’s vast fleet is tipping the balance in the Pacific

David Lague and Benjamin Kang Lim

TAIPEI (Reuters) – A generation ago, from mid-1995 into early 1996, China lobbed missiles in the waters around Taiwan as the self-governing island prepared to hold its first fully democratic presidential election. Washington forcefully intervened to support its ally, sending two aircraft carrier battle groups to patrol nearby. The carriers, then as now the spearhead of American power, intimidated Beijing. The vote went ahead. The missiles stopped.

Today, with tension again running high, Washington still backs Taiwan. Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 2 renewed Beijing’s longstanding threat to use force if necessary to restore mainland control over the island. But the United States is now sending much more muted signals of support.

On Sunday, American ships sailed through the Taiwan Strait. This was the seventh passage of U.S. warships through the narrow, strategically sensitive waterway since July. Each time, though, just two U.S. vessels have ventured through; this week, it was a pair of destroyers. No powerful flotillas and certainly no aircraft carriers. It has been more than 11 years since an American carrier traversed the Taiwan Strait.

“The Trump administration faces a dilemma,” said Chang Ching, a retired Taiwan naval captain and researcher at the Taipei-based Society for Strategic Studies. “They want to send smart, calibrated signals to Beijing without causing an overreaction or misunderstanding.”

This caution is typical of the restraint the U.S. and allied navies, including Japan and Australia, now display in international waters near the Chinese coast, according to more than 10 current and former senior U.S. and Western military officials.

China now rules the waves in what it calls the San Hai, or “Three Seas”: the South China Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea. In these waters, the United States and its allies avoid provoking the Chinese navy.

In just over two decades, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese military, has mustered one of the mightiest navies in the world. This increased Chinese firepower at sea – complemented by a missile force that in some areas now outclasses America’s – has changed the game in the Pacific. The expanding naval force is central to President Xi Jinping’s bold bid to make China the preeminent military power in the region. In raw numbers, the PLA navy now has the world’s biggest fleet. It is also growing faster than any other major navy.

“We thought China would be a great pushover for way too long, and so we let them start the naval arms race while we dawdled,” said James Holmes, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and a former U.S. Navy surface warfare officer.

China’s Ministry of National Defense, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the Pentagon did not respond to questions from Reuters.

For the United States, the stakes are now much higher in any operation to support its regional allies, including Japan and Taiwan. America now faces daunting obstacles to any efforts to reinforce heavily outgunned Taiwan in a crisis. Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province and is currently building an amphibious force that could give it the capacity to launch an invasion of the island.

Senior Asian defense and security officials say the PLA’s naval advances have introduced a new uncertainty in such scenarios: If Beijing can sow serious doubt about whether Washington will intervene against China, it would undermine the value of U.S. security guarantees in Asia.

In November, a bipartisan commission set up by Congress to review the Trump administration’s national defense strategy reported that in a war with China over Taiwan, “Americans could face a decisive military defeat.”


As China gains confidence that it can dominate its near seas, it intends to challenge the dominance of the U.S. Navy in distant waters, too, in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, according to U.S and Chinese military officials.

Satellite imagery of Chinese dockyards, reports in China’s state-controlled media and assessments of U.S. and other foreign naval experts show the PLA navy is expanding as fast as shipyards can weld hulls together. This emerging blue water fleet was just a dream for the early commanders of the communist navy born in 1949, during the closing stages of the nation’s civil war. Then, the People’s Liberation Army assembled a motley collection of conscripted fishing boats and vessels defecting from the Nationalists.

Since 2014, China has launched more warships, submarines, support ships and major amphibious vessels than the entire number of ships now serving in the United Kingdom’s fleet, according to an analysis from the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies published in May last year. Between 2015 and 2017, China launched almost 400,000 tonnes of naval vessels, about twice the output of U.S. shipyards in that period, the IISS said.

The PLA navy now has about 400 warships and submarines, according to U.S. and other Western naval analysts. By 2030, the Chinese navy could have more than 530 warships and submarines, according to a projection in a 2016 U.S. Naval War College study.

A shrunken and overworked U.S. Navy, which has ruled the oceans virtually unchallenged since the end of the Cold War, had 288 warships and submarines at the end of March, according to the Pentagon.

Globally, the U.S. Navy remains the dominant maritime force, the power that keeps the peace and maintains freedom of navigation on the high seas. Chinese military and political figures say that while their nation’s fleet has more ships, America has more powerful ones, and overall supremacy at sea.

“The Chinese navy is at least three decades behind the United States,” a retired Chinese naval officer told Reuters, requesting anonymity. “It is too early for the United States to fret.”

China, however, has established dominance in the waters closest to its coast.


The regular, highly publicized launch of new warships is a powerful political weapon for Xi Jinping. For a domestic audience, modern aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines are hard evidence that what Xi describes as the “Chinese dream,” his vision of a strong, rejuvenated nation, is becoming reality.

Almost immediately after taking power in late 2012, Xi began a series of high profile visits to naval bases and voyages at sea on sleek, new warships. In documentary footage and news reports, he is piped aboard to the salutes of immaculately turned out officers and crew. Underway, he peers into the distance from the bridge through bulky naval binoculars, climbs ladders between decks and shares meals with sailors.

Last spring, he watched a giant exercise in the South China Sea, where a flotilla of 48 warships assembled in formation. Half of these vessels had been commissioned since Xi took power, state-controlled media reported. The highlight was the launch of jet fighters from China’s first aircraft carrier: the 60,000-tonne Liaoning, a refurbished Soviet-era flat top that has served as a test bed for carrier operations. The Chinese navy has launched a second carrier as well, which is now in sea trials and expected to join the fleet this year, according to U.S. officials.

A key message in the official coverage of Xi’s voyages: A vigilant navy under his command will guard against a repeat of the century of humiliation that began with the First Opium War in 1839, and during which European colonial powers and Japanese invaders took cruel advantage of a vulnerable China.

Every Chinese school child learns that China’s suffering arose partly because of the lack of a modern navy. Infamously, in the final years of the Qing Dynasty, the Empress Dowager diverted funds earmarked for naval modernization to building a new Summer Palace. This contributed to China’s heavy defeat in the 1894-95 war with Japan, in which a rising Japanese navy smashed the Chinese fleet.

While Beijing’s repeated references to these past humiliations have propaganda value, invasion is now regarded as a highly unlikely threat, according to military strategy documents published by the Chinese government. Instead, China needs to prepare for high intensity conflict in its near seas, these documents say.

It is not spelled out exactly how these conflicts would arise. But officers from the U.S. and other foreign militaries say they have no doubt Beijing is referring to clashes over Taiwan or disputed territories in China’s near seas. This strategy is driving a shift away from Beijing’s traditional emphasis on land forces. It marks a historic transformation for an ancient continental power that for millenia feared armies encroaching overland from the north and west.

Xi has elevated the status of the navy within what is the world’s biggest military. In an unprecedented move for what has been an army-dominated force, a senior naval officer, Vice Admiral Yuan Yubai, was appointed in 2017 to head China’s Southern Theater Command, one of the country’s five regional commands.

Under Xi, the Communist Party has also opened the funding tap. Between 2015 and 2021, total military outlays are projected to jump 55 percent from $167.9 billion to $260.8 billion, according to a report last year that the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission ordered from Jane’s By IHS Markit, a defense information company. Over the same period, the navy’s share of this budget is expected to increase 82 percent, from $31.4 billion to $57.1 billion, the report said.

The Chinese leader has set a clear direction for the navy to become a truly global force that would protect the country’s vast seaborne trade and expanding international interests. In its 2015 White Paper on defense, China said its navy would gradually shift its focus from defending its offshore waters to operations in the open seas.

For now, many of China’s warships are smaller vessels, including a big fleet of fast missile-attack craft. But Chinese shipyards are launching surface warships that are closing the gap in size, quality, and capability with the best of their foreign counterparts, according to interviews with veterans of the U.S., Taiwanese and Australian navies. China’s big fleet of conventional and nuclear submarines is also improving rapidly, they say.

By 2020, the PLA navy will boast more big surface warships and submarines than the Russian navy, the former head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, told a congressional committee last year. Some American naval experts believe China could achieve rough parity with the U.S. Navy in numbers and quality of major surface warships by 2030.

Crucially, the Chinese navy already has an edge in hitting power, according to senior officers from the U.S. and other regional navies. The best Chinese destroyers, frigates, fast attack craft and submarines are armed with anti-ship missiles that in most cases far outrange and outperform those on U.S. warships, these officers say.


This firepower explains why Washington keeps its carriers at a distance. The last U.S. carrier to pass through the Taiwan Strait was the now-decommissioned USS Kitty Hawk, which made a transit with its battle group in late 2007 after being denied a port visit to Hong Kong.

The U.S. Navy and other foreign navies still sail near the Chinese mainland. But they avoid overt shows of force that would increase the risk of clashes with modern Chinese warships and submarines. Retired U.S. Navy carrier-fleet officers say that in recent years the Pentagon has also avoided sending carriers to the Yellow Sea between the Korean Peninsula and the Chinese mainland, amid repeated Chinese warnings.

An example of China’s determination to control its near waters came this month, when a French warship passed through the Taiwan Strait. After the April 6 transit of the frigate Vendemiaire, China informed Paris that France was no longer welcome to attend celebrations last week to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese communist navy, U.S. officials told Reuters.

Veteran U.S. Navy officers predict any serious conflict with China off its coast would be bloody. The United States and its allies would risk heavy losses and possible defeat, they say.

This type of conflict would be vastly different from the wars the United States has been fighting in the Middle East and Afghanistan. There, America enjoyed unchallenged air and sea superiority and unimpeded logistics, said Gary Roughead, co-chairman of a 2018 review of the Trump administration’s defense strategy. Today, heavy damage to or losses of American warships or major bases is a real but underappreciated possibility for the United States in a conflict with China, said Roughead, the former Chief of Naval Operations, the top job in the U.S. Navy. “We have not thought about the significant capital losses that will occur – and the American people not being prepared for that,” he said in an interview with Reuters. “Those are significant factors in the win-loss equation.”

Chinese military veterans and people with ties to the ruling Communist Party leadership say China’s new naval muscle is defensive in nature. It is essential, they say, to counter a hostile United States that sees China as an enemy.

“Without air and sea domination, Chinese naval vessels will just be targets in the event of conflict,” said a retired PLA officer. “For Southeast Asian neighbors, China’s navy may be intimidating, but its prowess is limited to waters near the country’s shores and too early to be a force to be reckoned with in the open sea.”

The PLA navy is growing and improving, and in sheer numbers of vessels, exceeds its American rival. But China still falls well short of overall U.S. naval power. With 11 aircraft carriers, 88 powerful surface warships and 69 nuclear-powered submarines, America deploys the mightiest fleet and is likely to maintain a technological edge for some time, according to U.S. and Chinese military officials.

In response to the challenge from China and a resurgent Russian navy, the Pentagon is rebuilding its fleet and accelerating development of new weapons, including the urgent introduction of longer-range missiles. The United States aims to deploy a 355-strong fleet by 2034, according to the Trump administration’s 2020 budget proposal documents. And key U.S. allies Japan, South Korea and Australia are upgrading their navies with new, advanced warships and submarines.

China also faces challenges in its drive to become a global naval power. Chinese and foreign naval experts warn that Beijing faces a colossal funding burden as it adds multiple warships to its fleet. Typically, navies wind up paying the initial price of building a warship three times over its service life, if maintenance and refitting costs are included, according to shipbuilders.

In some vital naval technologies, China is struggling to catch up. Chinese shipyards still rely on foreign suppliers for some engines, weapons and sensors, according to global arms trade registers. High-profile arrests of suspected Chinese spies accused of stealing military secrets in the United States suggest China’s navy has shortcomings in radars, underwater sensors and other electronic technologies.

The PLA navy is well behind the U.S. and other navies in anti-submarine warfare, a serious deficiency, according to Chinese and Western military experts. Most Western military analysts also believe the Chinese navy lacks the amphibious capability to invade Taiwan – the vessels and skills to reach the island by sea and then put boots on the ground.


However, when it comes to dominating its near seas, China doesn’t need to match the U.S. ship-for-ship. The U.S. Navy is a globe-spanning force with offshore bases and multiple missions, including supporting Middle East operations, bolstering European allies, countering Russia’s naval revival and safeguarding global shipping routes. To do this job, the U.S. Navy has to dominate virtually all the world’s oceans.

In contrast, the entire Chinese fleet is based on the mainland coast. This means it has the advantage of being the home team. Without major global military responsibilities, the PLA navy can concentrate virtually all its forces in its coastal waters, flooding the zone inside what Beijing refers to as “the first island chain”: the arc that runs through the nearby major islands of the Japanese archipelago, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo.

In a conflict in these near seas, the Chinese mainland would function as a vast, unsinkable aircraft carrier. China’s warships would be close to logistical support and the firepower of land-based missiles and strike aircraft. These forces would seek to overwhelm enemy warships with volleys of missiles and torpedoes from multiple directions, U.S. and Chinese military analysts say.

Most of this firepower was unavailable to Beijing when President Bill Clinton deployed the two carrier battle groups off Taiwan in early 1996. China’s obsolete navy, geared for coastal defense, was powerless to respond, and Beijing could only watch helplessly as the Taiwanese vote went ahead.

This humiliation was a turning point, Chinese and Western navy officers say. Stung, China ordered from Russia two powerful destroyers armed with supersonic anti-ship missiles that could take out American carriers and other warships. Two more arrived later from a subsequent order.

Then China’s naval shipyards started cranking. Satellite imagery of the key yards at Shanghai, Dalian, Guangzhou and Wuhan show them almost continuously crowded with warships and submarines at different stages of construction. Since June 2017, Chinese shipyards have launched four heavily armed Type 055 cruisers, which U.S. and Chinese military officials say are a match for any modern warship.

Multiple warships can be seen under construction in one section of the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai in April 2018, including Type 055 cruisers and Type 052D destroyers, advanced surface warships armed with long-range missiles for attacking naval and airborne targets. The first Type 055 cruiser, the 10,000-tonne Nanchang, has completed most of its sea trials and will soon join the fleet, the Chinese military said on April 25. It will deliver a major boost to China’s naval firepower when fully operational.
And the PLA is building a force of modern, amphibious heavy-lift vessels that in time could allow Beijing to mount a landing on Taiwan or disputed territories such as the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China. The PLA is also training an expanded force of marines for amphibious landings. China’s marines are expected to be a 30,000-strong force by 2020, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power released in August.

On February 27, China’s second aircraft carrier put to sea from Dalian for its fifth round of sea trials, according to reports in the official media.

With the still-unnamed carrier now close to joining the fleet, the PLA navy celebrated its anniversary on April 23 with a multinational naval display off the North Sea Fleet headquarters at Qingdao. Xi Jinping was on hand as the Nanchang made its first public appearance with the fleet.

(Reporting by David Lague and Benjamin Kang Lim. Edited by Peter Hirschberg.)

Source: Reuters “Special Report: China’s vast fleet is tipping the balance in the Pacific”

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 shows off its new destroyer during massive display of naval power

The new type 055 guided-missile destroyer Nanchang of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China’s PLA Navy in the sea near Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong province, Tuesday, April 23, 2019.
The new type 055 guided-missile destroyer Nanchang.AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Ryan Pickrell Apr 23, 2019, 12:02 PM

  • China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of thePeople’s Liberation Army Navy in Qingdao on Tuesday, showing off some new weapons systems.
  • During the parade, which was shrouded in fog, mist, and rain, the Chinese navy showed off the Nanchang, the first of the newgeneration of Type 055 destroyers.
  • The new destroyers are the most heavily armed of China’s surface combatants, with 112 universal vertical-launch-system cells capable of firing anti-air, anti-ship, anti-submarine, andland-attack missiles.

China showed off a new naval weapon, the first of a new generation of hard-hitting destroyers, at a celebration of the70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy on Tuesday.

During the celebratory maritime parade, the Nanchang (101), a 10,000-ton Type 055 stealth destroyer, sailed onto the scene, Reuters reported.

The ship is armed with 112 vertical-launch cells with theability to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-shipcruise missiles, and CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles. The maingun is a H/PJ-38 130-mm gun, but there are reports that thisvessel could eventually be equipped with a railgun. The vessel uses X- and S-band radars, allowing it to track stealthy objects of various sizes.

Sailors stand on the deck of the new type 055 guided-missile destroyer Nanchang of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy as it participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China’s PLA Navy in the sea near Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong province, Tuesday, April 23, 2019.
The Nanchang in China’s 70th anniversary naval parade. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

The destroyer, technically large enough to be classified as a cruiser, has a substantial payload capacity that trails the US Navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers but exceeds the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which have only 96 vertical-launch cells.The ship’s primary rival is said to be the Zumwalt-class destroyers, which continue to suffer from a variety of developmental problems.

The Nanchang, which was launched in 2017, started seatrials in August 2018, China Daily reported. Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, told theGlobal Times that the public debut at the fleet review on Tuesday indicates that the vessel is now combat-ready.

Additional Type 055 destroyers are in the works. A second shipwas launched in April 2018, and two more were launched in July.These vessels, like the Nanchang, are expected to eventuallybecome heavily armed escort ships for China’s emerging carrierforce.

While the Liaoning – a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser refitted to serve as China’s first aircraft carrier – was present at the naval parade in Qingdao on Tuesday, China’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier, which just completed its fifth sea trial, remained at the shipyard in Dalian.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China’s PLA Navy in the sea near Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong province, Tuesday, April 23, 2019.
The aircraft carrier Liaoning at the Chinese naval parade.AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

A total of 32 vessels and 39 aircraft participated in China’s celebratory fleet review. Among the other vessels on display was an apparently modified version of China’s Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines. China also showed off a new type of conventional submarine.

A Great Wall 236 submarine of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, billed by Chinese state media as a new type of conventional submarine, participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China’s PLA Navy in the sea near Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong province, Tuesday, April 23, 2019.
A Great Wall 236 submarine. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

China’s naval modernization is being watched carefully in Washington as the US shifts its focus from the counter insurgency fight to potential high-end conflict. The Army, the Navy, and the Marines are all increasingly looking at the kind of anti-ship weaponry required to punch holes in China’s fleet, a necessary capability as China strengthens its military.

Chinese media said the Type 055 destroyer is a “symbol of [the] Chinese navy’s development.”

Source: Business Insider “China shows off its new destroyer during massive display of naval power”

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