Defense News•May 23, 2020
MELBOURNE, Australia — China has announced a 6.6 percent growth in its defense budget for this year, its lowest rate of increase for almost three decades.
The growth in China’s defense budget would see spending rise from $167 billion last year to $178.2 billion, an increase of about $11 billion. The country has the second-largest defense budget in the world, behind only the United States.
Despite the growth of China’s defense budget being at its lowest, in percentage terms, since the early 1990s, the 6.6 percent figure only represents a slightly lower figure than the 7-7.5 percent growth many analysts estimated before the pandemic. In real dollar terms, the $11 billion increase in defense spending is the fifth-highest increase ever for the country.
It also shows that China is determined that the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, will remain insulated as much as possible from the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in China’s economy shrinking by 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time last year.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said as much during his speech Friday at the opening of the annual gathering of its largely rubber stamp parliament. He pledged that the PLA would not be worse off.
“We will deepen reforms in national defense and the military, increase our logistic and equipment support capacity, and promote innovative development of defense-related science and technology,” he told legislators at the opening of the National People’s Congress, which kicked off Friday at the Great Hall of the People in China’s capital, Beijing.
Li also touched on the issue of Taiwan during his speech, reiterating that China would “resolutely oppose and deter any separatist activities seeking Taiwan independence.” He also called on the Taiwanese people to “join the mainland in opposing Taiwanese independence and to promote reunification.”
China views Taiwan as a breakaway province, with the self-governing island off its coast having formed its own government in 1949 when Nationalist forces fled there following defeat at the hands of Communists during China’s civil war.
Perhaps tellingly, Li dropped the use of the word “peaceful” when talking of reunification with Taiwan, a departure from decades of using it as the standard expression Chinese leaders used when addressing parliament and mentioning Taiwan. Although China has never renounced the possible use of force for reunification efforts.
Li’s call for reunification came as U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper reaffirmed that the country would stand by Taiwan. Speaking on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Esper said the U.S. would “certainly live up to our commitments to Taiwan,” noting that it is also bound by the Taiwan Relations Act enacted by Congress, which pledges to supply Taiwan with weapons it needs for its defense.
Esper’s dark vision for US-China conflict makes war more likely
Accordingly, the U.S. State Department announced Thursday that it has approved the sale of an additional 18 heavyweight submarine torpedoes to Taiwan for $180 million. The Mk 46 Mod 6 Advanced Technology torpedoes will equip Taiwan’s submarine fleet, and the approval follows another for 48 similar weapons in 2017.
Taiwan has reported that Chinese military activity around the island continues unabated throughout the ongoing pandemic, with Chinese naval vessels and military aircraft regularly operating in international airspace and waters around Taiwan.
China calls the movements routine training exercises. However, the island’s government sees these moves as part of an intimidation campaign against Taiwan and regularly publicizes PLA ship and aircraft movements in its vicinity.
Source: news.yahoo.com “China announces $178.2 billion military budget”
Note: This is news.yahoo.com’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
According to China’s gifted strategist Sun Tzu, a war is to be won with ingenious surprise move while frontal confrontation is being conducted.
The Diplomat’s article “China’s Worrying Military Exercises Near Taiwan” says that during PLA’s frequent military exercises near Taiwan, Taiwan responded by scrambling its warplanes to shadow Chinese warplanes. Obviously, if China had wanted to attack Taiwan, it should not have conducted such exercises as there would have been no surprise at all.
What then is China’s aim to conduct such military drills near Taiwan? If it wanted “further tempering and testing the joint combat capabilities of multiple arms in the theater (PLA Eastern Theater)”, the exercises can well be conducted in the vast area of the Theater within China and there is no need to do so near Taiwan.
The Diplomat is right that the military exercises “are only likely to generate fear and inspire greater cooperation with Washington”.
However, it is not aimed at “only likely” but surely “to generate fear and inspire greater cooperation with Washington”. The fear generated will scare away investment in Taiwan while the greater cooperation with the US means more purchase of US weapons by Taiwan leaving Taiwan with less funds to boost its economic development.
On the other hand, if such exercises are conducted frequently and become routine, Taiwan troops will not be much on alert. The PLA may sudden attack Taiwan under the cover of the exercises. That may be a surprise move. Anyway, if the exercises will achieve its goal if it is “only likely to generate fear and inspire greater cooperation with Washington”.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on The Diplomat’s article, full text of which can be viewed at https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/chinas-worrying-military-exercises-near-taiwan/.
Taiwan News’ article “Beijing fails to congratulate Taiwan KMT’s new chairman” yesterday speculates the reason for the breaking of the convention to congratulate the election of KMT’s new chairman. The failure to congratulate may mean that Beijing is unhappy that KMT may abandon the “1992 Consensus” that Beijing regards as the basis for peaceful reunification with Taiwan.
KMT abandons the consensus as it has to win over Taiwan’s young voters who tend to advocate independence. This trend will grow if Taiwan remains separate from China.
That being the case, arms reunification will be the only alternative. The Chinese Communist Party will never allow Taiwan’s separation from China to be permanent as it will be very unpopular among Mainland people and will make it a criminal in Chinese history.
For thousands of years, China is a united country. I was split occasionally for some time but was always reunited ultimately.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Taiwan News’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3893545.
It’s not simple hostility but hatred that Putin lets oil price tumble to kill US shale oil industry in retaliation of US sanctions on Russia’s North Stream II Pipeline and Russian oil giant Rosneft for transporting Venezuelan oil.
CNBC’s commentary “Putin just sparked an oil price war with Saudi Arabia — and US energy companies may be the victims” describes Americans’ concerns about the oil price war that may hurt US shale oil industry.
However, Trump may use what the US has received from tariff hikes to defend US shale oil industry with subsidies so that Putin may fail to really hurt the US by reducing oil price that also hurts Russia itself.
Putin shall have some alternative to attack the US. What about China taking Taiwan by force to force US to give Taiwan military support? Putin will have real chance of retaliation by hitting US military. US navy and military bases in Asia are all within the range of Russian bombers to say the least.
Anyway, low oil and gas prices will greatly benefit China as it is the largest oil and gas importer. Russian support may deter US military interference when China takes Taiwan by force.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on CNBC’s commentary, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/08/putin-sparks-an-oil-price-war-and-us-companies-may-be-the-victims.html.
February 9, 2020 / 5:56 PM / Updated 15 hours ago
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s air force scrambled on Sunday to intercept Chinese jets that flew around the island claimed by Beijing as its own, in a move denounced by Taiwan’s Defence Ministry as a threat to regional peace and stability.
China has been flying what it calls “island encirclement” drills on-off since 2016 when Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen first took office.
Beijing believes Tsai, who won re-election last month, wishes to push the island’s formal independence. She says Taiwan is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.
In a statement, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said Chinese J-11 fighters and H-6 bombers flew into the Bashi Channel to the south of Taiwan, then out into the Pacific before heading back to base via the Miyako Strait, located between Japan’s islands of Miyako and Okinawa, to the northeast of Taiwan.
“During this period, the national military appropriately used air reconnaissance aircraft and air defense forces in accordance with combat readiness regulations,” it said.
The ministry provided a picture of a Taiwan air force F-16 shadowing one of the Chinese H-6 bombers.
“The Chinese Communist’s long-range far-out-at-sea missions have impacted regional security and stability and endanger the peace and welfare shared by all parties in the region,” the ministry said.
There was no immediate comment from China’s Defence Ministry. China has brushed off such drills in the past as nothing out of the ordinary.
Relations between Taipei and Beijing have further plummeted in the past few weeks following the outbreak of the new coronavirus in China, with Taiwan accusing China of preventing the island from accessing full information from the World Health Organization (WHO) or attending its meetings.
Taiwan is not a WHO member due to China’s objections, which says the island is merely a Chinese province whose interests in the health body are adequately represented by Beijing.
But in one small diplomatic breakthrough for Taiwan, the WHO said Taiwanese experts will participate this week in an on-line meeting of experts about the virus.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said in a Sunday statement this was a “good start” and that they would strive to take part in more WHO events.
Taiwan’s WHO troubles last week became another flashpoint in Sino-U.S. ties, with the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva telling the agency to deal directly with Taiwan’s government, drawing a sharp rebuke from China.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard: Editing by Neil Fullick
Source; Reuters “Taiwan scrambles jets as Chinese air force flies round island”
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 president hails leader of South Pacific nation after it severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan
Tue 7 Jan 2020 05.42 GMT
Last modified on Tue 7 Jan 2020 05.46 GMT
China’s president Xi Jinping has praised Kiribati for being “on the right side of history” after the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in China on Monday.
The agreement, which signs the Pacific nation up to China’s belt and road initiative, comes after Kiribati severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established them with China in September last year.
Xi met Kiribati’s president, Taneti Maamau, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and thanked him for visiting China.
“Last September, China and Kiribati restored diplomatic relations based on the one-China principle and have ushered in a new chapter of bilateral cooperation,” said Xi, according to video of the meeting released by the Chinese state broadcaster CGTN. “We welcome Kiribati back to the big family of China-Pacific island cooperation.”
“Mr President and the Kiribati government stand on the right side of history,” Xi told Maamau, according to CGTN.
Maamau told Xi: “Kiribati is grateful for the support we have received from China in the last recent months following the normalisation of our diplomatic relations in September 2019.
“Allow me also to take this opportunity to reaffirm my government’s commitments to the ‘one China’ principle and now our deepest respect of your government’s sovereignty to maintain peace and harmony among your people and the world at large.”
Kiribati’s switch in support from Taiwan to China meant Taiwan lost its second diplomatic ally in less than a week, following an announcement from the Solomon Islands that it was breaking away from Taiwan.
Over the decades, dozens of countries – including the US and most western nations – have switched recognition to Beijing, leaving just a handful of countries loyal to Taiwan, largely in Latin America and the Pacific.
The south Pacific has been a diplomatic stronghold for Taiwan, where, until this week, formal ties with six island nations made up more than a third of its total alliances.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) were the largest of Taiwan’s Pacific allies, with populations of 600,000 and 115,000 respectively.
The decision of the two nations to establish relations with China has left Taiwan with four remaining Pacific allies: Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau and Marshall Islands, as well as allies in the Caribbean and Latin America.
China’s concerted attempt to peel allies away from Taipei could be seen as putting pressure on Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen, who is pro-Taiwanese sovereignty, ahead of elections in Taiwan this weekend.
Tsai is favoured to win a second term in Saturday’s election, an outcome that would likely intensify Chinas economic, diplomatic and military pressure over her refusal to accept its insistence that Taiwan is a part of China. Since her election, China has increasingly sought to isolate Taiwan diplomatically while ramping up its threat to use force to annex the self-governing island republic.
Source: The Guardian “’On right side of history’: Xi Jinping praises Kiribati for switch to China”
Note: This is The Guardian’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
China’s first amphibious assault ship, a Landing Helicopter Dock known as Type 075, was launched in Shanghai today.
Xavier Vavasseur 25 Sep 2019
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN or Chinese Navy), the customer of the vessel, said in a statement that after a brief ceremony starting at 9:20 am at a CSSC’s Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard, waters began to be pumped into a dry dock in which the ship’s hull was built.
Participants at the ceremony – officials from the central and Shanghai governments, officers from the Central Military Commission’s Equipment Development Department and the PLA Navy, executives of the State-owned conglomerate China State Shipbuilding Corp as well as the vessel’s designers and construction workers – applauded as they watched the launch process, the statement said, without providing more details about the event.
According to the PLAN, the new class of ship was domestically developed and constructed. It will have a strong capability to carry out amphibious combat and other tasks.
The Chinese navy added that in the next phase, engineers will start outfitting and fine-tuning the vessel’s equipment and then conduct mooring tests and sea trials.
The Chinese Navy officially started in 2011 development work on the Type 075, a helicopter carrier project displacing more than 30,000 tonnes. Its aim is likely to increase the “vertical” amphibious assault capability with the very mountainous East Coast of Taiwan in mind.
As for its specifications, rumors speak of “36,000 tons of displacement”, “capacity of 28 helicopters”, “diesel engine with the 9,000 kW 16PC2-6B” and “four CIWS including two HQ-10 and two H/PJ-11”.
While the Type 075 appears to slightly smaller than the U.S. Navy’s LHA, it is larger compared to French or Spanish/Australian LHD equivalents. It is actually pretty close in size to Italy’s future Trieste LHD.
The first Type 075 was constructed in record time (this has become the norm nowadays, for Chinese shipbuilding: extremely fast construction pace that no one can match). A second vessel of the class is already under construction while a larger version is rumored to be planned.
When fully operational, the new Type 075 LHD will bolster the PLAN’s amphibious capabilities, which today rely on the Type 071 LPD design.
Source: Naval News “China Launches 1st Type 075 LHD for PLAN”
Note: This is Naval News’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
31 July 2019
by Ludovic Ehret with Amber Wang in Taipei
China stepped up pressure on Taiwan on Wednesday as it announced the suspension of individual travel permits to the self-ruled democratic island “due to current cross-strait relations”.
Relations between Communist-ruled Beijing and Taipei have plummeted since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016 because her party refuses to recognise the idea that Taiwan is part of “one China”.
As punishment, Beijing has cut official communications, ramped up military exercises, poached diplomatic allies and ratcheted up economic pressure on the island.
The latest move comes as Taiwan prepares to hold a presidential election in January, with Beijing-friendly candidate Han Kuo-yu of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party hoping to defeat Tsai.
A programme had allowed Chinese citizens in 47 mainland cities to apply for permits to visit Taiwan on their own instead of visiting on group tours.
But the tourism ministry said in a brief statement that their issuance would be suspended from Thursday “due to current cross-strait relations” — a move that could hurt the island’s economy. The statement did not mention any restrictions on group tours.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top policy-making body on China, issued a statement to “sternly protest and condemn” the move, saying it was done unilaterally.
Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that by blocking mainland tourists, “the Chinese Communists act like they are afraid that the Chinese people will experience the sweet fruits of freedom and democracy.”
For his part, Tsai’s rival Han, who is mayor of Kaohsiung, urged China to “not equate” Taiwan’s people with the DPP, his city government said in a statement.
‘Weaponisation of tourism’
Taiwan experienced a sharp drop in mainland tourists after Tsai took office in 2016.
Tourism operators attributed the decline to a more negative portrayal of Taiwan in Chinese media, along with scaled-back promotion of tours by major Chinese travel agencies.
“Since 2016 China has kept using its tourists as a weapon to threaten the DPP,” Tsai’s party said in its statement.
“Taiwan will not bow to such political pressure and Taiwan will open its arms wider to embrace tourists from more countries,” the DPP said.
Mainland arrivals rebounded by around 30 percent in the first half of this year after the KMT won local elections in 2018, according to the Taiwan Visitors Association.
J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow with the Global Taiwan Institute in Washington, said Beijing had hoped that the drop in tourism in 2016 would lead to protests against Tsai, but it had not prevented individuals — who tend to be wealthier — from travelling.
“This likely constitutes another round of ‘weaponisation of tourism’ by Beijing to put pressure on the Tsai administration,” Cole told AFP.
“It’s reasonable to conclude that this is meant to add to President Tsai’s challenges as she seeks re-election in January, facing off against an opponent from the KMT who claims he will seek better, closer relations with Beijing and thereby help improve the economy.”
Han is looking to unseat Tsai in a presidential election dominated by relations with China.
Taiwan has been a de facto sovereign nation since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Chinastill views the island as its territory and has vowed to seize it — by force if necessary.
Han, 62, said in a speech Sunday that the election would be a choice between “peace or crisis” with China.
Tsai, also 62, has described the election as a “fight for freedom and democracy”, setting herself up as someone who can defend Taiwan from an increasingly assertive Beijing.
The Chinese defence ministry issued a white paper last week reiterating Beijing’s willingness to use force to “resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China”.
Beijing has also lashed out at Washington over its close ties with Taipei and its plans to sell more weapons to the island.
An American warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait last week. The Chinese military, meanwhile, is holding military exercises southwest and north of Taiwan this week.
Source: HKFP “China halts individual travel to Taiwan”
Note: This is HKFP’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
J-20 now ‘combat-ready’ in PLA’s Eastern Theater Command before US could formally approve F-16 sale
ByK.G. Chan July 29, 2019
Chinese party mouthpieces including the Global Times and PLA Daily have again talked up the might of the J-20, the People’s Liberation Army’s fifth-generation stealth fighter.
They warned that the fighter jet designed for supremacy in the air could fly close to Taiwan to fend off “adversaries from near and far” and reclaim and guard the “Chinese island.”
The warning came after the PLA confirmed the combat-ready deployment of the J-20 in the air wing of the force’s Eastern Theatre Command, a military region headquartered in Nanjing tasked with recapturing Taiwan, which Chinese media often describe as a renegade province that must be put back under Beijing’s rule.
The Eastern Theatre Command encompasses Taiwan and the East China Sea. The distance between Nanjing and Taipei is a little more than 800 kilometers and the J-20 could also be based and serviced on a number of strategically-located airbases in Shanghai, Ningbo and along the coastline of southeastern Fujian province.
A white paper on China’s defense policy published last week also contained a salvo of similar threats: secessionists in Taiwan are the PLA’s bete noire, more so than those troublemakers in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, and the PLA has been ready for a swift takeover of the self-ruled island in the eventuality of a war.
A day after the paper was released, however, a US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait, amid continuing overflights above strategic areas such as the South China Sea.
Stationing the J-20 close to the frontier facing Taiwan would give more substance to Beijing’s protest against Washington’s upcoming sale of 66 F-16V fighters to beef up Taiwan’s air-defense.
The fourth-generation F-16V is seen as “outmoded” and would hardly stand a chance in a dogfight against the more advanced, highly maneuverable J-20, according to the Chinese media.
Previous reports have hinted that one or two J-20s could have already buzzed vessels in the Taiwan Strait close to a tacit line delineating Chinese and Taiwanese airspace.
An F-16 fighter in service with the Taiwanese Army takes off from a highway in Changhua country during an anti-PLA invasion drill. Photo: Reuters
Meanwhile, in Taiwan, some observers have lashed out at President Tsai Ing-wen’s “silly” decision to shell out billions of dollars on the F-16s, a deal that not only irked Beijing but also drew the closer deployment of the J-20 and other PLA assets.
But sources close to the island’s defense ministry noted that Taiwan had first opted for the F-35, arguably the most formidable fifth-generation aircraft from Lockheed Martin, a proposal snubbed by the Pentagon.
The ministry insisted that Taiwan would never sit idle and let itself be bludgeoned into “reunification” with China and that its army had the capabilities to defend itself should hostilities break out in the Taiwan Strait.
Source: Asia Times “China’s J-20 deployed as Taiwan waits for F-16s”
Note: This is Asia Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
What will Beijing do with them?
by Sebastien Roblin
July 27, 2019
Along the Huangpu River in the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyards in Shanghai, the hull modules of two huge new vessels have been captured in photographs taken by passengers in overflying airliners. Then early in July 2019, ground-level images of the construction leaked onto Chinese social media.
Measuring the length of two-and-half football fields and estimated to displace between 30,000-40,000 tons once in the water, the vessels appear to be the first of three Type 075 Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs), essentially moving naval bases that can carry dozens of helicopters and launch amphibious landing craft from their floodable well deck.
In 2017, the Type 075 was detailed (and speculatively illustrated) in a South China Morning Post article by Minnie Chen. It would be the first ship of its type to serve in the PLA Navy—and the largest deployed outside of the United States, which currently operates eight 40,000-ton Wasp-class LHDs and one 45,000-ton America-class ship.
The PLA Navy already has commissioned five smaller 25,000-ton Type 071 Yuzhao-class amphibious transport docks (LPDs), with two more under construction. These can carry hundreds of troops, with supporting tanks and armored vehicles, and up to four Type 726 air-cushion landing craft (LCACs) to ferry them ashore. Four SA-321 helicopters give the Type 071 a limited vertical lift capacity.
By contrast, the Type 075 will be able to carry thirty helicopters, six of which can be taking off or landing at the same time, allowing it to rapidly deploy troops and supplies onto improvised forward landing zones. Meanwhile, its well deck could still accommodate two LCACs to land armored vehicles and larger cargoes.
Chinese internet articles furnish additional unconfirmed details, including claims the Type 075 will be powered by a 65,000-horsepower diesel engine and has a maximum speed of 22-24 knots.
The Type 075 isn’t meant put itself in the line of fire, however. It reportedly will be only lightly armed with two 30-millimeter Gatling-style cannons and two short-range HQ-10 missiles launchers for close protection from incoming missiles and aircraft, meaning it would realistically depend on escorting vessels to provide layered air defenses. Given the increasing capability of modern anti-ship missiles, some question the viability of large vessels like the Type 075.
This begs the question: what roles could huge helicopter carriers play for the PLA Navy?
Supporting an Amphibious Invasion
LHDs are a type of “amphibious assault ships”—vessels that help land and supply troops onto hostile shores. That’s a task a vessel like the Type 075 could perform very efficiently with its capacious hold and large helicopter wing.
Indeed, the People’s Liberation Army maintains significant amphibious warfare forces. Its Marine Corps recently tripled in size to 40,000 personnel, while the PLA Ground Forces also maintain tens of thousands of troops specialized in amphibious warfare, equipped with amphibious Type 63 and ZTD-5 tanks and ZBD-5 fighting vehicles.
These formations are foremost maintained with an eye to being able to credibly threaten an invasion of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.
China also has disputes with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam over other islands—and even fought two naval battles with the latter for control of the Paracel and Spratly islands in 1974 and 1988 respectively.
But the transport capacity to deploy Chinese troops on hostile beachheads is limited. Thus vessels like the Type 075 will significantly improve the PLAN’s amphibious-landing “bandwidth.”
Chinese military and paramilitary forces are also building a network of island bases across the western Pacific, many hosting surveillance radars, airfields, docks and missile batteries. Supplying and reinforcing these often isolated island bases poses logistical challenges that LHDs could greatly alleviate.
Countering the Submarine Threat
Helicopters equipped with dipping sonars are particularly effective at detecting and engaging submarines. An LHD with abundant helicopters to deploy could provide a “bubble” of anti-submarine coverage and be deployed on missions to interdict likely submarine transit lanes, escort vulnerable task forces and convoys, and chase down suspicious sonar contacts.
This mission is particularly vital for the PLA Navy because U.S. and Japanese submarines have major advantages in acoustic stealth over their Chinese counterparts and would not have their freedom of maneuver constrained by long-range, land-based anti-ship missiles the way hostile surface ships would be. Thus, Chinese profiles of the Type 075 have stressed its application in anti-submarine warfare.
To a lesser extent, Airborne Early Warning (AEW) helicopters onboard LHDs could also provide forewarning of hostile aerial activity to the benefit of nearby ships. However, LHDs and their helicopters would depend on other assets to actually intercept aerial contacts.
Disaster Relief, Anti-Piracy and Foreign National Evacuation
In the hopeful absence of a major conflict with the United States, Chinese LHDs and their onboard helicopters would be extremely useful for disaster relief missions, expatriate or medical emergency evacuations, anti-piracy and smuggling patrols, and peacekeeping deployment. Such contingencies seem likely to occur as China’s commercial, political and military influence continues to expand across Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Africa.
Chinese sources have also noted the Type 075 could carry helicopters armed with air-to-surface missiles. This is undoubtedly true but must be appreciated in context: most helicopters lack strike range and survivability versus adversaries with significant air range defenses. However, in hypothetical littoral or archipelago-style battle spaces where the anti-air threat is more limited, maritime strike helicopters could usefully chase down hostile vessels, perform strikes against fixed positions, and provide air support for landed troops.
Chinese Naval Helicopters
One of the early benefits of China’s warming relations with the West in the 1970s was the acquisition of French helicopters. China eventually began license manufacturing its own versions, the Z-8 (based on the SA-320 Super Frelon) and the Z-9, based on the AS-565 Panther, all of which are operated by the PLA Navy.
The three-engine Super Frelons and Z-8s are large and fast. Capable of carrying up to twenty-six troops at once, some are also equipped with torpedoes and dipping sonars for anti-submarine warfare, or specially adapted for search-and-rescue and medical evacuation roles.
China has also evolved the Z-8 into the larger Changhe Z-18. China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, currently operates Z-18F Sea Eagle anti-submarine helicopters and the Z-18J Bat AEW choppers, which have extendible flat-panel active-electronically scanned array radars in their bellies.
The medium-sized Z-9 helicopter family includes models outfitted for anti-submarine warfare, and an AEW variant with a K-Band radar. While the PLA Navy lacks an equivalent to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Sea Cobra gunships, the missile-armed Z-9WA model could conceivably be adapted for shipboard operations.
Finally, the PLAN also operates nineteen bizarre-looking Ka-27 “Helix” anti-submarine helicopters bought from Russia as well as nine Ka-31 AEW choppers, distinguished by their contra-rotating rotors.
However, the PLAN conspicuously lacks two types of aircraft that significantly enhance the combat power of other amphibious assault ships across the globe.
First, China has no tilt-rotor aircraft like the V-22 Osprey, helicopter/airplane hybrids with vertical takeoff capability of the former, and improved range and speed of the latter.
More importantly, the PLAN has no vertical-takeoff capable jump jets like the Harrier or F-35B, which would not only give Chinese amphibious carriers air defense capability but also greatly improve their surface-strike capacity. The PLAN will be particularly keeping an eye on F-35Bs deployed on Japanese—and likely South Korean—carriers. For now, there’s no indication China is seeking to develop such technically challenging (and often accident-prone) aircraft.
According to Rick Joe of The Diplomat, the lead Type 075 may launch late in 2019 or by mid-2020. All three of the initial flights may be launched by 2022 given the current apparent pace of construction, and Joe estimates additional LHDs, possibly of a revised and enlarged configuration, are likely to follow.
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 “Bad News: China is Building Three Huge Helicopter ‘Aircraft Carriers’”
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.