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China Acquires Multiple Types Of New Missiles, May Challenge U.S. Forces

By | June 18, 2007

      China is acquiring at least 10 types of ballistic missiles in a belligerent buying spree of multiple types of cutting-edge weapons and first-class training that may permit the giant nation to counter U.S. forces in some areas, an expert told Congress.

      As well, China is developing intimidating capabilities to wage war in space, such as anti-satellite missile interceptors, anti-satellite lasers, jammers and more.

      Funding for this strategic splurge is coming from American consumers buying Chinese-made goods, meaning that the United States is funding not only its own multi-billions-of- dollars military transformation buildup, but China’s as well.

      The unsettling aspect of all this burgeoning Chinese weapons acquisitiveness is that American policymakers say they are unsure just why China is acquiring all this hardware.

      Chinese leaders aren’t saying and American intelligence agencies haven’t sleuthed out that information.

      One huge asset that China might wish to acquire could be a home-built aircraft carrier, one of several signs the People’s Liberation Army Navy wishes to develop a blue-water navy.

      That was the message presented to a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing, where several lawmakers expressed worry over the burgeoning Sino-military muscle.

      “China has still not adequately revealed its full defense spending, military modernization efforts or strategic intentions,” Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the HASC chairman, said.

      For the moment, at least, Skelton is willing to give China the benefit of a doubt, saying that “I continue to believe that China is not necessarily destined to be a threat to the United States.”

      But Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the top-ranked HASC Republican and a presidential candidate, is wary of China, asking, “What are China’s true military intentions and military capabilities?”

      Hunter isn’t likely to get an answer out of Beijing.

      Richard P. Lawless, deputy under secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said Chinese leaders have stonewalled U.S. invitations to discuss military intentions of the most populous nation on Earth, though he said Sino-U.S. relations have warmed somewhat since April 2001.

      That’s when a Chinese fighter aircraft recklessly closed in on a peaceful U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries intelligence plane flying in international airspace, until the Chinese plane hit the EP-3 and critically damaged it. The crippled Navy plane plummeted and gave a distress call that China never recognized. When the plane landed on Hainan Island, a Chinese area, Chinese forces stormed the plane and seized the crew of two dozen U.S. men and women in uniform. China also forced the United States to issue a “very sorry … very sorry” apology, before releasing the Navy personnel.

      Lawless alleged that there now is “a deliberate effort on the part of China’s leaders to mask the nature of Chinese military capabilities,” meaning the United States and other leading nations hold but “limited knowledge of the motivations, decision-making, and key capabilities of China’s military or the direction of its modernization.”

      That means Pentagon leaders “are put in the position of having to assume the most dangerous intent [that] a capability offers,” in assessing why weaponry is being snapped up by Beijing.

      While China officially admits to military spending of less than $50 billion a year, U.S. estimates indicate the actual number may be two to three times that amount.

      Myriad Missiles Acquired

      At least U.S. military leaders are able to divine what weapons systems China is procuring, and the list is daunting. It includes:

      • At least 10 varieties of ballistic missiles deployed or in development, including 900 short-range missiles aimed toward Taiwan, and new missile bases wielding conventional, theater-range missiles.
      • Two land-attack cruise missiles. In all, China is buying at least a dozen different types of anti-ship cruise missiles, including the supersonic Russian-made SS-N-22/SUNBURN and SS-N-27B/SIZZLER. The Sizzler can be deployed aboard KILO-class subs.
      • Tactical air-to-surface and anti-radiation missiles, and artillery-delivered high precision munitions.
      • The DF-31 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The PLA also has a longer-range variant called the DF-31A. The weapons are fielded, though it is unclear just when they will be deemed operational. “We expect China will make considerable progress in fielding the … DF-31A … beginning this year,” Lawless predicted. While the United States accepts China’s word that it won’t resort to first use of nuclear weapons, comments from Chinese military and civilian figures indicate China may be exploring options in this area. “And so we have questions,” Lawless explained.
      • Second-generation nuclear-powered submarines. There is the Type-094 JIN-class SSBN, and now sea trials on a new nuclear attack submarine, the Type-093, or SHANG-class SSN.
      • Other new types of submarines. They include a dozen Russian KILO-class diesel-electric boats, and the domestic-production SONG-class and YUAN-class undersea vessels. All of these new types of submarines “indicate the seriousness with which China’s leaders are building capabilities for undersea warfare,” Lawless said.
      • New naval surface combatants, ships of war. They include the LUZHOU-class guided missile destroyer (DDG), the LUYANG1 and LUYANG-II-class DDGs, and the JIANGKAI II-class guided missile frigate.
      • SOVREMMENNY II-class DDG destroyers bought from Russia. They add to the SOVREMMENNY destroyers that China previously bought from Russia.
      • Some 700 combat aircraft within operational range of Taiwan. While some may be aging, many are new, advanced equipment, such as Russian Su-27s and Su-30s, and the F-10 that China produces itself. “An increasingly sophisticated array of armaments and China’s development of aerial refueling capability, combined with its new platforms, have improved China’s offensive air capabilities,” Lawless stated.
      • Assets for expeditionary warfare, including air and amphibious lift assets, and amphibious armor for ground forces based opposite Taiwan.

      “We also see continuing interest on the part of the PLA Navy in developing an indigenous aircraft carrier,” he said.

      Another area where China is advancing aggressively is in cyber warfare, capable of offensive action against adversary computer networks.

      And China is “a growing international space power,” not only with its own spacecraft and astronaut programs, but also in its ability to wage war in space.

      “China is developing the ability to deny others access to space through its pursuit of a robust and multi-dimensional counter-space capability featuring direct ascent anti- satellite weapons, ground-based lasers and satellite communication jammers,” Lawless said.

      Summing up, he said that while many facets of the Chinese military buildup seem aimed at countering or conquering Taiwan, many seem geared to projecting power far from Chinese shores, such as acquiring an aircraft carrier and blue-water navy.

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