Evolving PRC Military Capabilities


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As part of our assessment of evolving PRC military capabilities, we have interviewed Rick Fisher, Jr., a leading expert on the PRC military. This brief is an excerpt of two longer briefs by Fisher and accompanies a Second Line of Defense interview.

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Evolving PRC Military Capabilities

  1. 1. Evolving PRC Military Capabilities Richard D. Fisher, Jr., Senior Fellow, International Assessment and Strategy Center
  2. 2. A Look at The Emergence of China as a Military Power• This briefing is constructed by the SLD Team from two large briefings by China military expert, Rick Fisher.• We have highlighted some of the key dynamics of change as the PRC shapes greater regional reach and a solid foundation for global power projection forces.
  3. 3. Xi Xinping’s ―China Dream‖There is now a concerted effort by Chinese spokesmen to cast Chinese paramount leader Xi Xinping’s frequent mention ofthe ―China Dream‖ as simply meaning ―rejuvenation‖ of the Chinese nation—no hostile intent. This is an attempt todownplay Xi’s clear military meaning, which is better expressed by a popular book by Col. Liu Mingfu also called ―ChinaDream.‖ This book is a plan for militarily overtaking the United States and recently was given approval for a secondprinting.A 13 March 2103 Wall Street Journal article reported: "This dream can be said to be the dream of a strong nation. And forthe military, it is a dream of a strong military," Mr. Xi told sailors in December on board the Haikou, a guided-missiledestroyer that has patrolled disputed waters in the South China Sea. "To achieve the great revival of the Chinese nation, wemust ensure there is unison between a prosperous country and strong military."
  4. 4. The Evolution of Capabilities• A proper review of China’s threat potential should consider the capabilities China could bring to bear over the next two to three decades, both inside the Greater Asian “box” and well outside that box.• Inside the Greater Asian Box: – Proliferation of counter-space weapons for LEO and MEO targets. – Future smaller, distributed and reconfigurable satellites, plus near-space platforms. – New 4,000km range IRBM to supplement DF-21 family by 2015. – More SSKs and future UUVs; development of strategic ASW capabilities. – Multiple 5th generation fighter programs, proliferation of strategic and combat UAVs. – High supersonic, and then hypersonic strike platforms. – Energy Weapons. – Growing formal and informal amphibious lift for Taiwan and disputed maritime area missions. – Modernized mechanized ground force formations organized for offensive operations in five axis: Korea/Japan; Taiwan; Southeast Asia; India; Russia.
  5. 5. The Evolution of Capabilities (2)• Outside the Asian Box: – Dual-use manned space program to include military missions from the Moon. – Larger survivable nuclear missile force that will be actively defended (also counts for inside the box). – Into the 2020s, increasing carrier, amphibious and airmobile power projection. – Nuclear armed allies and proxies, also with high area-denial capabilities, unleashed to commit deniable mayhem. – Harnessing potential revolutions in fusion energy, space solar-power and quantum computing. – Careful global coordination of political, economic, espionage, cyber warfare, military and criminal network assets to create expanding bases of influence designed first to make the world safe for authoritarianism.
  6. 6. Second Generation A2AD Systems Starting To AppearSystem that have emerged in the last decade are beginning to see longer range compliments
  7. 7. Proxies: Pakistan and North Korea
  8. 8. ―Soft‖ Military Power ProjectionTen PLA Navy squadrons sent to anti-piracy patrols off of Somalia since the end of 2008.Increasing interaction and demonstrations for Foreign Military Attaches; increasing global naval interaction.China now one of the largest contributors to UN sponsored peacekeeping operations; 2/11 PLA General Cmdr of Cyprus PKOParticipating in multinational naval exercises sponsored by Pakistan and Singapore.PLA Air Force exercises Turkish Air Force, September 2010, with Pakistan AF in April 2011.Increasing military interaction in Southeast Asia: PLA Marines to Thailand October 2010 ; PLA Spec Ops to Indonesia in June2011; host Thai Marines in May 2012; muted interest in joint ASEAN military exercises in 2008Willingness to consider joint operations: Indonesia-PLA joint maritime patrols in 2010Greater promotion of military arms sales, CETC at FIDAE, Chile, March 2012.Hospital ship cruise to Cuba and Caribbean in late 2011-2012.
  9. 9. Seychelles: First Overseas PLA ―Base‖ ?December 2, 2011 ―invitation‖ by Seychelles President James Michel to visiting Defense Minister LiangGuanglie preceded by ―offer‖ to host a Chinese military presence as early as a year before.Offer also preceded by significant diplomacy: economic aid for Seychelles; Peace Ark hospital ship visitin October 2010; two PLA Navy frigates visit in April 2011; gifting of two Y-12 aircraft in June 2011.Seychelles has publicly mentioned that has discussed stationing of Chinese Y-12s for anti piracy patrols,though ship logistic support is likely under consideration.The Seychelles has hosted U.S. drones since 2009, which have been used for anti-terror and anti-piracymissions.
  10. 10. Inside the Box: New 4,000km range IRBM to supplement DF-21 family by 2015China Aerospace Science and Industry Co. discloses: new 4,000km IRBM family by 2015, likely configured forprecision attack, ASBM missions. Will this missile out-range the future UCLAS ucav?Air- and sub-launched cruise missiles. 3,000km LACM next? Supersonic cruise missiles next?All will put greater pressure on Guam and push U.S. forces to operate deeper into the Pacific.
  11. 11. Inside the Box: Air Threats, 5th Gen +, UCAVs, Bombers, HypersonicsFor over 20 years, China has invested in a modern aerospace sector: designs; engines; electronics; weapons.Multiple 5th fighters by the 2020s — Chengdu (300 ?) and Shenyang (?); multiple 4+ gen multi role fighters.Strategic surveillance UAVs emerging; combat UCAVs also emerging.Successor to H-6 bomber: Mach 3 waverider ?Extensive hypersonics effort -- what will it yield?
  12. 12. FC-1/JF-17 –Dominating the Low Cost Fighter MarketThree Chengdu/Pakistan JF-17/FC-1 fighters were sent to the November 13-17, 2011 Dubai Airshow and briefed for the first time by Chengdu.Chengdu FC-1 has about 88 percent of the performance of the F-16 for one third the priceFuture upgrades to include: refueling; AESA radar; additional weapons; Chinese-made engine; twin-seat version.Russia, U.S., and maybe Europe abandoning the low-cost 4th, 4+ gen market to China.International debut for Dr. Yang Wei, Chief designer, Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, also chief designer for J-10 andJ-20 5th gen fighter.China seeking to flood cheap trainer and aircraft munitions markets to advance its own sales “food chain.”
  13. 13. Outside the Box: Global Power Projection ForcesMultiple aircraft carriers by 2020s—3 to 5 ? 3 CV + 2 CVN ?12 large amphibious projection ships ?Y-20 50-60 ton airlifter in testing; future airmobile medium weight units forming already?Outside the Box #4: China’s Nuclear Armed Allies and ProxiesNorth Korea, Pakistan, and Iran have all received direct or indirect Chinese nuclear and missile tech support.All three have links to terrorist groups that conceivably may try to use nuclear weapons if they had them.What is the nuclear potential of Iran’s proxy Hezbollah; now active in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America?What is U.S. policy for determining China’s part in a future nuclear 9-11 and the U.S. reaction?These allies and proxies will increasingly also have modern Chinese anti-access kit.
  14. 14. Investing in Specialized Amphibious Assault Systems“Informatization” enables increasing “jointness” with other services.Purchasing/producing up to 4-6 Ukrainian Zubr large hovercraft; 3x MBT or 10 APC + 140 troops or 500 troopsSpecialized beach obstacle breaching rockets launched from LCUsSpecialized beach breaching surfacing for vehiclesExperimentation with artillery on civilian ships; MLRS put on older ships
  15. 15. Air Expeditionary Asset: Current Lift@ 20-30 Ilyushin Il-76MD transports, 40-50 tons cargo capacity. Just purchased 10 more used Il-76s.@ 20-30 Xian Y-8 medium transports, 18-20 tons cargo capacity.Xian Y-9, modern medium transport with a 20 ton capacity, sees first prototype in 2011.Huge potential for cargo lift in civil airlines integrated into ―militia‖ support: Up to 80+ Boeing 747F, 777F, 757F; and 737Combi + @ 10 DC-10F cargolifters. This total would include Hong Kong airlines. This asset is increasingly exploited forPLA trans-regional mobility exercises, and could be used for follow-on force inputs after airports are captured by formalPLA Airborne or Special Forces units. April 2012: First exposure of China Southern B747F carrying ZBD-03 ABN IFV.1,000+ civil Boeing and Airbus airliners also available for ―militia‖ support operations.@20 H-6 refuelers in PLAAF and PLANAF, PLAAF exercises with Russian Il-76MD refuelers.
  16. 16. Is There A Chinese ―C-5‖ Program ?Early in last decade China considered helping to fund a revival of Antonov An-124 production.At the February 2013 IDEX show a Chinese official indicated that China’s aviation industry favored a larger C-5 size transport.Matter of balance? If the PLA Navy gets a CVN, might the PLA Air Force be pushing for a mega transport?
  17. 17. Air Expeditionary Asset: Potential Refueler, Xian 4-Turbofan Passenger TransportImages emerge in 2005 time frame, indicating it may be a program dating to the 2001 Five Year Plan.Despite repeated inquiries, Chinese officials from AVIC and Xian will not explain this program.In December 2006 Premier Wen Jiabao was famously photographed by a model of this airliner concept.It appears to be a wide-body aircraft similar in size to the Boeing 767, which would require about 4x of the30,000 lbs thrust turbofans being developed by China.In late May 2012, China’s COMAC and Russia’s Ilyushin sign pact to co-develop a widebody airliner basedon Il-96. Production may take place in China, meaning that China could produce its own version withRussian technology, repeating the history of Sukhoi Su-27 ―co-production‖ in China.This aircraft will likely be used for multiple military missions by China, such as a refueling platform to enableglobal reach for a future heavylift transports.