China Heightens Pacific Challenge to U.S. Forces
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — China’s military is beginning to field an array of missiles across its services, many laser- or satellite-guided, that will greatly challenge U.S. military forces in the Asia-Pacific region.
A new space-information network of high-resolution radar and electro-optical surveillance satellites, such as the planned 20-satellite Compass navigation satellite (NavSat) network and planned data-relay satellites, will help drive this capability. Since 2000, China has launched four Beidou satellite navigation and positioning satellites.
“In the near future, these new networks and weapons will be integrated in modern C4ISR grids designed to implement new doctrines of integrated joint operations that will allow China’s commanders to call in mass precision strikes, or call in the right individual system for the mission,” said Richard Fisher, vice president of the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center.
“The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] now has an initial capability to do this, but I expect it will be more robust and practiced by 2010,” he said.
Fisher said China’s Army is developing more advanced artillery capabilities such as a 155mm laser-homing artillery weapon system.
“China also produces a laser-guided round for its 155mm artillery, based on Russian and Ukrainian technology,” he said. “The Army may also shortly field the new B-611M and P-12 short-range ballistic missiles, which utilize NavSat guidance.”
The B-661M is a tactical surface-to-surface missile guided by a global navigation satellite system and strap-down inertial navigation system with a range of 260 kilometers and a circular error of probability (CEP), or hit range, of 50 meters. The new P-12 also is a surface-to-surface tactical missile with a range of 150 kilometers and a CEP of 30 meters using a composite guidance system. The missile could hit Taiwan from positions in China.
China North Industries Corp (NORINCO) is producing a laser-guided 105mm gun-launched missile for the Army’s Type 59 and T-69 main battle tanks. The missile has a range of 5,000 meters and can penetrate tanks armed with explosive reactive armor.
Encoded trajectory correction signals are sent to laser receivers on the missile tail to alter the position of the control fins and guide the missile toward its target, according to a NORINCO news release.
China Xinshidai Co. has produced the Red Arrow 8E anti-tank missile system, which has a range of 4,000 meters and is equipped with a digital guidance system and a thermal imager. PLA armor units already field Chinese copies of the Russian-designed 9K120 Refleks/Svir and 9K117 Bastion laser-guided anti-tank, gun-launched missiles.
U.S. early warning aircraft will have to deal with the new FT-2000 Missile Weapon System, a surface-to-air, anti-radiation missile. Produced by the China National Precision Machinery Import & Export Corp (CPMIEC), the missile has a range of 12 to 100 kilometers and an operational altitude of 3 to 20 kilometers.
“The missile, with a wide-beam seeker, can capture the target by itself, when necessary, and perform air-defense firing with a single launcher,” stated a CPMIEC news release.
Air and Sea Power
The Air Force is developing its own pods and weapons for laser-, optical- and NavSat-guided bombs.
Luoyang Optoelectro Technology Development Center has produced the LS-6 Thunder Stone precision-guided glide bomb and the Leiting-2 (LT-2) Thunder Power laser-guided bomb. The LS-6 was developed for standoff, precise attack missions on fixed ground targets. With a wingspan of 9 feet, the guidance kit can be mounted on a 440-kilogram bomb, allowing it to glide for 48 kilometers.
The LT-2 is a 500-kilogram semi-active laser-guided bomb described as an “Airborne Laser Irradiation Pod, Day/Night Pod or a Ground Laser Irradiation Device” by Luoyang company literature. Both munitions can be mounted on the JH-7A fighter.
The CPMIEC has produced a new 500-kilogram FT-1 Precision Guided Bomb integrating GPS/inertial navigation system guidance and controlled by a rudder in the tail section. The FT-1 can be delivered within the target area of 30 meters.
“The FT-1 is applicable to any carrier with an airborne inertial guidance system,” stated a CPMIEC news release.
Andrei Chang, China military specialist with the Hong Kong-based Kanwa Information Center, has identified a new FT-4 100-kilogram NavSat-guided bomb intended for unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). Shenyang Aircraft Design and Research Institute exhibited a conceptual model of an advanced, stealthy Anjian (Dark Sword) UCAV at both the Zhuhai Air Show in 2006 and the Paris Air Show this year.
“China’s intention is to demonstrate to the outside world that it makes it a priority to develop the technologies in this area,” Chang said. “A Chinese source claims that this UCAV is currently only a concept and China has no plans to put it into batch production at the present stage.”