Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gates To Give Valedictory Speech at Shangri-La 

Defense News


Gates To Give Valedictory Speech at Shangri-La 

China Sends Big Delegation


TAIPEI — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will deliver a “valedictory speech on lessons learned in Asia” at the 10th Asia Security Summit in Singapore, said a U.S. defense official. Gates has been a regular at the annual summit, dubbed the “Shangri-La Dialogue,” scheduled for June 3-5 in Singapore.

Organized by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), Gates helped put the dialogue “on the map as a viable forum for the exchange of ideas on the Asia-Pacific’s security issues,” the U.S. defense official said. U.S. Pacific Commander Adm. Robert Willard will also attend, he said.

Though the summit marks Gates’ departure, Shangri-La will witness the attendance of the first Chinese defense minister, Gen. Liang Guanglie, who will lead a “powerful delegation” to the summit and deliver a speech on China’s international security cooperation. In an unprecedented move, there also will be Chinese speakers in three of the five closed-door special sessions, said Tim Huxley, executive director of IISS-Asia.

Liang’s attendance “bumps the stakes up a notch” this year, the U.S. defense official said.

Liang just wrapped up an official four-day visit to the Philippines to discuss with defense officials allegations that Chinese fighter jets and maritime patrol vessels have been entering the disputed Reed Bank. On May 11, two unidentified fighter jets were sighted near an island occupied by Filipino troops.

Liang denies the fighters were Chinese, but countered that Beijing has jurisdiction over the Spratly Islands and adjacent waters.

The topic is bound to be high on the Shangri-La agenda, and China’s increased interest in the summit was evident in March when China released its defense white paper and made “special reference to the importance of the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue for regional defense cooperation,” said John Chipman, IISS director-general and chief executive.

Gates and Liang are expected to discuss further efforts to improve military-to-military cooperation and dialogue. The U.S. just concluded meetings in May with senior Chinese defense officials in Washington for the Security and Economic Dialogue, and the Pentagon hosted a separate visit by Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff, People’s Liberation Army.

“U.S.-China relations in the context of a regional distribution of power in long-term flux will remain a key theme” for this summit, Huxley said. “This year the atmospherics may be warmer, but the overall picture is nevertheless one of intensifying strategic rivalry.” Expect “some ill-informed questioning relating to China’s supposed plans to build a naval base” in Gwadar, Pakistan, he said.

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony will not attend but will send Deputy Defence Minister M.M. Pallam Raju.

“As China ups its game,” the absence again of India’s defense minister “may highlight the determination and relative coherence of China’s regional posture and the contrastingly weak nature of India’s,” Huxley said. “China steps up; India steps down [at Shangri-La]. Of course, if Mr. Antony does show, that might demonstrate India’s recognition of the need to engage more effectively with the region as China asserts itself more.”

The Shangri-La has earned a reputation for solving numerous disputes and building security alliances. Plenary sessions this year will focus on emerging security issues, new military doctrines, defense budgets, territorial disputes, nuclear developments, transnational security, China’s security interests, maritime security issues, confidence building measures and Afghanistan.

Chinese and U.S. delegations will join those of 27 other nations that are also sending top-tier defense and foreign affairs officials. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will deliver the summit’s keynote address, and this will be the first major international event in which Ng Eng Hen participates as Singapore’s defense minister.

The IISS has confirmed leaders attending will include Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith; Mustappa Sirat, Brunei’s deputy minister of defense; Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh; Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro; Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa; Mongolian Defense Minister Luvsanvandan Bold; New Zealand Defence Minister Wayne Mapp; Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Tuvera Gazmin; South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin; G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka’s external affairs minister; Thailand Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon; U.K. Defence Secretary Liam Fox; and Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh.

Other delegates will include NATO Assistant Secretary-General Dirk Brengelmann, Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Sirivudh, East Timor’s President Jose Ramos-Horta, and Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov.

RAND: Aircraft Deals With Western Firms Help China’s Military 

Defense News


RAND: Aircraft Deals With Western Firms Help China’s Military 


TAIPEI — A new RAND Corp. report warns that European and U.S. civil aerospace companies are inadvertently improving China’s military by providing dual-use technologies and expertise while doing business with Chinese commercial aviation firms.

“Ready for Takeoff: China’s Advancing Aerospace Industry,” by RAND researchers Roger Cliff, Chad J.R. Ohlandt and David Yang, follows the recent unveiling of the J-20 Black Eagle stealth fighter jet and confirmation that China will begin sea trials of its first aircraft carrier this year.

China’s market is far too lucrative to be ignored by Western aerospace companies, especially as European and U.S. military and civil aviation budgets shrink. The nation’s airlines will add 4,000 jetliners in the next two decades to the 1,400 they already operate, while the helicopter market will grow from the current 200 aircraft to 1,200 by 2018, the report says.

But the economic opportunities come with dangers, the report said. High-bypass turbo­fan jet engines sold to Chinese airlines share components of low-bypass turbofan engines used on high-performance aircraft. Autonomous flight-control systems can be used on military UAVs.

Many satellite types, including communications, weather forecasting, and positioning, navigation and timing, have both military and commercial applications. In addition, the rockets that put them in orbit can be used for either purpose.

Even subcontracting the manufacture of parts to Chinese companies has boosted the country’s military, the report states.

“The mere act of machining parts to the specifications of Western aerospace manufacturers provides training that is potentially applicable to the machining of parts for military aircraft, especially if representatives of those Western manufacturers are present on­site to provide training and guidance in quality control,” the report says.

RAND cited China Commercial Aircraft’s (Comac) effort to develop the ARJ21 regional passenger jet and the C919 narrow-body jet airliner. The efforts are being aided by General Electric, Honeywell, Rockwell Collins and more than a dozen other European and U.S. aerospace component companies.

The report says the ARJ21 and C919 could spawn variants to carry troops, military cargo or gear for various special missions.

But not everyone agrees the sky is falling.

“People have been darkly warning about Chinese exploitation of commercial aerospace technology for decades,” said Richard Bitzinger, an analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Bitzinger said China’s aircraft companies have been subcontracting to Western aircraft manufacturers since the mid-1980s with limited improvements to their own industrial capabilities. He cited the ARJ21 and C919 as evidence the Chinese have not actually capitalized particularly well on dual-technology transfers. Comac still imports most of the planes’ critical technologies, including the engine, flight controls and avionics.

“These systems are being shipped to China basically black-boxed — that is, as finished products without the attending design or manufacturing technologies,” he said.

Bitzinger said the only thing the programs might teach the Chinese is systems integration of large commercial aircraft. 

The RAND report indicates that joint ventures and the transfer of production licenses are troublesome in helicopter production.

For example, Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing builds a variant of the Eurocopter AS365N medium utility helicopter. The Z-9, as it is called in Chinese production, performs civilian and military tasks, including anti-tank, anti-submarine warfare and search-and-rescue missions.

In 1997, Eurocopter accepted a contract to help China develop a 6-ton transport helicopter, but no such aircraft emerged.

“It appears that China instead applied the technology acquired to the Z-10 attack helicopter, which is in the same weight class,” the report said.

Bitzinger conceded that China, which has been license-producing and reverse-engineering Western helicopters since the 1980s, is indeed benefitting from technology such as rotors and transmissions, “I doubt if we can put that genie back into the bottle,” he said.

There is “no question that China’s growing aerospace capabilities have implications for U.S. security interests,” the report said, but it is “difficult to quantify” the influence that improvements to China’s civilian aerospace capabilities have on driving improvements in the military sector.

A U.S.-only ban would likely slow the development of China’s military aerospace capabilities by only a small amount while handing business opportunities to European and Asian companies and aggravating relations with Beijing, the report said.

China Reveals New AMRAAM

Defense News


China Reveals New AMRAAM


TAIPEI — China has revealed a next-generation air­to-air missile that the state-run People’s Daily called a “trump card” and a “secret weapon for gaining air superiority.” The Beijing newspaper published its report on May 19, during a week of visits to U.S. bases and meetings with senior U.S. defense officials by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) chief of general staff, Gen. Chen Bingde.

Dubbed the “Key Model,” the new missile is believed by U.S. analysts to be the PL-12D, a variant of the PL-12 family of air-to-air missiles (AAMs) produced by the Luoyang Electro-Optics Technology Development Center.

China arms its fighter jets with the PL-12A, which closely resembles the U.S. AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) in appearance and capabilities, and it exports the SD-10A.

The newspaper said the new weapon “exceeded the U.S. AIM-120D missile” in seven recent tests in the Gobi Desert. The AIM-120D, the latest AMRAAM variant, has not yet been fielded.

“I’m not surprised at all about this, given the Chinese gift for missile-making,” said a U.S. specialist on Chinese missiles. “Clearly, the Air Force air-to-air mission has become a big prestige-garnering mechanism for the PLA, and while it’s nothing our Air Force needs to worry too much about, it’s certainly going to raise the stakes in India, Japan and Taiwan.” The analyst said the situation reminded him of the unveiling of the J-20 stealth fighter during U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ recent visit to China.

“What is interesting is that the People’s Daily is touting it — and while the big PLA delegation is in town” in Washington, he said.

The timing appears “counterproductive and pride-driven,” especially when Taiwan is pushing the U.S. to release new F-16C/D fighters and upgrades for older F-16A/Bs, he said.

The PL-12D might use a new active/passive guidance system, said Richard Fisher, a China defense analyst at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, an Alexandria, Va., think tank.

“This kind of combined guidance system confers concealment/stealth advantages, while the passive mode also uses less battery power, allowing the missile to achieve its maximum range,” Fisher said.

The People’s Daily report said that Fan Huitao spent 10 years developing the “Key Model.” Described as the “chief model designer” who took over the project in 2000, Fan began working for Luoyang after graduating in 1986 from China’s Northwestern Polytechnical University.

Though Chinese media reports called the missile a breakthrough for indigenous technology, Fisher said, “There is a high probability that Luoyang relied on Ukrainian and Russian technology for the latest seeker, as it did for its earlier versions.” Some Chinese-language blogs said a ramjet powers the new missile, but Fisher said he was not convinced.

“Nevertheless, it is a troubling development,” he said. “That the PLA could field an AAM featuring an active/passive guidance system potentially before the U.S. deploys [the AIM-120D] is not where we want to be.”

Ex-Minister: Taiwan Launched Missile

Defense News


Ex-Minister: Taiwan Launched Missile

Confirms 2008 Test During Chen’s Last Days


TAIPEI — Former Taiwan Defense Minister Michael Tsai confirmed the early 2008 test-launch of a “medium-range missile” during a recent interview.

The test was conducted in March or April during the final months of President Chen Shui-bian’s administration, Tsai said. However, the former defense minister was unsure as to whether the missile was a surface-to-air missile, possibly the Tien Kung 3 (Sky Bow), or a ballistic surface-to-surface missile program under development during the Chen era.

“The missile exceeded short range and entered medium range,” he said. Tsai served as vice minister from 2004 to 2008 and was appointed defense minister the final three months of the Chen presidency from February to May.

Taiwan defense analysts have said the missile was part of Taiwan’s ballistic missile program, which is considered politically sensitive in both Beijing and Washington. It is unclear whether Taiwan continued the program after Chen left office.

The U.S. was concerned about the test, he said. A senior U.S. State Department official “came to see me at my office” about the test, he said. “He asked whether Taiwan had launched a missile the week before, and I told him that it was only a test and it was not in production.” Tsai reassured the official that if the missile were deployed, it would be used only in self-defense. Taiwan has a no-first-use policy regarding military engagements with China.

“The purpose of Taiwan’s missile development is for deterrence capabilities,” he said. Taiwan is not going to “fire the first shot against China” and would strike only Chinese missile launch sites on the mainland, not civilian populations.

China has 1,300 short-range ballistic missiles, Dong Feng 11/15s, aimed at the self-governing island. Taiwan has procured both the Patriot Advanced Capability-2 and -3 missile defense systems in response to China’s ballistic missile threat.

“I told [the official] that after a second missile barrage from China, we will communicate with the U.S. government in a concerted effort to prevent the People’s Liberation Army’s continued aggression against Taiwan and to prevent an escalation of the conflict across the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai said.

The U.S. lacked coherence in its policy toward Taiwan during the Chen years, he said.

“The U.S. kept telling us we have to be determined to defend ourselves and warned us not to be too provocative with China ... don’t create a flashpoint,” Tsai said.

Yet the U.S. continued to deny Taiwan’s request for the eight diesel submarines and 66 F-16C/D fighters during the Chen administration.

“There’s a contradiction between the U.S. pushing Taiwan to show more seriousness in its own defense, but at the same time denying [the F-16s and submarines],” Tsai said.

Taiwan’s requests for 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters for $5.5 billion and a $4.5 billion upgrade package for 146 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters have been on hold since 2007 and 2009, respectively. China has warned that the sale of F-16C/Ds to Taiwan would be a “red line.” The George W. Bush administration offered to sell Taiwan submarines in 2001, but was unable to go forward on the deal for a variety of manufacturing and political hurdles.

Despite U.S. reluctance to release F-16s and submarines, arms sales over the past 10 years include PAC-3s, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, Kidd-class destroyers and P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft.

The releases have come with a political price tag for the U.S. China twice canceled military dialogue following arms deals to Taiwan totaling $13 billion in 2008 and 2010.

China just concluded a visit by a senior Chinese defense official, Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, to Washington last week. The visit is an overall effort to improve military ties between China and the U.S.

The week before, Washington hosted the third Strategic and Economic Dialogue with Chinese officials. Both are evidence of Washington’s efforts to better ties with China in the wake of the 2008 and 2010 arms sales to Taiwan.

“Taiwan agrees the U.S. has to have a better relationship with China, but not at the cost of losing Taiwan,” Tsai said.

The former defense minister said “it is now too late” for F-16s and submarines to be released: U.S. efforts to improve relations with China and Taiwan’s new policy of improved cross-Strait relations have created an environment that is hostile to improving Taiwan’s national security.

Elbit Wins $52 Million Deal with Asian Customer

Defense News


Elbit Wins $52 Million Deal with Asian Customer


TAIPEI - Israel's Elbit Systems has won two contracts for an unnamed "Asian country" and "Asian Army." Elbit officials would not confirm the identity of the customer, but said the two contracts amounted to $52.7 million.

The first contract, valued at $32.7 million, is to supply an "Asian army with advanced training systems for its armor and infantry forces," said an Elbit Systems press release on May 17. The project will comprise driving simulators for various tracked and wheeled armored vehicles, and an advanced gunnery and tactical simulator.

"This is a follow-on contract to a previous project that was successfully delivered to this customer, attesting to the satisfaction and belief in our advanced training and simulation capabilities," said Yoram Shmuely, co-general manager, Elbit Systems' Aerospace Division.

The second contract, valued at $20 million, is for "dozens" of Compact Multi Purpose Advanced Stabilized System (CoMPASS) payloads for maritime patrol aircraft.

"The Asian country, which operates one of the largest maritime patrol fleets in the world, has selected the CoMPASS payload as a solution to protect its coastlines," said an Elbit press release on May 18.

The CoMPASS payload was developed and manufactured by Elbit's Electro-optics Elop unit and has been "installed onboard hundreds of platforms, including Unmanned Aircraft Systems," the company said.

CoMPASS belongs to the 15-inch payload family and includes an advanced thermal imaging system, laser range designator and a day channel, allowing optimal intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities in all weather conditions.

"Due to the recent increasing demand, Elop has doubled the quantity of payloads manufactured for integration on board maritime patrol platforms," said Adi Dar, Elop's general manager. "We are proud to be selected to perform this project, attesting to the customer's satisfaction with the high quality and performance of our previously supplied systems."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ice Station Dragon: China’s Strategic Arctic Interest

Defense News


Ice Station Dragon: China’s Strategic Arctic Interest


TAIPEI — As polar ice caps melt, China is preparing to take advantage of potential opportunities that have broad national security implications, including new shipping routes along the Arctic rim and massive hydrocarbon reserves of oil and gas under the Arctic.

Though most international environmental groups see the melting of the polar ice caps as a disaster, China is seeing an opportunity, said Wang Kuan-Hsiung, a researcher at National Taiwan Normal University.

The Arctic will be largely ice-free in the summers within a decade, he said, and China views potential new shipping routes along the Arctic rim as a way of avoiding maritime piracy and cutting costs with shorter routes to Europe.

Beijing has had security concerns over the sea lanes of communication. China is dependent on oil and gas shipments from the Middle East. Potential choke points in the Malacca Strait and territorial disputes in the South China Sea have added to the concern. For the first time in China’s modern naval history, it has taken up anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden to ward off Somali pirates.

Though an Arctic passage would do little to solve security concerns over oil and gas shipments from the Middle East, it would provide a shorter route for China’s exports to Europe. It is estimated that the maritime route between Asia and Europe could be reduced from 15,000 miles to less than 8,000 miles, Wang said.

However, new Arctic passageways mean new problems. It is unclear whether Chinese vessels will be allowed access to both the Northwest Passage, controlled by Canada and the U.S., and the Northeast Passage, controlled by Russia.

While it seems unlikely that China would use armed force in a future dispute over the polar regions or make serious territorial claims to the ice caps, Beijing will attempt to “water down Canada’s Arctic sovereignty,” said David Curtis Wright, a research fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

Wright said some Chinese scholars are urging Beijing to challenge Canadian claims of historical sovereignty over the Arctic in general and the Northwest Passage in particular.

In an effort to enhance its international position, China has established three polar research stations: the Great Wall Station and the Zhongshan Station in the Antarctic, and Yellow River Station at Ny-Alesund in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic.

China also operates the MV Xuelong (Snow Dragon) polar research vessel, which has come under scrutiny by Taiwan authorities. In 2005, Taiwan frigates chased the Snow Dragon out of the island’s territorial waters for alleged spying. The vessel was allowed a goodwill visit to Taiwan in 2009, but ordered to turn off electronic monitoring equipment before entering Kaohsiung harbor.

China has also been paying close attention to Iceland, where Beijing has established a large embassy and has been in discussions with Reykjavik officials about the creation of a major Arctic shipping hub on Iceland, Wang said.

China wants the Arctic sea passages declared “international territory” or the “shared heritage of humankind,” Wright said. Beijing’s “nightmare scenario” is that the A5 or five Arctic littoral states — Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States — will agree to exclude China and “divvy up the region’s resources.” Wang said China’s economy, growing at an annual average of 9 percent over the past two decades, is hungry for new oil and gas reserves. Arctic hydrocarbon reserves could amount to 25 per­cent of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves.

“There are also considerable reserves of coal, iron, phosphate, peat and non-ferrous metals in the Arctic coastal areas as well as coastal islands,” Wang said, and the Arctic has one of the world’s largest known copper-rich volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits.

Even with China’s robust economy, there are still roughly 100,000 riots and protests each year, Wang said. The conventional wisdom is that low growth will erode the Chinese Communist Party’s political legitimacy and fuel social unrest as the jobless vent their frustrations by rioting, he said. Securing new hydrocarbon reserves in the Arctic is becoming a national security priority in Beijing.

Taiwan Navy Seeks New Torpedoes

Defense News


Taiwan Navy Seeks New Torpedoes


TAIPEI — Taiwan could seek to buy torpedoes worth as much as $860 million over the next 10 years if proposals to replace aging weapons are approved.

Defense officials said the plan would include buying 600 Mark 54 Lightweight Hybrid Torpedoes for $300 million to replace Mark 46 anti­submarine torpedoes, and 40 Mark 48 Advanced Capability torpedoes for $160 million to replace German­made wire-guided Surface and Underwater Target (SUT) torpedoes.

Defense officials said an additional 100 Mark 48 torpedoes would be ordered for $400 million if the U.S. releases eight diesel attack submarines that were promised in 2001 by the administration of President George W. Bush.

However, a U.S. defense industry source said there has been no movement on the 2001 offer by the U.S. government due to a combination of manufacturing and political hurdles.

The torpedo effort is in response to the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) modernization efforts and new submarine and warship construction, including China’s first aircraft carrier, the ex-Soviet Varyag, set to begin sea trials this year.

The Mark 46 is carried by four classes of warships, and the SUT is on two Dutch-built Hai Lung (Sea Dragon) attack submarines.

A Taiwan defense industry source said the Hai Lung submarines would have to be refitted to handle the Mark 48s, but a refurbishment program for the submarines has been delayed due to budgetary problems.

Over the past five years, Taiwan dropped two indigenous programs to develop a multipurpose torpedo and a sea mine (Wan Hsien) after the Navy failed to show interest in procuring them.

The torpedo program was compromised during a 2003 Chinese spy scandal, when three Taiwanese stole the plans from the military­run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology.

Taiwan’s Navy has struggled to maintain its aging torpedoes.

During the annual Han Kuang military exercises in 2003, the Navy experienced serious malfunctions with an armed SUT fired from the 793 Hai Lung submarine and an unarmed Mark 46 fired from a Perry-class frigate.

Taiwan’s overall strategy during a war with China is to hobble the PLAN in the Taiwan Strait using torpedoes and anti-ship missiles (ASMs). Taiwan is beginning to outfit eight Perry-class frigates with a new Hsiung Feng 3 (Brave Wind) ASM, which has a range of 3,000 kilometers at Mach 2.

The Taiwan Navy also plans to outfit the Hsun Hai (Sea Swift), a stealthy catamaran corvette set to begin production in 2012, with the Hsiung Feng 3. The island country already has begun outfitting 30 new 170-ton Hai Chiao (Sea Shark) guided-missile patrol boats with the Hsiung Feng 2 ASM.

The military also has land-based coastal batteries of Hsiung Feng 2 missiles, and there are plans to field a land-based variant of the Hsiung Feng 3.

Taiwan President Urges U.S. to Release F-16s

Defense News


Taiwan President Urges U.S. to Release F-16s


TAIPEI - Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou urged the U.S. to release F-16 fighters and submarines during a speech May 12 at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

New arms will allow Taipei to negotiate with Beijing on "equal footing," he said. "This is why I continue to urge the U.S. to provide Taiwan with necessary weaponry … to keep its aerial and naval integrity intact, which is key to maintaining a credible defense."

China has not renounced the use of force to reunify Taiwan despite improved ties since Ma won the presidency in 2008. Taiwan has adopted the "one China, respective interpretations" under the "92 Consensus" in an effort to better relations with Beijing, Ma said.

Improved relations also resulted in the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in 2010. To dispel domestic criticism of closer ties with China, Ma has a stated "Three-No's Policy" of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force."

Though Ma has made an effort of "never rocking the boat" and implementing "full consultation" with the U.S. on Cross-Strait discussions, the U.S. is still reluctant to provide Taiwan with new arms.

In 2001, the Bush administration promised Taiwan eight diesel electric submarines, but the deal has been held up by a combination of political and manufacturing hurdles. Taiwan's request for 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters for $5.5 billion and a $4.5 billion upgrade package for 146 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters has been on hold since 2007 and 2009, respectively.

Part of the reason for the delays, analysts say, are punitive actions taken by Beijing following arms releases totaling $13 billion in 2008 and 2010. China ended military-to-military dialogue with the U.S. and threatened to retaliate economically after each release. The effort appears to be paying off. China and the U.S. just concluded the third Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Washington last week where China's Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Qian Lihua, director of the Foreign Affairs Office with the National Defense Ministry, said Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff, would meet with Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a visit to Washington from May 15 to 22. Qian was quoted by the state-controlled Xinhua News Agency on May 12 that a "new type" of China-U.S. military relations based on "mutual respect and reciprocal beneficial cooperation" was on the horizon.

Qian said there were three obstacles to improved Sino-U.S. military ties: U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, frequent reconnaissance by U.S. naval ships and aircraft in Chinese waters and airspace, and restrictions imposed by U.S. domestic laws on military exchanges and technical cooperation.

Qian said the U.S. must modify or abolish the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, the "DeLay Amendment" and the 1990-91 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which set limits on military ties with China.

Chen's visit to Washington could be the catalyst for change, said Zhu Feng, a security analyst at Beijing University's Center for International and Strategic Studies. "He might be the right person for the U.S. to take more seriously to get mil-to-mil" back on track. However, it would be unwise for the U.S. to hobble Chen's efforts with new arms sales to Taiwan, he said.

"They are hoping to build 'strategic trust' and move the ball down the court somewhat on long-standing issues of contention," said a U.S. defense analyst who specializes on China. Discussions during the S&ED for improved military ties could cost Taiwan its security blanket, said a Taiwan defense source. As China and the U.S. move closer strategically, Taipei loses its ability to negotiate with Beijing from a position of strength, he said.

Friday, May 6, 2011

China Confirms J-15 Carrier-based Fighter

Defense News


China Confirms J-15 Carrier-based Fighter

Aircraft based On Russian-Designed Su-33


TAIPEI — Chinese state-run media have issued the first official photographs of the J-15 Flying Shark carrier-based fighter, the latest revelation in a year that has already seen several from traditionally opaque Beijing.

The disclosure comes on the heels of unconfirmed Chinese-language blogs that China may have test-flown the J-18 Red Eagle vertical/short-takeoff-and-landing (VSTOL) fighter earlier this month. And in January, Chinese media heralded the first test flight of the stealthy J-20 Black Eagle fighter.

But not everyone is convinced.

“Lot of J numbers floating around, the credence of which, until otherwise proven, I treat as suspect,” said a British aerospace defense analyst.

The J-18 may have grown out of a desire to mimic the AV-8 Harrier, which China has watched with interest since the 1980s.

But “VSTOL propulsion sets a range of demanding engineering challenges in an area that Beijing still struggles with,” the analyst said. “I suppose they could always have tried to gain access to Yak-141 Freestyle engine technology from Moscow.” The Yak-141 was a vertical take­off-and-landing carrier-based fighter program launched by the Soviet Union in the 1980s and abandoned in 1991.

The J-15, on the other hand, is modeled on the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-based fighter and is being developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Corp. (SAC), analysts said. Some of its avionics and equipment comes from the J-11B multi­role fighter program, which is based on Russia’s Su-27 fighter.

“China appears intent on developing a blue-water capability,” said Jim Thomas, the vice president of Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assess­ments. “Its development represents another step toward the PLA Navy’s ambition of developing its own carrier aviation program.” Thomas said Chinese aircraft carriers do not pose a serious threat to the U.S. Navy. 
“They could, however, be used to intimidate other states in the region,” he said.

Many analysts seem to concur that China’s new aircraft carrier, the former Soviet Varyag, would play a more useful role in the South China Sea, said Toshi Yoshihara, author of the new book, “Red Star Over the Pacific.” “The weaker Southeast Asian states are less able to respond to a Chinese carrier presence, especially in the absence of U.S. intervention,” Yoshihara said.

Occasional Chinese shows of force could influence the calculus of regional capitals while bolstering Beijing’s claims.

“Imagine the Varyag pulling into Changi Naval Base in Singapore, but again, the move would be largely symbolic,” he said.

Yoshihara said the new carrier could be used off Taiwan’s east coast, “but only in a limited way.” China already boasts an array of shore-based aircraft and missiles to overwhelm the island’s defenses, he said.

“The carrier is useful to the extent that it adds a new threat vector to Taiwan’s east coast, where the geographical conformation makes it less vulnerable to ballistic missile attacks, but the marginal value that the carrier brings to the fight is probably minimal,” he said. Taiwan’s National Security Bureau (NSB) recently confirmed China’s plans to begin sea trials of its new aircraft carrier by the end of this year. On April 26, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesperson, Col. Lo Shau-ho, said the military has been closely monitoring China’s aircraft carrier developments and had devised a strategy on how to deal with the threat, but did not go into details.

An MND source said that Taiwan’s options include land-based and ship-based Hsiung Feng (HF) anti-ship missiles and submarine­launched torpedoes. Taiwan is still awaiting the long-delayed release of eight diesel submarines promised by the U.S. government in 2001. Upon that release, Taiwan plans to order 100 sub-launched Mk 48 Advanced Capability torpedoes.

Taiwan has two operational Dutch-built diesel submarines armed with aging German Surface and Underwater Target torpedoes. Taiwan’s anti-aircraft carrier strategy also includes the fielding of 30 new stealthy 170-ton Hai Chiao (Sea Shark) guided-missile patrol boats armed with HF-2 missiles, and has recently revealed plans to build 10 500-ton catamaran guided­missile corvettes armed with HF-3 missiles. An MND official said Taiwan’s Navy is outfitting its Perry-class frigates with HF-3 missiles.

NSB Director Tsai Der-sheng recently told the legislature’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee that Taiwan could defend itself against a carrier threat, but there were serious questions over whether Taiwan could continue to hold the isolated Taiping Island in the South China Sea. The island is the largest of the Spratly Islands and has the longest runway in the island group.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stealthy Catamarans To Prowl Taiwan Strait

Defense News


Stealthy Catamarans To Prowl Taiwan Strait


TAIPEI — Taiwan plans to begin building its first prototype of a stealthy 500-ton catamaran corvette in 2012 under the Hsun Hai (Swift Sea) program, Deputy Defense Minister Lin Yu-pao told legislators in April 18 testimony.

A Taiwan defense source said there are initial plans to build 10 Swift Seas armed with anti-ship missiles.

“We have already finished the research design and the contract design, and the bidding process will begin in 2012 with delivery in 2014,” he said.

The vessels will be deployed in the Taiwan Strait to break a Chinese naval blockade or stop an invasion fleet, he said.

Guy Stitt, president of AMI International, Naval Analysts & Advisors, said Taiwan has a need to overcome large numbers of Chinese vessels, and one way to do that is to launch a large volume of anti-ship missiles to overwhelm China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy. Though smaller, stealthy fast-attack vessels provide a much better chance of surviving long enough to launch their anti-ship missile payload, they would be somewhat disposable afterwards.

According to the Ministry of National Defense, the Swift Seas will carry eight Hsiung Feng-2 (HF-2) and HF-3 anti-ship missiles, a Phalanx Close-In Weapon System and a 76mm bow gun. The vessel will be 130 feet long with a crew of 45 and cruise at 30 knots. The ship will carry modules to allow it to handle other missions beyond anti-ship warfare, said the Taiwan defense source.

Local media reports have dubbed the Swift Sea vessel the “carrier-killer” in response to China’s planned deployment of its first aircraft carrier, the Ukrainian Varyag, expected to begin sea trials this summer. Beijing has not officially named the ship yet. Western guesses include Shi Lang, after the admiral who conquered Taiwan in 1681, and Liu Huaqing, after the father of China’s modern navy.

However, the carrier will most likely be based in the South China Sea and not be deployed against Taiwan except off the east of the island during a conflict, said the Taiwan defense source.

Taiwan and China are separated by 220 kilometers at the strait’s widest point and 130 kilometers at its narrowest. This does not allow for much maneuverability for an aircraft carrier group, and Chinese air bases facing Taiwan can handle this mission.

Some local analysts have compared Swift Sea’s stealthy features and catamaran design with China’s 220-ton Houbei-class (Type 022) fast attack missile patrol boat armed with eight anti-ship missiles. The Taiwan defense source said the Houbei is in part the inspiration for the Swift Sea program.

AMI projects as many as 50 Houbei vessels might be built. So with 30 new stealthy 170-ton Hai Chiao (Sea Shark) guided-missile patrol boats armed with HF-2s, plus 20 to 30 Swift Sea vessels, rough parity could be reached, said Bob Nugent, vice president of advisory services at AMI International, based in Seattle. The Swift Sea vessels will work in combination with the Sea Shark, the Taiwan defense source said.

Developed under the Kuang Hua 6 program, Taiwan’s Navy commissioned the first of three squadrons of 10 Sea Sharks in May 2010. The vessels are armed with four HF-2 anti-ship missiles and a 20mm T75 anti-aircraft stern gun. Taiwan also has 12 680-ton Jin Chiang­class missile patrol vessels built during the 1990s, armed with the shorter-range HF-1.

“A small boat force in a cluttered environment takes significant effort to neutralize — 
combined air and sea operations that would, perhaps unacceptably for the Chinese navy, delay execution of other naval power projection missions,” Nugent said.

There has been an attraction to this type of smaller, lighter, faster strike craft going back to the U.S. Navy’s Patrol Torpedo boats of World War II, he said.

China Building Missile Muscle

Defense News


China Building Missile Muscle


TAIPEI — In a Xiangqi chess game, the most common tactic is to use cannons to control the middle, then push flanking horses and chariots for a checkmate.

China sees Taiwan and the South China Sea in much the same way, adding new ballistic missiles to check its opponent into a position that allows for no maneuverability, no place to run and nowhere to hide.

At least that’s one possible scenario painted in “Expansion of China’s Ballistic Missile Infrastructure Opposite Taiwan,” a new paper written by Mark Stokes, a researcher for the Washington­based Project 2049 Institute.

The expansion includes the fielding of its first anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), the Dong Feng 21D; the development of a new medium-range ballistic missile, the DF-16; and the incorporation of two ballistic missile brigades under the Second Artillery Corps that were previously under the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The paper calls China’s deployment of the DF-21D at Qingyuan in Guangdong Province — part of the effort to improve its anti-access and area-denial capabilities — a “game changer” for U.S. forces.

A Taiwan defense official said China has not forgotten the Taiwan Strait Missile Crisis, in which two U.S. aircraft carrier groups were sent to the region in 1996 to monitor Chinese missile tests. The DF-21D is a direct response to the “humiliation” China felt with the intervention of U.S. forces, he said. But one U.S. Naval War College professor says China is pouring too much money into trying to sink aircraft carriers.

“If they were really savvy, in my opinion, they would realize that the Achilles’ heel of U.S. air power in the western Pacific is the vulnerability of land bases needed to support the big wings — tankers, AWACS, etc.,” said Marshall Hoyler.

Instead of developing an ASBM, the Chinese should focus on the technically easier task of destroying fixed airfields at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam and Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Hoyler said. China has deployed up to 10 DF-21Ds at Qingyuan.

In a December interview with the Japanese media, Adm. Robert Willard, the U.S. Pacific commander, confirmed that the DF-21D had reached initial operational capability.

An unnamed PLA official sub­sequently told China’s state-controlled English-language Global Times that the DF-21D was “deployed with the Army.” In March, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau director, Tsai Der­sheng, told legislators the DF-21D was deployed. 

China also is developing a new medium-range ballistic missile, the DF-16, with a range of 1,000 kilometers. Such a missile may approach its target so quickly that even Taiwan’s new Patriot PAC-3 missile defense interceptors may be ineffective, Taiwanese defense sources said.

Stokes said China’s past behavior suggests many of the 1,300 short-range DF-11/15s aimed at Taiwan will ultimately be replaced by higher-speed medium-range missiles.

Another recent development is the Second Artillery’s establishment of a new launch brigade (96166 Unit) in the area of Shaoguan, just north of Qingyuan. While possibly being equipped with a follow-on variant of the DF-11 SRBM, the Shaoguan brigade could also be a candidate for the new DF-16, Stokes said.

Is China Developing a VSTOL Fighter?

Defense News


Is China Developing a VSTOL Fighter?

By Wendell Minnick

TAIPEI - China may have test-flown the J-18 Red Eagle vertical short takeoff and landing (VSTOL) fighter earlier this month, if chatter on Chinese-language military blogs is accurate.

China's defense industry is largely opaque and it is difficult to substantiate Internet chatter. However, Chinese-language military blogs reported the first test flight of the stealthy J-20 Black Eagle fighter in January, much to the surprise of the Western media.

Now there are reports emerging of a test flight of the J-18. Tests were supposedly conducted earlier this month and the fighter is similar to the Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-based fighter.

"In 2005, a Chinese aviation industry source told me the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation was considering a F-35B-like program," said Richard Fisher, vice president of the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center. "Given the PLA's naval power projection ambitions, it is probable there is VSTOL or STOVL [short takeoff and vertical landing] fighter program."

There are "many alleged programs in the Chinese blogosphere," Fisher said.

These include a J-16 built by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC), which is a stealthier dedicated attack version of the J-11B (Su-27) multirole fighter with active electronically scanned array radar and an internal weapons bay, which will "reportedly emerge this summer," he said.

China is expected to begin sea trials for its first aircraft carrier this summer. Analysts believe the J-15 Flying Shark, a copy of the Sukhoi Su-33, will be China's first carrier-based fighter. SAC procured an earlier prototype of the Su-33 from the Ukraine in 2001 and the J-15 reportedly conducted its first test flight in mid-2009.

There has also been questionable Chinese-language military blogs providing sketchy reporting on J-17 and J-19 fighter programs. Reportedly, the J-17 is long-range fighter-bomber based on the Russian Sukhoi Su-34 and the J-19 is a heavy multirole fighter based on the J-11B.