13 January 2012

Important Article Posted on PRC Ministry of National Defense Website: “PLA should foster offensive defense thinking in developing long-range strike weapons”

This article appears designed to send a strong, clear message, and merits very careful reading, analysis, and reflection. It is accompanied by a photograph of DF-21C conventional ballistic missiles, which is one type of an potent variety of long-range strike weapons that China is developing and deploying.

Thanks to Prof. Michael Chase, Naval War College, for directing me to the article. Together with a former colleague, Dr. Christopher Yeaw, Mike and I have published two articles of our own on Chinese missile force development. You can find links to them here and here, with further details at the very bottom of this post.

Chen Long, PLA Should Foster Offensive Defense Thinking in Developing Long-Range Strike Weapons,” China National Defense News, 13 January 2012.

(Source: China National Defense News)  2012-January-13 16:59

File picture: DF-21C conventional guided missile square array (Photo by Qiao Tianfu)

  Offense and defense are two basic types of combat. Since the very beginning of war in human society, the contradiction between offense and defense has always been searching for the pivotal point of balance in the fight, and this position has ever been changing along with the development of weaponry and equipment.

     In World War I, there was a very low success rate in breaking through defense, because on the one hand, the defensive side generally owned geographical advantages, on the other hand, the offensive side lacked long-range attack capability. In World War II, however, with the emergence of new-type weaponry and equipment such as aircraft and tanks, the offensive side gained more means of attack and more powerful attack capability, bringing about the greatly upgraded status of offensive operation. Nowadays, with informationized wave sweeping over every corner of the society including the military domain, such tactics as destruction at the instant of discovery and combat outside of defensive zone are more and more materialized in reality, the counterattack capability of the defensive side has become greatly restricted, while the offensive capability has become the main factor in determining the outcome of a war. In such large-scale local wars as the Gulf War, Kosovo War, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the like, they all ended up with the offensive side winning the war and the defensive side being defeated.

  In the warfare under informationized conditions, such special features as multi-dimensional offense direction, “non-contact” ways of attack in combat operation, the cross-horizon attacks of offensive power, the “long range, high efficiency, fastness and accuracy” of strike weapons and so on, have neutralized the effects of ground obstacles against the offensive side. It is no longer possible for the defensive side to benefit from topography by commanding the high position to massively devastate and consume the living force of the enemy. At the same time, it has also invalidated the traditional defensive tactics of anticipating the direction of the enemy’s dynamic attack and concentrating the manpower and weapons in order to precisely strike in a static status. In addition, informationized warfare consumes large amounts of resources, and has rendered the past defensive approach of finding a turnaround in an enduring war no longer realistic. The rapid decisive offensive operation has become the first choice. Therefore, in the future warfare under informationalized conditions, more emphasis should be placed on offensive operations. Even in the defensive operations, a proactive defensive strategy should be sought for.

  Nevertheless, this does not mean that defense is no longer important in informationized warfare. On the contrary, higher requirements are demanded from defense, especially in the sense that it establishes a main controlling status of offensive operations. For the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), in order to win local wars under the informationized conditions in future, it is imperative to establish the strategic idea of offensive defense operation, and vigorously develop long-range strike weapons so that the effectiveness of combined offense-defense operations can be maximized.

  By Chen Long

For related information and analysis on Chinese long-range strike weapons, see:

Andrew S. Erickson, “DF-21D ASBM Deployed, but China Daily Probably Incorrect in Claiming ‘2,700km Range’; Gen. Chen Bingde Never Said That,” China Analysis from Open Sources, 11 January 2011.

Press Availability with General Chen Bingde,” Transcript of Remarks by Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and General Chen Bingde, Beijing, China, 11 July 2011.

For the latest official analysis on the status of Chinese ASBMs, see “English-Language Version of 2011 ROC National Defense Report Confirms: ‘a small quantity of’ DF-21D ASBMs ‘were produced and deployed in 2010, increasing the difficulty of military maneuvers in the region for the U.S. Army.’

For a link to, and a rough translation of, the Chinese-language edition of this report, see “Taiwan 2011 National Defense Report: DF-21D ASBMs ‘have been produced and deployed in small numbers in 2010’.”

Comments on China’s ASBM by a Pentagon spokeswoman are available in “Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg: ‘China Has “Workable” Anti-Ship Missile Design, Pentagon Says’.”

For recent analysis and sources on Chinese ASBM development, see “China’s Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) Reaches Equivalent of ‘Initial Operational Capability’ (IOC)—Where It’s Going and What it Means.”

Detailed analysis by top subject matter experts on Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, with five dedicated chapters on Chinese ASBM development and strategic implications alone, is offered in Andrew S. Erickson and Lyle J. Goldstein, eds., Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2011).

For an explanation of Chinese ASBM development and its larger implications, see the China Maritime Studies Institute Lecture of Opportunity, “Chinese Sources Discuss the ASBM Threat to the U.S. Navy,” that I presented at the Naval War College on 21 March 2011.

For detailed analysis of Admiral Willard’s statement regarding China’s ASBM reaching IOC, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “China Deploys World’s First Long-Range, Land-Based ‘Carrier Killer’: DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) Reaches ‘Initial Operational Capability’ (IOC),” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 14 (26 December 2010).

For further background on Chinese ASBM development, see also “China Testing Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM); U.S. Preparing Accordingly–Updated With Latest Analysis & Sources.”

For a brief overview of Chinese conventional and nuclear force development, see Michael Chase, Andrew S. Erickson, and Christopher Yeaw, “The Future of Chinese Deterrence Strategy,” Jamestown China Brief, Vol. 9, No. 5 (4 March 2009), pp. 6-9.

For more detailed, comprehensive analysis of Chinese conventional and nuclear force development, see Michael Chase, Andrew S. Erickson, and Christopher Yeaw, “Chinese Theater and Strategic Missile Force Modernization and its Implications for the United States,” Journal of Strategic Studies, 32.1 (February 2009): 67-114.