28 February 2012

China’s Military Modernizes, Declares Regional Strength—Robust Investments in Hardware, Technology, and Modern Operational Concepts Yield Benefits

Clarence A. Robinson, Jr., “China’s Military Modernizes, Declares Regional Strength—Robust Investments in Hardware, Technology, and Modern Operational Concepts Yield Benefits,” Defense (Winter 2011): 112-17.

… the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues … an ambitious and broad-based effort to transform [its] military. The principal A2AD capability involves conducting high-intensity regional military operations, according to Andrew S. Erickson…

Chinese forces are emerging with capabilities of conducting military operations in Asia well beyond Taiwan. China’s reach may extend to Guam, a U.S. territory; Japan; and the Philippines. Top-level Chinese officials argue that their nation’s economic and political power is contingent upon access to and use of the sea, requiring a strong navy to safeguard access, Erickson acknowledged.

The PLAN primarily is spotlighting contingencies within what senior leaders term the first and second island chains…“These island chains run along China’s maritime perimeter. The first island chain includes Taiwan, Ryukyu Islands, and the Philippines to the South China Sea. The second island chain extends from northern Japan through the Marianas, the Carolines, Guam, and the South Pacific. China, exploiting modern technologies and weapons, is positioning itself to challenge American predominance in the Asia-Pacific region…,” Erickson said.

… Questions persist over how quiet the PLAN’s nuclear submarines operate, Erickson said. Acoustic levels of selected Chinese nuclear- and diesel-powered submarines published by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence compare [with] acoustic signatures [of] Russian submarines. This assessment reveals that China’s conventional submarines are becoming extremely quiet. “Indeed, China has two variants of the Kilo-class diesel submarine that score very well. The Type 093 and 094 nuclear-powered boats, however, are not especially quiet and the PLAN is struggling to reduce noise from their reactors,” Erickson said.

Pleased with its conventionally-powered submarines, the PLAN has built 13 Song-class boats and several Yuan-class submarines, considering them much more relevant to scenarios in the near seas—the Yellow, East, and South China seas, Erickson said. The Yuan may also have an air independent power system. “They don’t need the long range of nuclear power, and quiet conventional submarines perform very well in the near seas,” Erickson said.

The former Soviet Union ship Varyag, a ski-jump aircraft carrier purchased stripped down… from Ukraine, is a new element of the PLAN’s surface fleet. … “There appear to be no major problems with the J-15 Flying Shark, a multirole air-superiority fighter for China’s first aircraft carrier. Since this will be their first carrier-capable aircraft, the real challenge will be integrating it with the platform. The J-15 is fully capable; however, mastering the system of systems for air operations could prove difficult for the PLAN,” Erickson stated. “Integrating the aircraft with the carrier will be time consuming and costly to achieve a high level of proficiency within a certain time frame. Accidents are inevitable, so the PLAN may go much slower.” …

“Perhaps we could see a J-15 takeoff and landing onboard the Varyag … by early next year [2012]. The PLAN is unlikely to rush the process, understanding how difficult and dangerous it could be. They are aware of carrier aircraft histories, and know that the U.S. Navy lost many good pilots and aircraft during carrier operations,” Erickson said.

The real question with China’s aircraft carriers is what the next ship will look like. … There are inherent limitations with short takeoff and arrested-landing aircraft. Shifting from a ski-jump configuration to a catapult and arresting gear deck would provide many advantages in terms of aircraft performance—payload, range, and time on station, Erickson said.

Another potent element of A2/AD is the development and deployment of a Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). This system of system is designed to attack a moving aircraft carrier [strike] group from long range, using land-based mobile launchers, Erickson continued. The DF-21 ASBM, with its maneuvering re-entry vehicle… has moved from concept to operational in just over a decade, he said.

Space-based and land-based over-the-horizon (OTH) sensors augment ASBM targeting, according to Erickson. “Still unclear is how China’s OTH radar and ocean surveillance satellites work together, especially when the architecture is divided among various service arms. China has a less-than-stellar history in joint operations, although they are rapidly improving as they move toward real-time capabilities,” Erickson said.

China continues to launch Yaogan satellites with electro-optic[al] and synthetic aperture radar sensors. At least one ocean surveillance constellation is made up of three such satellites in orbit, flying in roughly a triangular formation. … “China’s leaders may believe they require this satellite system to cue their ASBMs. The United States must think innovatively about how China will locate carrier [strike] groups, including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and possibly fishing boats,” Erickson said.

Emphasizing small satellites and low-cost boosters, the PRC rapidly is gaining the ability to increase, when needed, the number of satellites on orbit. The first PRC indigenous ocean surveillance spacecraft, the Haiyang-1A (HY-1A), went into orbit in 2002…. This satellite stores data using a solid-state memory and downloads it to receiving stations near Beijing and Sanya on Hainan Island, Erickson said. …China plans to launch a total of 15 of the Haiyang (Ocean) spacecraft over the next nine years.

Eight satellites designated the HY-1C-J will be launched through 2019. The HY-2 series will employ a Ku/C-band dual-frequency radar altimeter, tri-frequency radiometer, Ku-band scan radar scaterometer and a microwave imager to monitor sea surface wave fields, height, and temperatures. Four HY-2A-D satellites will be launched every three years over this same period. The HY-3 series will use the synthetic aperture radar with 1- to 10-meter resolution and X-band radar to monitor maritime resources and coastal zones, Erickson said.

Previously publishing “Eyes in the Sky,” a paper on the PRC’s space program, Erickson pointed out that public analysis from Taiwan’s military notes that the Haiyang satellites are part of an ocean-monitoring system, “which has strengthened PLAN’s military knowledge of a potential Pacific Ocean battlefield.”

“For China, the ability to prevent a U.S. carrier strike group from intervening in a Taiwan Strait crisis is critical. The ASBM also could limit other nations, particularly the United States, from exerting military influence on China’s maritime periphery. This periphery contains several disputed zones of core strategic importance to Beijing,” Erickson pointed out. He is co-author, with Lyle J. Goldstein, of Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles. …

“There is an historical background in China’s more recent maritime movement. When the PRC was founded in 1949, Communist Party cadres and military leaders were schooled in the doctrine of people’s war—drawing in, surrounding enemy forces, and attacking in waves. With extensive land combat experience and modest maritime familiarity, beyond coastal defense, China focused on… land warfare forces for three decades.”

“The introduction of the U.S. 7th Fleet in the region during the Korean War made it completely unrealistic for [mainland] China to retake Taiwan. That situation, along with the Soviet Union’s naval strength, muffled any Chinese efforts [to become] a significant player in the maritime dimension during the Cold War,” Erickson said. “China’s growing presence on remote oceans over the past 15 years or so began gradually with Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in the late ’70s and early ’80s.” …

Shipbuilding and an export economy were vital factors in promoting Chinese naval developments. …these are reasons we are seeing naval missions much farther afield, “to the far seas, including counter-piracy deployments in the Gulf of Aden,” Erickson explained.

“China’s leadership cites the Taiwan crisis of 1995-1996 and the 1999 U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia as key turning points. These events spurred prioritization of PLAN developments, along with the Second Artillery Corps’ massive ballistic missile development programs, as China also seeks to use the land to control the sea,” he said.

After China fired short-range ballistic missiles off the coast of Taiwan during the crisis, conventional-missile coercion looked like a logical and essential tool to China’s military and civilian leadership, Erickson said. Ballistic missiles became a priority, and funding rapidly increased [for] forming a conventionally armed missile force. …

“By the late 1990s, significant technical research was under way on Chinese precision-guided ballistic missiles, and the first serious technical advances emerged in the 2000s, reflecting sophisticated research and development progress. By 2004, the Second Artillery Force’s major doctrinal handbook emerged to specifically reveal ASBM use in operational scenarios. When you connect all the data points, this was coming at us for a while,” Erickson declared.

The solid propellant medium-range DF-21D prototype, with a range of 1,500 to 2,000 kilometers, is also known as the CSS-5, and, according to Erickson, is generally held to draw on technologies used in the U.S. Pershing II theater ballistic missile deployed from 1984-88. The Pershing II used adjustable second-stage control fins for terminal maneuver. …

“It is quite significant that official U.S. and Taiwan government sources state that small numbers of the DF-21D started deployment in 2010, whatever their current state of overall capability. China, however, wouldn’t deploy these ASBMs if it wasn’t convinced [they] had the ability to promote a basic deterrent,” Erickson stated. “I’m sure they will continue improving, integrating, [and] replacing [them], and expanding the number of units equipped with these missiles.”

“China’s claim of a right to limit foreign military activities in its 200-mile EEZ is really a very difficult problem, as the work of my colleague, Peter Dutton, the director of CMSI, has made clear. Not only does China’s claim create operational challenges for U.S. and allied forces, it also reflects a different view of international norms, which is troubling. China’s argument that it has the right to control foreign military activities in the 200-mile EEZ misinterprets the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is disturbing. Beyond China, only a handful of other states improperly claim the same rights. Making the 200-mile EEZ off limits to military operations, which could include humanitarian and policing functions, would create great instability.”

Simultaneously, there are major shifts underway as European nations… precipitously decrease their navies. “The U.S. Navy is struggling, during a difficult budget period, to remain level, in terms of platforms. The Navy requires a significant number of ships equipped with Aegis and SM-3 ballistic-missile interceptors… to meet Chinese ASBM threats. It is very important to continue developing and deploying countermeasures to China’s ASBM and other types of ballistic and cruise missiles,” Erickson said. … This situation places an emphasis on undersea systems. “China has little, if any, ability to track U.S. submarines, and we should fully exploit this limitation,” Erickson added.

“Technology matters, but so does geography. For a long time to come, China will be influenced by its geography. The PRC will feel hemmed in by the ‘island chains.’ What they can accomplish in the maritime domain will require land-based support. China is likely to continue relying on land-based missiles and aviation well into the future,” Erickson predicted.

Much less progress is being made by China in developing resources that extend global reach or power projection beyond regional waters. … The PRC will continue exploiting technology for asymmetric advantages wherever possible. Beijing’s long-term goal is to create a wholly indigenous defense industrial sector, augmented by commercial industry and foreign technology acquisition to meet PRC modernization needs, Erickson concluded.

For further information on the book mentioned here, see Andrew S. Erickson and Lyle J. Goldstein, eds., Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2011).

Japanese summary translation now available: 中国の航空宇宙パワー海洋任務への発展.

Highlighted in GlobalSecurity.org’s Special Selections.

For a video introducing the volume’s contents, watch Prof. Andrew S. Erickson, Eight Bells Book Lecture, Naval War College Museum, 8 September 2011.

Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles (CMSI Vol. 5)



China’s aircraft carrier program is already making major waves well before the first ship has even been completed. Undoubtedly, this development heralds a new era in Chinese national security policy. While Chinese Aerospace Power presents substantial new insight on that particular question, its main focus is decidedly broader in scope. This book offers a comprehensive survey of Chinese aerospace developments, with a concentration on areas of potential strategic significance previously unexplored in Western scholarship. It also links these developments to the vast maritime battlespace of the Asia-Pacific region and highlights the consequent implications for the U.S. military, particularly the U.S. Navy.

The possibility of a future Chinese expeditionary force operating off Africa under the protective umbrella of carrier aircraft is not without consequence for the global strategic balance. However, a simpler set of aerospace systems, from microsatellites to unmanned aerial vehicles to ballistic and cruise missiles are already challenging U.S. maritime dominance in East Asia. Cumulatively, progress in all major aerospace dimensions by various elements of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) signifies a new period in which Chinese forces are now decisively altering the complexion of the military balance in the East Asian littoral.

While many articles and books have previously been written on Chinese aerospace development and many more discuss future U.S. naval strategy in the Asia-Pacific region, no other book connects the two issues, simultaneously evaluating the Chinese aerospace challenge and its implications for U.S. naval strategy.

Chinese Aerospace Power offers both broad strategic context for the lay reader and considerable insights for even the most well-informed specialists, with no fewer than five chapters devoting coverage to significant aspects of China’s development of a “carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM).

Publication date: July 2011

512 pp., 2 b/w photos, 15 illustrations, 6” x 9”

ISBN: 978-159114-241-6

Political Science, International Relations

This is the fifth volume in the Naval Institute Press series “Studies in Chinese Maritime Development” published jointly by the China Maritime Studies Institute and the Naval Institute Press. Click here for information regarding previous volumes in the series.

China, the United States, and 21st Century Sea Power

 Edited by Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and Nan Li

ISBN: 978-1-59114-243-0

China Goes to Sea: Maritime Transformation in Comparative Historical Perspective

Edited by Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and Carnes Lord

ISBN: 978-1-59114-242-3

China’s Energy Strategy: The Impact on Beijing’s Maritime Policies

Edited by Gabriel B. Collins, Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and William S. Murray

ISBN: 978-1-59114-330-7

China’s Future Nuclear Submarine Force

Edited Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, William S. Murray, and Andrew R. Wilson

ISBN: 978-1-59114-326-0

Andrew S. Erickson is an associate professor in the U.S. Naval War College’s Strategic Research Department and a founding member of its China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI). He is an Associate in Research at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and a Fellow in the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations’ Public Intellectuals Program.

Lyle J. Goldstein is an associate professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College, and the founding director of the department’s China Maritime Studies Institute. He is proficient in Chinese and Russian, and has published widely in scholarly journals on China, Russia, Central Asia, and surface and undersea warfare.


“In this edited volume, Erickson and Goldstein provide us with a comprehensive survey of China’s ongoing efforts to shift the military balance in the Western Pacific decisively in its favor through the development and application of aerospace power as it pertains to the maritime competition. Drawing upon primary research and Chinese sources, this volume will be a valuable and timely addition to the libraries of those with an interest in this issue of growing geostrategic importance.”

—Dr. Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., President of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, author of 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores the Changing Face of War in the 21st Century

“This coverage of this book is at once broad and deep. It serves well as an introduction to advances in Chinese maritime aerospace technology, and it will also reward expert readers looking for the latest update on these evolving capabilities. Many readers will be surprised by the extent of Chinese progress described by the contributors to this work. Assembling evidence from a necessarily diverse range of sources, they detail the strategic as well as the technical issues that are shaping the Chinese military establishment as it looks beyond the country’s shores, and they examine how it will develop in coming years and decades.”

—Bradley Perrett, Asia-Pacific bureau chief, Aviation Week, Beijing

Chinese Aerospace Power is an excellent and very readable overview of China’s impressive advances in almost every aspect of air and space operations. Not only have the Chinese developed impressive technical capabilities, but they have also given careful thought to the operational concepts associated with them. There is no reason that China must be an enemy of the United States, but it would be folly on our part if we were to lose to China the across-the-board technology lead that has been vital to our national security for well over a half century. This is a must read for anyone with a concern for American or Chinese military affairs.”

—Col. John A. Warden III, USAF (Ret.), Gulf War I planner, president of Venturist, Inc., author of The Air Campaign and Winning in FastTime

Chinese Aerospace Power arrives on the scene as the United States is facing declining resources for defense while the Chinese are realizing rapid expansion of its military capabilities in the aerospace and maritime domains. Andrew Erickson and Lyle Goldstein yield timely insight into how these two trends are evolving in these arenas. Resolving the security objectives of the United States and China in the Pacific—and around the world—requires that policymakers and military strategists understand the reality of Chinese military capability, experiences, and perspectives. This work provides that insight and is a must read as Chinese aerospace development is significantly altering the character of the military and political balance in the Pacific.”

—Lt. General David A. Deptula, USAF (Ret.), former USAF Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance

“Absolutely the most important book on air and space power I’ve had the pleasure to read. The power of this detailed survey of Chinese Aerospace Power is doubled because it presents both an intelligent American analysis and an insightful view of the ‘Chinese perception’ of the situation. Our two nations have much in common, but the understanding this difference in perception is essential to our selection of our future alternatives. A must have book!”

—Col. Walter J. Boyne, USAF (Ret.), National Aviation Hall of Fame honoree and former director of the National Air and Space Museum, author of Beyond the Wild Blue: A History of the U.S. Air Force, 1947-2007

“China’s air and space development is an area of significant interest for the U.S. Navy. This book elucidates the critical linkage between China’s military aerospace and maritime capabilities. Whereas China’s rapid progress has already rendered many other studies obsolete, this volume connects the latest ‘data point’ dots and puts them in strategic context. Navy leaders and planners should read it today.”

—Admiral Timothy J. Keating, USN (Ret.), former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command


“this volume evaluates the advances that China has made in its aerospace operations and the implications of this advancement for U.S. naval strategy.”

—Katherine Duke, “Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles,” “Short Takes,” Amherst Magazine (Fall 2011): 46.

“This enormously valuable and very up-to-date work… provides a very comprehensive analytical overview of the rapid development of the aerospace functions of the PLA Navy. Politicians, military officers, journalists, naval architects, ship-builders, ship-owners and even businessmen who have any connection with or concern for China would be well advised to buy and carefully study this book.”

Ausmarine (November 2011): 36.

offers a broad overview and appraisal of recent developments in Chinese aerospace and maritime power and examines implications for the US military, especially Chinese prowess in fielding advanced cruise missiles and China’s long-range precision-strike capabilities that pose a threat to forces in the Western Pacific theater….”

“Reference & Research Book News,” Book News Inc. (October 2011), 306.

“This volume has numerous strengths. Its greatest contribution to existing literature is that it uses a great deal of open source Chinese based literature to add credence to the authors ideas. …  The work assembles … an all-star cast of scholars to discuss one of the most timely security studies subjects of the 21st century. … When considered as a whole or in part, this work should give US strategic planners a moment of pause. Erickson and Goldstein have created a volume that is balanced, dense in scope but still readable and enjoyable. Combined with the assemblage of a ‘who’s who’ in Chinese security studies, the appeal of such a work is hard to deny. This volume should serve as the textbook to any security studies student who wishes to gain a scholarly perspective on China’s aerospace and military rise to power from a maritime perspective. It is a work I will keep close at hand for years to come.”

—Harry Kazianis, “Review: Chinese Aerospace Power, Evolving Maritime Roles,” 5 Stars, e-International Relations, 6 September 2011.

“… despite the numerous one-off articles, there hasn’t until now been a place in English that brings together all the pieces of the puzzle. That is until the recent publication by the China Maritime Studies Institute of Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles. The volume… offers a comprehensive overview of all the latest developments, and touches on the whole spectrum of the Chinese aerospace capabilities…. The essays, from some of the most highly regarded analysts in the field, help provide a good understanding of the state of Chinese aerospace modernization. The book not only examines the technical feasibility of Chinese plans, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, but also delves deep into domestic Chinese debates about the weapons systems in question. The volume manages to get to the core of the issue through open source analysis that compares and contrasts Chinese writings on the topic from a variety of official and unofficial sources, offering a far broader perspective than volumes focusing only on Western analysis. Indeed, Chinese Aerospace Power delves deeply into the Chinese system, examining inter-service rivalries and integration and training issues. … The book is a must-read piece for every government official involved with China-related issues, military or otherwise. If knowing your interlocutor is a prerequisite for successful negotiations, the book should be a big step towards providing a balanced and necessary understanding.”

—Eleni Ekmektsioglou, “Understanding China,” The Diplomat, 26 August 2011.

“…this book was astonishing. …Almost everyone of the paper was informative (make that eye-opening)… Kudos to the authors and editor. But the heart of the book for a novice like myself was the realization of what the Chinese Second Artillery Corps has pulled off. Terminally guided precision Anti Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBM) have essentially made our carriers obsolete for a war-time Taiwan mission in the Western Pacific. The PLAAF cruise missile, fighter and air defense systems are impressive. All of it feels like the Soviet reconnaissance/strike package implemented by a country that has its act together. This book should be required reading by every staffer in Washington.”

—Tech Historian, “Outstanding! A Must Have on Your Shelf,” 5 Star Rating, Amazon.com, 23 August 2011.

“In the past, I have found works by Andrew Erickson, Lyle Goldstein and the good folks at China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) to be of the highest quality and this book was no exception. … It does a great job of understanding China’s motivations/intentions, while fairly examining PLA’s capabilities and training. For those seeking for a greater understanding of China’s air force, space development and Second Artillery Command, I think this is a must read. … On top of that, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the new information/analysis that I found in this book regarding China’s ASBM program. I have read many differently analyses on ASBM (including several by CMSI), but this book really provided a much more comprehensive look than anything else I have read. The discussions on subjects like conflict escalation of ASBM, hard kill vs soft kill and non-carrier targets were very refreshing. So, for all those who are interested in learning more about China’s Air Force, space development and Second Artillery, I think this book would be an excellent read.”

Feng, “Review of Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles,” Information Dissemination, 16 August 2011.

“…the papers presented by this installation are of the highest quality with primary Chinese sources. They are written by the most respected authorities on the subject…. While unveiling fancy new equipment can generate headlines, the press generally doesn’t ask the deeper question of how new equipment may change existing PLA doctrine or examine potential implications. This is where the good folks from the CMSI come in and provide analyses that are lacking in the blogosphere….”

China Defense Blog, 31 July 2011.

“A useful analysis of Chinese air power, especially with regards to the sea. Balanced and highly technical, the book aims neither to hype nor downplay PLA capabilities.”

—David Axe, “Useful Analysis,” 4 Star Rating, Amazon.com, 28 July 2011.

“…Beijing has a brutally simple—if risky—plan to compensate for [its] relative weakness: buy missiles. And then, buy more of them. All kinds of missiles: short-range and long-range; land-based, air-launched and sea-launched; ballistic and cruise; guided and ‘dumb.’ Those are the two striking themes that emerge from Chinese Aerospace Power….”

—David Axe, “China’s Plan to Beat U.S.: Missiles, Missiles and More Missiles,” Danger Room, Wired.com, 27 July 2011.

Japanese summary translation now available: 中国の航空宇宙パワー海洋任務への発展.

概 説





アンドリュー・エリクソンとライル・J・ゴールドスタインは米国海軍大学の戦略研究部准教授であり、中国海洋研究所の発起人である。彼らは、「中国、米国及び21 世紀のシーパワー」及び「中国は海へ進出」を含む幾つかの書籍を共著している。