06 October 2012

Flightglobal’s Greg Waldron Reviews “Chinese Aerospace Power”

Greg Waldron, Must Read: Chinese Aerospace Power, Emerging Maritime Roles,” Asian Skies, Flightglobal, 5 October 2012.

For readers with a more than passing interest in Asia Pacific military affairs, Chinese Aerospace Power, Emerging Maritime Roles is the book for you. Edited by China defence experts Andrew Erickson and Lyle Goldstein, the book is a series of essays and papers about China’s capabilities and possible intentions in regard to the use of air and space assets in a war off its coast. It also spells out the implications of this for the US air force and US navy.

 The book is divided into five sections:

1) Chinese Aerospace Development, Emerging Maritime Roles

2) Chinese ISR and counter-ISR

3) Contrasting strategies: protecting bastions or projecting power?

4) Maritime strike: air-launched cruise missiles

5) Maritime strike: ballistic missiles

6) Maritime implications of Chinese Aerospace Power

What’s not to like?

For those who think China would be a pushover for the USA, the book provides sobering reading. In the event of a conflict, China is gearing up to fight intense, high-technology conflicts close to its shores. The crux of China’s strategy would be to reduce enemy air bases in the region with ballistic and cruise missiles.

In regard to American warships, the much touted DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile would not necessarily be used to sink ships, but possibly shower them with sub munitions. A rain of bomblets falling upon an aircraft carrier’s deck would create havoc and certainly result in a mission kill. One of the writers in the book says the test of such a system – presumably against a fast moving ship far out at sea – would be a public relations coup similar to China’s test of an anti-satellite missile in 2007.

Even if the DF-21D does not prove as effective as advertised, firing off volleys of ballistic missiles toward the general vicinity of American carrier battle groups would force AEGIS escorts to expend valuable anti-ballistic missiles. Eventually the magazine capacity of these warships would be exhausted, again resulting in a mission kill for the carrier group.

Chinese Aerospace Power also discusses areas of weakness. China appears to have a long way to go before it can mount successful joint forces attacks, say involving ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles striking an enemy base simultaneously. For long range strikes, there is also some question about the speed of its sensor-to-shooter abilities: i.e. it may identify a target, but does it have the command and control structure to shoot quickly enough? China also has a long, long way to go in key areas such as long range anti-submarine warfare, airborne early warning & control, and air-to-air refuelling.

Nonetheless, this timely and well written book that puts issues around China’s airpower in useful perspective. 

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

Andrew S. Erickson and Lyle J. Goldstein, eds., Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2011).

  • Kindle edition now available!
  • China Ocean Press (www.oceanpress.com.cn) has purchased the simplified Chinese language rights and will soon publish an authorized Chinese-language edition.

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.

Author of “Beijing’s Aerospace Revolution: Short-Range Opportunities, Long-Range Challenges,” 3-18.


  • with Jing-Dong Yuan, of “Antiaccess and China’s Air-Launched Cruise Missiles,” 275-86;
  • and, with David Yang, of “Chinese Analysts Assess the Potential for Antiship Ballistic Missiles,” 328-42.

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



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


“Andrew Erickson and Lyle Goldstein, two prominent China scholars at the Naval War College, fill an important interdisciplinary niche with this book by bringing together an all-star team of authors from both the Air Force and Navy communities. … a compilation of 27 essays authored by an illustrious group including admirals, intelligence analysts, private-sector experts, and former defense attachés. … Changes in the balance of aerospace power over China’s littoral waters have far-reaching strategic consequences for American policymakers. This book explains both how and why…. a real treasure trove. … Paul Giarra, Andrew Erickson, and David Yang excel in addressing one of the key components of China’s emerging antiaccess capacity: antiship ballistic missiles (ASBM), which RADM Eric McVadon, USN, retired, has … argued could have implications similar to those of China’s first successful nuclear test in 1964….”

Capt. Paul A. Stempel, USAF, Strategic Studies Quarterly 6.3 (Fall 2012): 149-51.

“an impressive series… the various discussions contained within its section on Chinese anti-ship missile (ASBM) capabilities provide much information on a technology that could have a significant impact on the balance of power in the Pacific.”

—Conrad Waters, Review of Four Naval Institute Press Books, “Naval Books of the Year,” Warship 2012: 190-91.

“Let’s face facts, there are many books on China’s military rise. There are also many books that detail the technological evolution of China’s armed forces. There are not many books, though, that bring together the world’s best writers and thinkers on the subject in one volume who give a balanced approach to the subject. Andrew Erickson and a cast of global thinkers give the reader a fair, highly readable, and credible approach to the important subject of Chinese Aerospace Power. The book tackles a highly controversial subject and does it well, with very little bias or hype. In my own research, I turn to it time and time again when I am writing my own pieces.”

—Harry Kazianis, “Always on My Desk For Reference…,” 5-Star Rating, Amazon.com, 19 April 2012.

“The book addresses, successively, the maritime context for China’s rapid aerospace developments, its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) implications; future maritime missions (including anti-submarine warfare, so far a major weakness for China); force projection (aerial replenishment and carrier developments); tactics for China’s anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles; and the consequences for U.S. operations. As Lieutenant General Daniel Leaf, USAF, Ret., points out in his preface, ‘this is important work.’ … Overall, Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles is an outstanding and important book. ”

—Alexandre Sheldon-Duplaix, Marine Technology (April 2012): 86-87.

“The collection is held together by a common focus on maritime oriented Chinese aerospace military capabilities. Edited by Andrew Erickson, CAP is part of a series of similar volumes on Chinese maritime military issues. Taken together, the essays supply a vision of how the United States and the People’s Republic of China envision high technology warfare against one another. … Interservice conflict invariably produces friction.… The collection does an excellent job of highlighting where the rifts lay, and describing the effect that they’ve had on planning and procurement. … These essays shine a light on how China is thinking about fighting the United States, deterring US intervention in regional conflict, and shaping US behavior in the Western Pacific. Given that the book is the product of a Naval War College colloquium and that it includes the work of many individuals close to the development of USN doctrine and strategy, it also gives good indication of how the United States views the prospect of war against China. It bears note that the book is relevant whether or not we evaluate a war between China and the United States as likely; the technologies, doctrines, and procurement priorities outlined will guide US and Chinese policy for at least a generation, and calculations regarding the likelihood and likely course of war will guide how the two nations related to one another diplomatically.”

Robert Farley, “Sunday Book Review: Chinese Aerospace Power,” Information Dissemination, 11 March 2012. 

“the authors explore the strategic implications of Chinese forces for the US Navy and the military balance in East Asia….”

—“Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles,” Brief Notices, Survival 54.1 (February-March 2012): 228. 

“Like the others in the series, it is also rich in detail, comprehensive in approach, strong in analytical rigour and light on speculation. … the range of sources is impressive. Nearly always primary source—many translated from Chinese—and including more unusual techniques, such as the analysis of Chinese UAV exhibitions at trade shows, it allows for an authoritative discussion. This authority is, however, self-tempered by the inclusion of a chapter discussing ‘Challenges in Assessing China’s Aerospace Capabilities and Intentions’, which recognises that Chinese military capability remains a difficult area to gain reliable data. Such honest self-assessment is admirable. … [The] final two essays form a good basis for contextualizing all the information presented earlier.… Uninformed and speculative comment on China can be found almost daily in our major newspapers, blogs and magazines. The need to have a deep understanding of what China is—and is not—militarily capable of is therefore growing to ensure that reasoned debate can occur. … Books such as Chinese Aerospace Power provide the basis of that discovery and anyone who is interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the rise of China would benefit from reading it.”

—Captain Gordon A. Andrew, RAN, “Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles,” Australian Defence Force Journal 186 (November/December 2011): 100-101.

“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。