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Information from U.S. Assists New PLA Nuclear Warheads


            Though a debate lingers, in 1999 a bi-partisan commission of the U.S. House of Representatives concluded that the PRC had used information it had obtained through espionage about modern U.S. nuclear weapons to aid the development of current PRC nuclear weapons being deployed on its new generation of solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).  From the former Soviet Union the PRC received training for nuclear engineers, help with uranium reprocessing and early examples of ballistic missiles and Tu-16 medium bombers. While the Soviets balked at an agreement to provide an example of an actual nuclear weapon, the PRC was able on it own to test uranium-fueled fission bomb in October 1964 and then a thermonuclear device 32 months later in June 1967. From September 1992 to July 1996 the PRC conducted a series of eight underground nuclear tests as part of its effort to develop new smaller nuclear warheads.  While the PRC signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996, which would have prohibited future nuclear tests, the PRC is reported to have carried on subsequent "subcritical" low-level nuclear tests and non-nuclear tests, as part of a continuing nuclear warhead development program.[1] 


            After the 1992 test blast, U.S. scientists working at the Los Alamos laboratories raised suspicions that the PRC's new nuclear weapon may have made new break-throughs in miniaturization, raising suspicions that there may have been a leakage of U.S. design information. These suspicions grew in 1995 after a PRC citizen, or a "walk-in" later determined to have been controlled by PRC intelligence, delivered to U.S. officials data on the PRC's new nuclear weapons.[2]  This PRC walk-in is reported to have had data about many U.S. nuclear warheads, including the most modern U.S. warhead, the W-88.[3]  Regarding the W-88, the New York Times reported that U.S. officials noted that the "Chinese text cited five key attributes of the warhead, including two measurements accurate to within four-hundredths of an inch."[4]


            Revelations in 1998 that PRC space launchers had benefited from U.S. missile technology led the U.S. House of Representatives to form a Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China.  In the unclassified version of its report, the Select Committee stated that the PRC stole information on the following U.S. nuclear warheads: W-56 on the Minuteman II ICBM; W-62 on the Minuteman III ICBM; W-70 on the Lance SRBM; W-76 on the Trident C-4 SLBM; W-78 on the Minuteman III Mark 12A ICBM; W-87 on the Peacekeeper ICBM; and the W-88 on the Trident D-5 SLBM.  The Select Committee also stated that the PRC stole "classified information on U.S. weapons design concepts, on weaponization features, and on warhead reentry vehicles." It also noted that the PRC had in the late 1970s stolen classified data on the W-70, which was an early version of an enhanced radiation, or "neutron" weapon. Furthermore, the Select Committee stated that the PRC "may have also acquired classified U.S. nuclear weapons computer codes from U.S. national weapons laboratories." [5]


This bi-partisan committee reached stark conclusions on the impact of U.S. technology on new PRC nuclear warheads: "The Select Committee judges that the PRC's thermonuclear warheads will exploit elements of the U.S. W-70 or W-88 Trident D-5 warheads.  While the PRC might not produce replicas of these U.S. thermonuclear warheads, elements of the PRC's device could be similar."[6]  The Select Committee judged that the PRC preferred following U.S. nuclear warhead design priorities, which stressed innovative designs and lighter weight warheads.  The information that the PRC obtained from the U.S. "saved the PRC years of effort and resources in developing its new generation of modern thermonuclear warheads."[7]


            The findings of the Select Committee created a sensation in the PRC and the United States.  Beijing furiously denied that it had stolen U.S. nuclear information and asserted that it did not need such assistance to build its own new warheads.  In the U.S. many critics challenged the Select Committee's conclusions.  Some contended that the "watermelon" shape of U.S. modern nuclear warhead explosives, and the sharp shape of the warhead, are not unique to the U.S. and are dictated by physics, meaning the PRC could also design them.[8]  The Select Committee Co-chairmen responded that it was given information from the U.S. government that new PRC warheads benefit from U.S. design information.[9]  And in September 1999, the National Intelligence Council, reflecting the consensus view of the U.S. Intelligence Community, stated that new PRC land and sea-based mobile missiles will have "smaller warheads-in part influenced by US technology gained through espionage."[10] 


            Regardless of how the PRC came to possess the knowledge to build modern nuclear warheads, in 1998 the PRC released new data which confirmed the progress of its nuclear warhead development.  At the 1998 Zhuhai Airshow the Beijing Institute of Aerodynamics, which conducts very high speed and low speed aerodynamic research, released a brochure that contained illustrations of old and new PRC nuclear warhead shapes.[11]  Old PRC warhead shapes were almost semi-circular, and thus rather inaccurate.  New warhead shapes were sharp and conical as in modern U.S. warhead shapes, and thus, far more accurate.  Also of some interest was a photo that appeared to illustrate both old and new U.S. and Russian warhead shapes. The PRC's new nuclear warheads are believed to weigh about 700 kg, compared to 2,000 to 3,000 kg for the PRC's older nuclear warheads.[12]  They are also believed to have a modern, sharp conical shape that confers far greater accuracy. Such warheads now arm the DF-31 mobile ICBM, 12 of which are reported to be deployed with the PLA's Second Artillery as of late 2003.[13]  












U.S. Information Assists PLA Missiles


Status:  U.S. technology has helped the PLA to develop new ICBMs


                         DF-5 Mod 1             DF-5 Mod 2                         DF-31                       DF-31A


Stages:             2/liquid fuel              2/liquid fuel                       3/solid fuel                 3/solid fuel

Range:             13,000km                   13,000+ km                         8,000km                   12,000km

Warhead:         1x 1-3 MT        Possible Multiple Warheads;      1x 150-350kt        1-3x 150-350kt

                                                           4-6, 150-350 KT


Status:             20+ in service    To replace DF-5 Mod 1       12x reported in service       2005+

                                                        by "mid-decade"














Both U.S. government investigators and the House Select Committee have concluded that the PRC was able to use information obtained during the course of launching U.S. satellites to improve the reliability of their space launch vehicles (SLV), which in turn could improve their ballistic missiles. The PRC's Long March-2 and Long March-3 SLVs were derived from the DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).   The assumption was that any information that would have improved the reliability of commercial missiles would have also helped the PRC to improve its military missiles.  Both ICBMs and SLVs contain interchangeable elements like engines, structure, staging, guidance, system integration and payload deployment.[14]  To wit, in 2002 the Pentagon revealed that the PLA was to field a new longer-range version of the DF-5, called the DF-5 Mod 2.  The Pentagon also noted this missile might be the first to be equipped with multiple nuclear warheads.[15]  It is very likely that the DF-5 Mod 2 has benefited from the knowledge that the PRC was able to obtain to improve its SLVs via its interaction with U.S. companies. It is also possible that this missile may have benefited from Russian and Ukrainian missile technologies. 


U.S. use of PRC space launch vehicles was born of the Shuttle Challenger disaster after which President Ronald Reagan agreed to allow U.S. satellite companies to use PRC launchers to ease growing commercial demand.  These launches began in 1991 and about 25 U.S. satellites were launched in the PRC up to mid-1999.  But sanctions placed on satellite launches after the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre required that the President issue waivers to allow U.S. companies to use less expensive PRC launchers.[16]  President George Bush issued three such waivers while President Bill Clinton issued ten.


Concern about the possibility of illegal technology transfers to the PRC started after the repeated failures of the Long March rocket, the main PRC space launch vehicle (SLV).  Long March rockets exploded while carrying American-made satellites manufactured by Space Systems/Loral and Hughes Space and Communications International Inc. It was reported that in the course of analyzing a February 1996 Long March failures that Space Systems/Loral and Hughes Electronics may have given the PRC sensitive information on how to improve its missiles.  The Pentagon's Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA) is reported to have approved an Air Force Intelligence finding that the Loral crash review could have helped improve PRC missile guidance.  DTSA is said to have concluded, "United State s national security has been harmed."[17]


The Select Committee found that in 1993 and 1995, Hughes Electronics, which was one of the companies that was involved in launching satellites in the People's Republic of China, showed the PRC how to improve the design and reliability of its military space launch vehicles, and, specifically, the Long March 2 rocket. Specifically, in connection with the launch failures of two Hughes satellites, Hughes gave information to the PRC that could help it improve rocket fairings and to diagnose launch failures.[18]  That technical assistance may be useful in advancing design and improved reliability of future PRC ballistic missiles. In the view of the Intelligence Community and the military services, this last type of information-failure analysis-was seen as potentially one of the most valuable things the PRC obtained.


            In addition, the Select Committee also found that in 1996, Loral principally, but with Hughes also participating, showed the PRC how to improve the design and reliability of the guidance system used in the newest Long March-3 rockets. This device may also be useful for design and improved reliability of elements of future PRC ballistic missiles.  Loral as well as Hughes acted without the legally required licenses although both corporations knew that a license was required.[19]  


            Among the information-the technical information that was militarily sensitive-communicated outside the constraints of export rules and regulations-was information on missile design, design analysis and testing procedures, and the application of technical know-how to particular failure analyses. The United States has also lost some military satellites in launch vehicle failures, which costs us billions of dollars and delay our military intelligence or communication programs by years.  Some critics of the Select Committee noted that it is actually in the U.S. interest to improve the PRC's space launch capability.[20] However, given the possibility that the PRC could use force against a U.S. friend, Taiwan, it is indeed worth questioning whether the U.S. should be improving the People's Republic of China's military space lift capability. In January 2002 Loral agreed to pay a $14 million fine for violating U.S. export control laws.  Then in January 2003, the State Department formally charged Hughes, whose space division was purchased by Boeing in 2000, with violating U.S. export control laws in giving missile information to the PRC.[21] 


            There are also concerns that Lockheed and Motorola may have helped the PRC improve their ability to launch future multiple warhead busses as a result the PRC's development of a new satellite "Smart Dispenser." As part of its successful effort to win contracts to launch Motorola IRIDIUM communication satellites, the PRC developed the Long March 2C/SD with a Smart Dispenser capable of launching two satellites. While the Select Committee did not conclude that U.S. companies provided any direct assistance to the PRC to develop a multiple warhead capability for its ICBMs,[22] at least one former Chinese solid-rocket engineer has asserted that "Our U.S. partners gave us the specifications and technical assistance to produce the dispenser."[23] The PRC also developed a dispenser capable of launching 12 Loral GLOBALSTAR communication satellites, but did not obtain the launch contract.  A December 1996 U.S. Intelligence assessment concluded, ".the SD [Smart Dispenser] can be considered a "technology bridge" to a credible PBV [post-boost-vehicle for multiple warheads]."[24]


            One other area in which U.S. missile technology has aided the PRC was that of solid rocket fuel.  As part of the same effort to launch IRIDIUM satellites, the former Martin Marietta Corporation is accused of having helped the PRC perfect large solid rocket motor engines. According to previously cited Chinese engineer, who worked with Fourth Academy of the China Aerospace Corporation responsible for solid rocket motors, "Before we received this help from the United States, China had never succeeded in developing propellants powerful enough to be used for strategic-range solid-fuel rockets."[25] This engineer also recounted how this technology was used to modify the solid rocket engines on DF-21 IRBMs to make them reliable.  In early 2000 the U.S. fined Lockheed, which had by this point purchased Martin Marietta, $13 million for violating U.S. export control laws in relation to this case.[26]


            It is probable that this same information was used to make reliable engines for the new DF-31 and DF-31A mobile ICBMs. In 1999 the PLA had at least four DF-31 TELs that were assembled for the October anniversary parade in Beijing.  By late 2003 one report notes that the first unit of 12 DF-31 ICBMs had been deployed by the PLA.  In 2002 the Pentagon noted that a longer-range version of the DF-31 was to be deployed later in the decade.  At the 2002 Zhuhai show the PLA displayed its future KT-2A solid-fuel SLV.  Inasmuch as officials at the show stated that the slightly smaller KT-2 SLV was based on the DF-31 ICBM, it is likely that the KT-2A is analogous to the longer-range version of the DF-31, also called DF-31A. 


Possible Russian Sources For Cruise Missile Technology

Raduga KH-65SE/SD 

Status:  Reports that Russia has tried to sell to this cruise missile to China

Length: 6m (19+ ft)  Diameter:  514 mm (1 ft, 8.25 in)  Weight: 1,650 kg (2,755 lbs)

Range: SE: 600 km (360 mi); SD: 300 km (180 mi)  Payload:   410kg  warhead

Guidance:  inertial, GLONASS, terrain matching, TV-guidance


Novator 3M-54E1 CLUB Anti-Ship and Land Attack Cruise Missile

Status:  May be purchased in conjunction with new KILO submarines

Length: 6.2m  Diameter: 533cm  Weight: 1,780kg

Range: 300km  Payload: 400kg warhead

Guidance:  inertial, active radar homing














            The PLA has long sought to develop a strategic land attack cruise missile.[27]  In early 2003 Internet source photos of a PRC cruise missile fuselage in a stress testing rig appeared to confirm reports that the PLA had been making substantial progress in developing cruise missiles.[28]  Taiwanese sources expect the PLA will begin deploying a long-range land-attack cruise missile by 2005.[29]  When this new cruise missile enters PLA service it will serve to accelerate an already growing threat to Taiwan and other U.S. allies in Asia. This new land-attack cruise missile will very likely eventually be produced in ground, air, ship and submarine-launched versions.  According to Third Academy of the China Aerospace Corporation, it will also have multiple guidance systems, like terrain-following (TERCOM) and satellite navigation systems[30] that will enable very high accuracy.  And due to their lower cost compared to ballistic missile, it can be expected that the PLA will rapidly build up hundreds by the end of the decade. 


            From Russia the PLA has had several cruise missile technology opportunities. In 1997 sources in Taiwan reported that Russia had marketed its Kh-65SE cruise missile in China.[31]  This would be consistent with the fact that the Kh-65SE has been displayed at airshows in Russia and abroad for sales promotion purposes.  In recent years, however, China has not displayed this missile.  It did not appear at the 1997 Moscow Aerospace Salon (MAKS 97) and the Raduga spokesman did not want to talk it up.  It is not clear that China has indeed purchased this missile. 


            The Kh-65 is a proposed short-range version of the Kh-55 (AS-15 'Kent') 3,000 km-range strategic cruise missile.  It is not yet known to be in production.  The Kh-55 has been in Russian service since 1984 as a nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile.  The Kh-65SE, which was first displayed in 1992, appears to have been derived from the AS-15B.  They have the same inertial and terrain-following guidance but the latter may also have Glonass satellite navigation capability.[32]  Both missiles have triangular fuselage attachments which appears to hold more fuel.[33]  The medium-range SD version was revealed in 1995. From the Kh-65SE China could obtain several technologies to build Tomahawk-like cruise missiles with potentially as much tactical flexibility. China would gain much desired cruise missile design, engine, fuel and guidance technology. 


            A second opportunity for cruise missile technologies would be the Raduga Kh-59ME, which the PLA apparently is purchasing as part of the weapons package for its Sukhoi Su-30MKKs. While not a long-range cruise missile, its small Dvigatel engine would provide some additional technology that could assist PLA cruise-missile engine design. 


            Third, the PLA may purchase the Novator 3M-54E1 300km-range anti-ship missile as part of the "CLUB-S" package for its new batch of KILO submarines.  This is a cruise missile that while smaller, resembles the U.S. TOMOHAWK in shape.  And though an anti-ship cruise missile, it can likely be modified for land-attack missions.  It is also possible for the PLA to gain significant cruise missile technologies from the version it is reportedly purchasing, the 3M-54E. 








Sale of Israeli Technology that Could Assist Cruise Missile Development


IAI DELILAH Anti-Radar Missile

Status:  Reports of Chinese co-development assistance to Israel

Length: for drone: 2.7 m (8 ft, 10 in) Diameter: for drone: 330 mm (1 ft, 1 in)

Payload: for co-developed version: 450 kg

Range: for co-developed version, 385 km (est) (230 mi), could be much longer 

Guidance: inertial, GPS, TV-guidance  Accuracy: 91m (300 ft) positioning accuracy for drone; cruise missile accuracy likely higher


IAI HARPY Anti-Radar Drone

Status:  Sale of "large number" to PLA reported in 2002

Engine: reciprocating

Range:  200mi

Guidance:  Electro-magnetic and electro-optical sensor















            In 1995 Flight International reported that China was providing funding to develop an air-launched cruise missile based on the TAAS DELILAH anti-radiation attack-drone.[34]  The report noted also that China would be a customer for the new cruise missile. Reports of this co-development program persist though no official or unofficial statements confirm that China has yet received the cruise missile product of this cooperation. TAAS began promoting a warhead-equipped version as a stand-off cruise missile in 1995.[35] It is reported that a deep-penetrating warhead is being developed for the new Chinese version of the DELILAH.[36]  In is also noteworthy that the U.S. Navy may buy a version of the DELILAH to arm helicopters.


            The DELILAH is reportedly based on the Northrop MQM-74 Chukar target drone which first flew in 1965.  It has been in Israeli service since the late 1980s as an anti-radar system.  It is powered by a Williams Co. J400-WR-401 turbojet engine, producing 170 lbs of thrust.[37]   Larger Williams Co. turbojets also power the longer-range Tomahawk and Air Force ALCMs.  Versions of the DELILAH are equipped with aircraft-simulating features and electronics to trigger enemy radar transmissions, which are then located and attacked with ECM or chaff.


            If the DELILAH has been acquired by the PLA, it would have provided a new electronic attack weapon and another source of potentially useful cruise missile technologies.  If, as reported, the PLA funded the development of later versions, it is logical to assume that the PLA was given those technologies.  It is possible that the PLA would have benefited in the areas of design, engines, fuel, and guidance.


            In July 2002 the Washington Times reported that Israel had sold its HARPY anti-radar drone to the PLA.[38]  A later report noted that a "large number" had been sold in a $100 million deal.[39] This drone, a low-tech cruise missile, is powered by a reciprocating engine and designed to loiter over a target area for up to two hours and then home in on a target electronic emission, and destroy that source.  It is particularly threatening to Taiwan's radar and communications networks.  This drone would assist PLA cruise missile efforts in that it could supply new guidance technologies that could be applied to future programs.  This drone could also assist future PLA anti-radar and UAV projects.


Possible PLA Cooperation With Russia For Missile Defense


            In 2002 the Pentagon noted, "In July 2001, Moscow and Beijing signed a five-year space cooperation agreement pursuant to which: China and Russia will establish special departments on joint development of a regional missile defense system."[40]  The PRC has also sought Russia's support in opposing U.S. missile defense plans and their missile defense cooperation could flow from their July 16, 2001 Treaty of Good Neighborly Friendship and Cooperation.  Russian assistance could range from the outright sale of missile defense systems to the sale of technology to assist PRC missile defense development programs. Russian ballistic missile defense technology development dates back to the 1953 and includes several generations of operational early warning satellites, long-range early warning radar and very fast interceptor missiles, designed mainly to defend Moscow from U.S. nuclear missile attack.[41] 


            For example, Russia could assist the PLA's development of space-based early warning satellites and long-range radar, which would be tied to a national missile defense cueing system.  Russia's Radiotechnical and Information Systems Concern is offering its 2,000km range MARS mobile phased array radar for tracking incoming ballistic missiles and guiding interceptor rockets.[42] In March 2002 the Radio Receiver Manufacturing Scientific Research Institute [NIIRP] company was reportedly working on two contracts for the PRC worth up to $8 million.[43] Russia is also now marketing its S-400 Triumph SAM, that has an interception range out to 400km (240mi) and up to altitudes of 30km (18mi).[44]          


Russia's Almaz/Fakel S-300 PMU-1/PMU-2  (SA-10  Grumble)  SAM


Status:  PLA has likely acquired many hundreds of the S-300 SAM since the early 1990s.


                                                      S-300PMU              S-300PMU-1                  S-300PMU-2


Missile:                                             5V55R                     48N6E                             48N6E2              

Speed:                                               1,200m/s                 2,800m/s, M 6                2,800m/s, M 6

Range vs aircraft:                             75km                       150km                              200km

Range vs missile:                               35km                         40km                                40km

Altitude:                                             25km                         75km                                75km

Guidance:                                          TVM                          TVM                                TVM


Command and Control Assets:                       83M6E                           83M6E2

Target Acquisition Range:                                300km                              300km

Targets Tracked:                                                300                                   300

Targets Detected:                                               100                                   100

Targets Attacked Simultaneously:                      6                                        6


Mobility:  road-mobile, 4 missiles on either a truck-towed or a self-propelled TEL, plus self-propelled Flap Lid, stationary Tin Shield, Battery said to be operational within 5 minutes of stopping vehicles 



















            To upgrade the regional air defense capability the PLA has purchased many hundreds of Almaz/Fakel S-300 SAMs. The precise number is not known but published estimates indicate a potentially serious number of missiles. In 1991 China reportedly purchased 4 to 6 S-300 PMU batteries (48 to 72 missiles) and then purchased an additional 120 missiles in 1994.[45] In 2002 one prominent Russian analyst said Russia has sold the PLA eight divisions, or battalions of the S-300PMU and in 2001, another four battalions of the S-300PMU-2.[46]  In Russian terms a battalion has about 12 launchers, [47]or 48 missiles plus spares. Given this assumption it is possible that Russia has sold at least 576 S-300 missiles to the PLA. An early 2004 report notes that Russia has only sold eight units with six launchers each,[48] meaning a possible sale of only 192 missiles. These estimates do not include reloads, so both could be much higher.  There are occasional references, usually in Jane's publications, that the S-300 is being co-produced in the PRC as the HQ-16 but this cannot be confirmed.


            The S-300PMU-1 is usually described as having capabilities similar to the U.S. PATRIOT.  Some reports note that Soviet spies managed to steal the PATRIOT's critical "track-via-missile" (TVM) technology[49] which is used by the S-300PMU-1.  With TVM the intercepting SAM has a seeker that homes in on the very narrow beam signal of a phased array radar reflected off the target, while that radar is also providing updated guidance cues to the missile.[50]  Both the very narrow beam of the phased array radar and its reflected signal are extremely difficult to jam. Commenting on the challenge of this technology after the 1999 Kosovo Air Campaign, noted Russian weapons and missile expert Steven Zaloga stated, "The Kosovo air campaign would have been a far more painful experience for NATO had there been even a single battery of S-300PMU in operation. There have never been any air operations carried out against an opponent defended with a missile system using contemporary track-via-missile guidance."[51]

            The S-300 series has had an improving anti-missile capability. One report notes  the S-300PMU was tested against a SCUD missile.[52]  At 1997 Moscow Airshow Fakel unveiled its S-300 PMU-2 Favorit, and at that time the PLA is said to have expressed its interest.[53]   This system includes a new missile with a 200 km (120 mi) range, better missile warhead, a new  96L6E three-dimensional radar with a range of 300 km (180 mi), plus improved ECCM capabilities.[54]  The Favorit is said to approach the S-300V in its anti-missile capability, having solved radar beam algorithm problems that prevented the S-300PMU-1 from better intercepting missiles.[55] 


            In Chinese service the S-300s are operated by the PLA Air Force and are said to have been deployed around Beijing and in defense of air bases--presumably SU-27 bases.  During the 1996 exercises several S-300 PMU launches were featured on Chinese TV.  From this coverage it is possible to see the Flap Lid and Tin Shield radar systems.  In combat these systems should be widely disbursed, so the 1996 exercise was either for show or potentially indicative of poor tactical utilization of this SAM.  In 2000 Taiwanese sources noted that the PLA had plans to station S-300 SAMs along the Taiwan Strait in three locations.[56]


            Nevertheless, China's obtaining the S-300 marks a major upgrade in its SAM capabilities. It is not known openly, and can be presumed doubtful, that Taiwan has the ability to jam these missiles.[57]  Their usage in a Taiwan scenario may cancel out retaliation attacks by the Taiwan Air Force unless they could first be located and destroyed as one of the earliest retaliation measures.  And to secure its air forces over the Strait, the U.S. would have to employ long-range attack munitions to take out the S-300 sites or it could not be sure of establishing air superiority.  


Antey S-300V/VM (SA-12A Gladiator/ SA-12B Giant)/ Possible ABM technology


Status:  Apparent ongoing negotiations regarding China's purchase of this missile

Launch weight: S-300V, 2,500 kg , S-300VM, 4,600 kg  

Performance: SPEED, S-300V, 1.7 km/sec , S-300VM, 2.4 km/sec, S-300VE, 4.5km/sec RANGE, S-300V, 75km, S-300VM, 100km, S-300VE, 200km

Guidance: surveillance radar, 9S15 Bill Board, range, 200km, 9S19 High Screen sector radar, range, 175km, 9S32 Grill Pan engagement radar, range, 150km 

Mobility: road and rail mobile, air mobile only in large transports such as the AN-124  










            That China eventually would seek, at a minimum, access to S-300V technology would follow logically on its investment in the S-300 PMU.  In 1997 an Antey official noted cryptically that China's purchase of the S-300V was "a matter of commercial negotiations."[58] Antey has spent much of the last decade marketing this SAM system in Asia but has not met much success. There are unconfirmed reports that in 1995 the PLA did purchase a small number of S-300V SAMs.  This is possible inasmuch as the PLA would want to gain greater insights into this missile's specific technologies.  This curiosity reportedly drove the U.S. to purchase a small number of S-300Vs in the mid 1990s.[59]  The failure to produce an advanced derivative of the S-300/HQ-9 might also drive a purchase of the S-300V. 


            Of potential greater importance, however, is the technology the S-300V could offer the PLA toward developing defenses against longer-range U.S., Indian and Russian missiles.  What the S-300V may lack in terms of necessary engagement speed can me made up slightly with longer-range radar or satellite cueing, faster targeting computers, and larger fragmentation warheads. What China would gain by simply buying several batteries of the SA-12B would be an immediate defense against missiles with a 3,000 km range.[60]  This would be useful against the Indian Agni missile, for instance.


Foreign Technologies Contributing to the HQ-9/HQ-15/FT-2000 SAM


Status: New generation PLA SAM reported to have benefited from U.S. and Russian technology, reported in limited PLA service

Length: 6.8m  Diameter: .47m   Weight:  1,300kg, 130kg warhead

Performance:  SPEED:  1.3km/sec, RANGE:  100km  ALTITUDE:  18km

Missile Guidance:  Inertial guidance with passive homing seeker for FT-2000A, but active seeker planned for later models

Ground Guidance: Passive ESM for FT-2000A; for later active versions, HT-233 active phased array radar, RANGE: 120km detection, 90km tracking, track up to 100 targets, simultaneously attack  up to 3 targets with 6 missiles











            At the 1998 Farnborough Airshow the PLA revealed a new SAM, the FT-2000.  It was advertised as a "passive" seeking SAM designed to engage both AWACS and jamming aircraft within its 100km range.  Later that year at the Zhuhai Airshow PRC officials stated that they were developing future "active" guided versions and that eventually it would have an anti-tactical ballistic missile (ATBM) capability.[61]  While the Pentagon has reported that the FT-2000 may not be in PLA service, a surprisingly detailed early 2003 Malaysian report on the FT-2000 suggested that it was in limited PLA service in the Fujian area.[62] With the impending Indian purchase of the Israeli PHALCON AWACS there are reports from Pakistan of a growing interest in acquiring the FT-2000 SAM.


            The FT-2000 is also called the HQ-15. In addition, the FT-2000 is very likely related if not a derivative of the PLA's HQ-9 SAM program. This program, in turn, is thought to have benefited from access to U.S. and Russian SAM technology. In early 1993  Aviation Week and Space Technology reported, quoting unnamed Pentagon officials, that Israel had transferred a PATRIOT missile or missile technology to the PRC.[63]  It is not clear when the missile was transferred.  Israel vehemently denied having sold the PRC this missile and pro-Israeli analysts have suggested to the author that Germany might be the source of the PRC's missile. Nevertheless, a U.S. source has told the author that indeed, the PRC does have at least one PATRIOT missile.[64] In 2001 a report cited a U.S. official noting that the U.S. sent a team to Israel, perhaps in 1991-92, to investigate the PATRIOT loss "but they couldn't prove that a missile went to China,"[65]


            According to one U.S. source, the HQ-9 utilizes technology from the missile guidance equipment in the PATRIOT combined with a Chinese designed missile motor, in addition to search and guidance equipment derived from the Russian S-300PMU.  In a 1997 report ONI noted, "Technology from advanced Western systems may be incorporated into the HQ-9."[66]  A Russian source interviewed in 1997 noted that the HQ-9 would use the same guidance frequencies as the PATRIOT.[67] In 2001 a U.S. government source indicated the HQ-9 would use TVM guidance technology pioneered by the PATRIOT.[68] The Malaysian report contained pictures of the HT-233 radar which suggest a close similarity to the radar used by the U.S. PATRIOT, also suggesting the FT-2000 uses the difficult to jam TVM guidance.


            The printing of the detailed Malaysian article in early 2003 indicates that the PLA is eager to sell the FT-2000.  This may indicate that the missile is mature enough to support foreign sales, or to the contrary, it requires additional foreign investment to reach its next development stage.  While the PLA's developing such a missile, especially if it uses TVM, presents a new challenge to U.S. and Taiwanese aircraft, perhaps the more disturbing lesson of the FT-2000 is the distinct possibility that PLA engineers may be gaining insight into the very complex skill of melding technologies from different countries to make completely new weapons.  


Text Box: 	Status:   Russian technology from its Soyuz space ship made possible the PLA's Shenzhou space vessel
                           Soyuz                                         Shenzhou

Weight (kg)        7,250                                            7,800       
Length (m)         7.48                                               8.65
Width (m)          2.72                                              2.80
Span (m)            10.06                                            19.40
Number of
Solar panels:       2                                                     4

Russian Assistance for Project 921-1 SHENZHOU Manned Space Capsule



Russia has made fundamental contributions to the PRC's manned space program, which in turn has initiated the PLA's military manned space program. Since the beginning the PLA has been in charge of the PRC's manned space program, which as a consequence stresses military missions. Originally proposed by the Shanghai Astronautics Bureau, the 921-1 project was revamped in 1994 following former President Jaing Zemin's visit to Russia, which led to a 1995 agreement to transfer Russian manned space technology.  China purchased a Russian Soyuz space capsule, life support and docking technology, space suits, and astronaut training.[69]  While the PRC has boasted that it was responsible for the design and production of its subsequent space craft, it is clear that Russian technology has made possible the PRC's first manned space program.  The PRC was careful to release scant details about its manned space capsule, but at the 1998 Zhuhai Airshow a picture was observed of an aerodynamic shape resembling a slightly larger Russian Soyuz-style re-entry capsule.


For its November 20, 1999 test flight, Jiang renamed the Project 921-1 space capsule the "Shenzhou," or "Divine Vessel." To wit, the 921-1 craft revealed in 1999 was a scaled-up Soyuz, featuring the same three-part design: orbital module; descent module; and propulsion module. The 921-1, however, at a weight of 7800kg, and a length of 7.79m is about 550 kg heavier and over a meter longer than the Soyuz.  Unlike Soyuz, the 921-1 has a cylindrical orbital module that has its own solar panels and thrusters, making it capable of independent operation. All Shenzhou flights have entailed extended orbital module missions following the return of the manned reentry capsule. 


The first flight in October 1999 lasted only 21 hours, but a second unmanned test flight on January 9, 2001 lasted six days, and featured an extended flight for the orbital module that carried experiments.  The mission also reportedly featured an unexpected hard landing for the descent module, likely due to a parachute foul up.  There is speculation that any occupants would have died.[70] A third mission from March 25-April 1, 2002 saw the testing of a fully man-rated capsule.  This mission carried two dummy "Yuhangyuans" or astronauts that simulated most human functions, plus upgraded video an voice communication systems.  A fourth test mission took place from December 31, 2002 to January 5, 2003, carrying dummies and science experiments.  The fifth mission took place on October 15, 2003, in which the first Chinese astronaut, PLA Air Force Lt. Col Yang Liwei, circled the Earth for 21 hours and 23 minutes.[71] 


As it is now known, all of the practice flights and even the first manned Shenzhou flight performed military missions.  Shenzhou 1 and 2 very likely performed ELINT missions.  This observation was made by Swedish scientist Sven Grahn.[72] The orbital module for these first two practice missions had external Yagi-type antennae mounted on three extendable poles, construction that is consistent with ELINT missions.  A Chinese space flight official indicated in early 2003 that Shenzhou 4 conducted ELINT missions, perhaps indicating that Shenzhou's 2 and 3 did so too.  This same official also noted that Shenzhou 4 carried a "microwave" sensing device, very likely a prototype radar satellite.[73] In addition, the orbital modules for Shenzhou's 3-5 all have box structures that resemble cameras.  In fact, close up photos of the orbital module for Shenzhou-5 reveal an external box which very likely contains a camera, and an aperture in the orbital module itself, very likely for a second camera. This could mean a hyper-spectral and a close-up camera were included.[74] According to a Hong Kong report a PRC scientist claimed the Shenzhou-5 camera had a resolution of 1.6 meters.[75] Mark Wade, chronicler of the Encyclopedia Astronautica web page, concluded, ".it may be inferred that the main mission of China's first manned spaceflight will be military imaging reconnaissance."[76]


In a historical context, the PLA is apparently pursuing a military manned space program in contrast to the U.S. and Russia, which after some consideration, and brief experimentation by Russia, decided to allocate military missions to unmanned space vehicles.  But while the Soviet Union chose not to pursue a manned military presence in space, it did have many military space programs and many of them involved modifications of the Soyuz spacecraft design.[77]  These include manned military reconnaissance, laboratory and even armed military versions.  There were also unmanned versions of the Soyuz design that would perform reconnaissance and even military interception.  Most of these projects never advanced beyond planning stages but presumably many of their files remain in some cabinet. It is reasonable to speculate that the PLA has purchased some of these files.


Possible Future Foreign Technology for the Project 921-2 Space Station


The PRC willingness to make military missions an integral part of its "civil" space program serves to raise questions about possible military roles for its future planned larger space station-for which the PRC is also seeking foreign technical assistance. The Project 921-2 space station was proposed in conjunction with the 921-1 manned space capsule, but reportedly was not approved for development until February 1999.  For the PRC a space station adds to national prestige and provides a platform for space science, manufacturing and materials development. Investing in this space station also sustains a production base and space skills necessary for other military programs. In 2000 the Russians made an attempt to interest the PRC in purchasing their faltering Mir space station.  Beijing, however, declined, apparently in favor of seeking Russian technology to assist their own space station program.[78]


At the October 2000 Hannover Expo, the PRC displayed a concept model for its future manned space station.  It did not resemble a Russian concept such as the Salut, which is built around a single large module.  Instead, it featured multiple modules, each about 3 meters long and about 2.2 meters in diameter, with a central solar power structure and two outside trusses mounting supporting communications gear. This station would have a total length of 20 meters and total mass of 40 tons.  The individual modules could easily be lofted by the uprated Long March CZ-2EA, though this launcher would allow for even larger modules than shown in the Hannover model.[79]  At the 2000 Zhuhai Air Show an official of the European Space consortium explained that PRC officials were influenced by a previous European Space Agency concept for a space station.  Astrium, the official disclosed, was also trying to sell the PRC space station life support technology.[80]  In light of a new 2002 broader EU-PRC agreement to pursue much more vigorous cooperation in space, it is likely that the EU may be a more active participant in the PRC's future space station. 


The Europeans are also eager to have the PRC participate in the International Space Station (ISS).[81]  At the 2000 Zhuhai Airshow European officials noted that the Chinese were reluctant to join the ISS due to U.S. opposition and a desire to first build a PRC space station.[82] However, by late 2001 PRC space officials were telling reporters that the PRC wanted a role on the ISS.[83]  By early 2002, the Director of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration Sean O'Keefe and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage were reported to be actively considered expanding cooperation with the PRC to include inviting ISS participation.[84] The idea was soon downplayed.  However, with the Europeans intent on securing more space business with the PRC, particularly in manned space technologies, they may continue to push this issue.  For its part, the PRC may view this as one more wedge issue to drive between the EU and Washington. 


Yet, the PRC's clear military priorities for its manned space program means that the PRC will seek to apply any knowledge gained by ISS participation to improve its military-space capabilities. Given the PRC's brazenness in making its first manned space flight a military intelligence gathering exercise, it should not be surprising that a much larger manned space station might incorporate more sophisticated reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.  These could be directed toward terrestrial or space-borne priorities.  The latter raises the possibility of the PLA actually arming such a space station.  For if the PLA decides to militarize its space station, thereby making it a target, the PLA may also decide to equip it with systems for defense. 


Potential Foreign Technology for a PLA's Project 921-3 Space Shuttle


            In addition to a space station the PLA has a long-term program to build a small manned space shuttle craft, which could benefit from Russian or European technology. This program, known as "Project 921-3" was reportedly started in 1989[85] and approved in April 1992.[86] Such a craft would be desirable because it would be able to carry a variety of payloads and have high maneuverability in orbit.  Such a capability would be essential for active military missions such as attacking other satellites.  At the 1996 Zhuhai Air Show, a brochure from the Beijing Institute of Aerodynamics featured two pictures: one of a wind tunnel model of a shuttle like craft that resembled the Japanese "Hope" unmanned space plane; and a second that showed shock waves around a U.S. Shuttle-like craft that did not have a vertical stabilizer.[87] 


Then, at the October 2000 Hannover Expo, the PRC displayed a concept model for its future reusable space shuttle.  The model is estimated to be about 12 tons in weight, with a length of 12 meters and a span of 8 meters.[88]  This is judged to be small enough for launch from a Long March CZ-2E launcher. This craft bears more of a resemblance to the abandoned European "Hermes" space plane.  The PRC could also be developing a larger shuttle that would weigh 22 tons and be able to carry a 3.5 ton payload.[89]  It is possible that the PRC has benefited from Russian advice for this project, as the former Soviet Union had several space plane projects, including small craft designed mainly for military missions. Given the interest of European companies in helping with the space station program, it is logical that they would also seek a role in the PLA's space shuttle program.  Again, given the willingness of the PRC leadership to commit their first manned space program to military missions, it stands to reason that their future space shuttle will be configured to carry out military missions too. The PRC's space shuttle could be equipped with either sensor packages for reconnaissance, surveillance or electronic attacks, or with future directed energy weapons, or nano-satellite-based interceptors for anti-satellite missions. 


British Technology for Future PLA Micro Satellites with ASAT Applications


           It is clear that the PLA recognizes the future value of ever smaller Micro (less than 100kg) and Nano (less than 10kg) satellites, and obtained from Britain a useful boost in this emerging technology. Micro satellites are viewed as an important tool for future warfare in that they offer the advantages of greater stealth and they lower the cost of putting a variety of satellites into space.[90]  Micro and nano satellites can easily be transformed into interceptor satellites, or can be placed covertly in co-terminus orbits to act like mines. Multiple satellites can be lofted on one conventional launcher and their small size means they can be launched by smaller mobile launchers. The U.S. envisions reconnaissance and communication missions now concentrated in a few large satellites being distributed in many or scores of micro-satellites that are less than 200 lbs.  Even smaller are nano-satellites that weigh 25 lbs or less, which are also envisioned for reconnaissance and communication missions. 


            For the PRC micro-satellites and nano-satellites have been pursued as part of the "863" program.[91]   Institutions researching microsats include the No. 5 Research Institute of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Co., Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Aerospace Tsinghua Satellite Technology Co., and the Harbin Institute of Technology. China launched its 748 lb SJ-5 satellite in 1999, compared to the 5,000 lb DFH-3 communication satellite.  But China jumped into the forefront of micro-satellite technology in October 1998, when Tsinghua University entered into a contract with Britain's Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.,[92] perhaps the world's leading microsat firm, to co-develop micro-satellites. In March 1999 this was extended to a 25-year joint venture that would be 75 percent owned by the PRC side, and 25 percent by Surrey.[93] Surrey trained ten Chinese engineers and scientists for a year and installed a space mission control center at Tsinghua.[94] Within two years, on June 29, 2000, China launched its 50 kg (110 lb) Tsinghua-1 micro-satellite on a Russian launcher. 


At the 2000 Zhuhai Airshow Hangtian officials said six Tsinghua-1 size communications satellites could sustain communication links between Beijing and Southern China.[95]  Hangtian plans its own family of 10 kg (25 lb) nano-satellites for communication and imaging missions.[96] Early experiments will be carried out in communication between nano-satellites.[97]  This capability is critical in order to loft "swarms" of nanosats that would perform reconnaissance, communication, or interception missions. It is likely that the PRC is again being aided by Britain's Surrey in this regard.  The PRC is part of the Surrey-led Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) which links eight nations which will each build a micro satellite with multi-spectral imaging resolution of 32 meters and a panchromatic resolution of 4 meters. On October 21, 2003, along with the PRC-Brazil CBERS-2 imaging satellite, the PRC launched the Chuangxin-1 micro-satellite. Said to weigh less than 100kg, this satellite was reported by the PRC press to be engaged in testing new communication technologies.[98]


            As already mentioned, micro and nano-satellites are ideal platforms for satellite interceptors which can be launched directly into collision orbits.  This is called a "direct- ascent" type of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon. The 2003 Pentagon report on the PLA states, "China is believed to be conducting research and development on a direct-ascent ASAT system that could be fielded in the 2005-2010 timeframe."[99]  At the 2000 Zhuhai Airshow the PRC revealed its Katzoouie or "Pioneer" KT-1 solid-fuel mobile SLV.  At the 2002 Zhuhai show the PRC displayed a model of the KT-1 and two larger mobile SLVs, the KT-2 and KT-2A.  PRC officials at the show acknowledged that the KT-1 was derived from the DF-21 IRBM and that that the KT-2 was derived from the new DF-31 ICBM.[100] Due to its similar but longer shape, the KT-2A can be assumed to be analogous to the new longer-range DF-31A ICBM.  Such mobile SLVs when paired with micro-satellite interceptors would make the "direct-ascent" ASAT.  Mobile SLVs have an advantage in this role in that they can be pre-positioned to match the expected orbits of enemy satellites.  In contrast, fixed SLVs have to wait for the target to come within range.

PLA Access To Foreign-Made Communication Satellites and Technology


The PLA benefits from access to satellites controlled by "civilian" companies in which PRC government or PLA-affiliated companies have a major interest. In addition, the PLA is also launching a communication satellite largely dedicated to its use that may be based on foreign technology.  Companies that are either controlled by PRC entities, like the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, or companies based in Hong Kong or Singapore with significant participation by PLA-related entities, have launched 12 U.S.-made communication satellite on PRC launchers.[101] Since at least 1996, according to U.S. officials, the PLA has used a Hughes HS-376 communications satellite, called Apstar-1A, owned by the Hong Kong company Asia Pacific Telecommunications (APT) Satellite Holdings Ltd.  The China Aerospace Co. is a prominent investor in APT.  The PLA has used Apstar-1A to transmit coded messages.[102] In 1998 the Clinton Administration suspended the sale of a Hughes communication satellite over fears that it would be used by the PLA, and that its modern antenna could be used for intelligence gathering purposes.


            In early 2002 Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) concluded a deal to sell the PRC two IAI AMOS communications satellites, with the possibility of selling 8 to 10 more.[103]  The deal was concluded through the Hong Kong Satellite Technology Group, which is partnership between IAI, the China Aerospace Corporation and the Sino-Satellite Communications Co.  Israel's goal was to ensure the satellites had no U.S. content so that they would not be affected by U.S. high technology export controls.[104]  Originally designed for the Israeli military, the AMOS satellites are expected to have 20 Ku-band transponders, which can carry television, data and voice signals.  However, in early 2003 the Hong Kong Satellite Technology Group foundered, and the deal to sell the AMOS satellite fell through.[105] 


The PRC's domestic Dong Fang Hong (DFH, East is Red), communication satellite series has been slow to develop.  The 2,266 kg DHF-3 successfully launched in 1997 was co-developed with Germany's Daimler Benz Aerospace, now DASA.  This satellite has 24 transponders, can handle six color TV channels and 8,000 telephone calls at a time.  It will be succeeded by the 3, 500kg DFH-4 that can generate three times the power of its predecessor and also handle high-speed data links.[106] The PRC has also started development of the DHF-4, which will carry 52 transponders; 38 C-band and 14 Ku-band.  The French satellite company Alcatel is to provide the communications payload for this satellite.[107]


The DFH-3 satellite bus is believed to be the basis for the new 2,300 kg ZHONGXING-22 communication satellite launched in January 2000. These are also believed to be dedicated largely to PLA communications traffic. A second ZHONGXING communication satellite was launched in November 2003.[108] These may be the first of several satellites that will be part of the PLA's new QU DIAN C4I system.[109]


Foreign Assistance for PLA Electro-Optical Satellites


                            CBERS-1        ZYUAN-1     SHENZHOU-5    HJ-1A        HJ-1B        KONDOR-E


Date lunched:      1999                 2000                   2003                 2005 (?)     2005+            2005 (?) 

Weight:                                                                                              400kg         400kg            800kg                 

Resolution:           20m                  3-5m                  1.6m                >1m            >1m                >1m












            With the help of foreign technology the PLA is rapidly developing a high-resolution electro-optical imaging satellite capability.  The ability to access such imagery on demand is a key requirement for modern warfare. The ability to have near real-time access to such imagery is also essential to strategic decision making and can also be used to intimidate or to assist allies. While the PLA for many years has had relatively simple film-based reconnaissance satellites, for many years it has been working to develop modern high-resolution reconnaissance satellites with real-time data delivery. This break-through occurred in October 1999 when the PRC launched the China-Brazil Earth Resource Satellite-1 (CBERS-1), which has a 20-meter resolution, meaning it could spot objects larger than 20 meters.  With the CBERS the PRC was able to acquire satellite direct transmission technology, dispensing with the need to recover film.  The PRC and Brazil launched CBERS-2 in October 2003 and are developing CBERS-3 and CBERS-4.


            In September 2000, the PLA launched its ZI YUAN-2 (Resource-2) satellite. It is based on technology mastered in the course of CBERS cooperation but with an estimated 5 to 3-meter resolution. This is a prime example of how the PLA has leveraged access to foreign technology to improve its strategic capabilities. 


            The PRC will soon launch a new series of advanced electro-optical reconnaissance satellites.  They were revealed at the 2002 Zhuhai Airshow to be the DFH Satellite Corporation's HJ-1A and HJ-1B electro-optical satellites.  The HJ-1A will have a multi-spectral camera with infrared capability, while the HJ-1B will have a hyper-spectral imager.[110]  Earlier reports indicated the new electro-optical satellites would weigh 400 kg and will have a life-span of three years.[111]  If these satellite incorporate Russian technology for their cameras their resolution could be better than 1 meter.  It is also likely that high-resolution reconnaissance missions will be moved to smaller-size satellite buses. Another report indicates first four electo-optical satellites could be followed by another four, for a total of eight. [112]


            At the 2003 Moscow Airshow officials from the NPO Machinostroyenia Company disclosed that they were in discussions with the PRC to sell their KONDOR-E electro-optical imaging satellite, which is paired with their KORSAR radar satellite.[113]  NPO officials were careful to note that they were not selling a military capability, but hoping to contribute to the PLA's new "disaster monitoring" satellite constellation.  However, this is small comfort.  With a relatively small 800kg bus and a resolution of less than 1 meter, the KONDOR-E would give the PLA a real boost in imaging capability to add to their existing capabilities. It is also possible that the key systems from the KONDOR-E could be incorporated onto the HJ-1A or HJ-1B electro-optical imaging satellites.


Russian Assistance for PLA Radar Satellites


            The PLA has turned to Russia to accelerate its acquisition of radar satellite technology. Radar satellites (radarsats) are critical to the future PLA space information network because they allow for all-weather observation and are able to penetrate cloud cover. They are especially useful in tracking moving naval targets.  PRC radarsat development builds upon earlier development of airborne synthetic aperature radar (SAR) in the early 1990s, which is now used for civil and military missions. In mid-2000 the PRC announced plans to launch a constellation of four new radar satellites (radarsats) by 2008, to complement four new electro-optical imaging satellites.[114]  While this initial constellation was confirmed by an official of the DFH Satellite Co. at the 2002 Zhuhai Airshow, a previous report noted there could be an eventual total of eight radar satellites.[115] This number of satellites will allow two daily revisits by each type of satellite to monitor an area of interest.  In 1996 CASC entered into negotiations with Canada's SPAR, but it is not known if there was any technology transferred from SPAR's successful RADARSAT.  A SAR satellite antenna revealed as part of an 863 Program exhibition bore a striking similarity to the Canadian RADARSAT antenna. 


            However, in September 2001 the Chinese revealed another design for an indigenous radar satellite that clearly used an antenna design from the Russian NPO Machinostroyenia bureau.[116]  This was confirmed at the 2002 Zhuhai Airshow, when the DFH Satellite Co. Ltd., revealed its HJ-1C radarsatellite.  Company officials acknowledged that cooperation with NPO Mashinostroyenia began in 1997, when the first indications of such cooperation were noted.[117]  NPO Mash's radarsat weighs about 800kg and produces an image resolution of less than 1 meter.[118]  DFH officials stated that the HJ-1C weighs 700kg, with a 120kg antenna, and it has a 3-year life span.  These officials also noted that DFH was working on a 100kg radar satellite with only a 20kg antenna.[119]   The PRC is also known to have approached the Russian Almaz bureau, which designs Russia's radarsat series. The PRC's SAR satellite may also benefit from the purchase of U.S. Loral Corporation airborne SAR technology in the 1980s.


PLA Access To Foreign Commercial Space Imaging Services


            As is happening in the U.S., the PLA very likely developing novel means to incorporate commercial imaging into its military planning and operations. 

In fact, the PLA has long made use of access to foreign sources of commercial satellite imaging.  In the 1980s the PRC purchased U.S. LANDSAT multi-spectral images. In 1992 China's National Remote Sensing Center entered into a $8million contract with Italy's Telespazio Co. to build a satellite imaging processing center to train photo interpreters.[120] There is a downlink in the PRC for images from the French SPOT commercial imaging satellites.  China was one of the first countries to receive 2.5m resolution images from the SPOT-5, launched in May 2002.  SPOT-5 has the advantage of having a 120km "swath," or field of view.[121] It can also take a "stereo view" from two cameras to assist 3D digital map mission planning.[122]  In addition to SPOT, the PRC has ground stations that receive data from the European Union's ERS, Canada's RADARSAT (10m res), Japan's JERS and the U.S. LANDSAT.[123]  The PLA,  by either direct purchase or via third parties,  can obtain high resolution from Israel (EROS-A1, 1.8m resolution to .67m ; EROS B1, .87m), Russia and the U.S. (IKONOS-1, 1m; QUICKBIRD, .61m ).[124]






PLA Use of Foreign Navigation Satellites


U.S. Navstar Global Positioning System

Status:  PRC civil and military users have access to civilian access signals

Constellation: 24 operational satellites since 1993 that broadcast civil signals (100m accuracy) and more precise (P-Code, 30cm accuracy) signals for U.S. approved military users


Russia's GLONASS Navigation Satellite System

Status:  Russia has sought to enlist PLA investment, which has not occurred

Constellation:  11 satellites working, latest 3 launched in December 2003


European Space Agency GALILEO Navigation Satellite System

Status:  The PRC is a full partner in the GALILEO system and due to invest over $200 million

Constellation:  Planned constellation of 30 satellites by 2008













            The PLA makes extensive use of navigation satellites and as it develops its own navigation satellite system, it has sought to promote other foreign constellations to dilute the essential U.S. monopoly in navigation satellites.  For the U.S. and allied militaries the advent of the NAVSTAR Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system marked a revolution for precision navigation and for being able to target new classes of weapons like the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bomb.  GPS has had a more widespread effect on the world-wide civil economy.[125] The PLA currently uses the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian GLONASS to provide guidance to a range of weapon systems.  However, as the U.S. has the option to deny GPS services, the PRC is also thought to have been developing its own navsats since the 1970s.  In October and December 2000, and then May 2003, the PRC launched three BEIDOU locating satellites.[126]  These are located in geosycronous orbits over the PRC. Often reported to be navigation satellites, they can provide location data, but are not true navigation satellites like the U.S. GPS.  Reports indicate that the PRC is developing a second generation of true navigation satellites that could eventually have constellation of five to seven satellites.[127]


            Despite this PRC effort, Russia spent considerable effort in 2000 trying to convince Beijing to invest in its GLONASS system.  In late 2001 Russia launched three new GLONASS satellites to bring the number of operational satellites up to nine.  The launch of three more in December 2003 brought the number of working satellites up to 11.[128]  Russia hopes to reconstitute a fully functional constellation of 18-20 GLONASS satellites by 2005 and to develop new longer lasting third-generation GLONASS-K version.[129]  It is suspected, though not confirmed, that China is helping to pay for the new satellite.[130]  However, other sources note that the PRC and Russia were not able to reach a GLONASS support deal.[131]  But even if the PLA can secure sufficient control over the Russian navsat system-which is not assured--the PRC will likely proceed with its indigenous system.


            By late September 2003 the European Union and the PRC reached agreement for the PRC to become a full partner and shareholder in the future European GALILEO navigation satellite constellation.[132] The PRC is expected to invest about $200 million and have a seat on the satellite constellation's administrative board.[133]  This would equal the investments being made by GALILEO's European partners. Beijing actively encouraged GALILEO, both to undermine the monopoly of the U.S. GPS system and to attract space launch business.[134] GALILEO is expected to eventually comprise a 30 navigation satellite constellation by 2008 that will offer the same services as GPS.[135]  As the Europeans are more likely to keep their constellation maintained better than the Russians can their GLONASS, it is likely that even if the US tried to deny GPS signals to the PRC, its precision weapon systems could still function via GALILEO and GLONASS navigation signals. 



[1] Bill Gertz, "Spy photos show Beijing set for underground nuclear test," The Washington Times, April 9, 2001, p. A1.

[2] The identity of this "walk-in" or "walk-ins" remains a mystery.  For a recent review of this case, see, Lewis Dolinsky, "A Chinese Spy Mystery Remains Just That," The San Francisco Chronicle, March 18, 2001, p. WB1

[3]  William J. Broad, "Nuclear Secrets: Debate Rages Over How China Got The Bomb," The New York Times, September 7, 1999, p. A 1.

[4] Ibid.

[5] U.S. House of Representatives, Report on the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns With The People's Republic of China, Submitted by Mr. Cox of California, Chairman, May 25, 1999, Volume 1, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1999, pp. 68-69.

[6] Ibid., p. 73.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Broad, op-cit.

[9] Christopher Cox and Norm Dicks, "Letters to the Editor; Nuclear Espionage," International Herald Tribune, September 21, 1999, p. 9.

[10] National Intelligence Council, Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015, September 1999, p. 11.

[11] Brochure obtained by author at the Zhuhai Airshow, November 1998.

[12] Federation of American Scientists, "Nuclear Weapons," , updated June 18, 1998.

[13]Charles R. Smith, "New Chinese Missile Threatens U.S.,", December 18, 2003, .

[14] William R. Graham, PhD., Testimony before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services, on "Benefits of Commercial Space Launch Assistance and Use For Foreign Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Programs," 105th Congress, 2nd Sess., May 21, 1998.

[15]Department of Defense, Annual Report On The Military Power of the People's Republic of China, July 2002, p. 28, hereafter referred to as "DoD PLA Report 2002."

[16] Chinese launch prices ranged from $12 million to $70 million per launch compared to U.S. launch prices that ranged from $50 to $100 million.

[17] Roberto Suro and John Mintz, "Bungled Report, Bureaucracy Collide in China Waiver," The Washington Post, May 31, 1998, p. A16.

[18] Select Committee Report, Part Two, pp. 2-5.

[19] Ibid., p. 56-58.

[20] Lewis R. Franklin, "A Critique of the Cox Report Allegations of PRC Acquisition of Sensitive U.S. Missile and Space Technology," in May, ed., p. 91.

[21]John Mintz, "Firms Accused of Giving Space Technology to China;
State Department Charges That U.S. Companies Made Illegal Transfers," The Washington Post, January 1, 2003, p. A07. 

[22] Select Committee Report, Part One, p. 196.

[23] Kenneth Timmerman, "Chinese missiles in the new world order," The Washington Times, May 24, 2000, p. A19.

[24] Excerpts from a December 10, 1996 Air Force National Air Intelligence Center report, copied in Bill Gertz, Betrayal, Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1999, p. 251.

[25] Timmerman, op-cit.

[26] David E. Sanger, "U.S. Fines Lockheed $13 Million in China Satellite Case," The New York Times, June 14, 2000, p. 8.

[27] For an excellent analysis of the PLA's programs and institutes associated with cruise missiles see, Mark A. Stokes, China's Strategic Modernization, Implications for the United States, U.S. Army War College: Strategic Studies Institute, 1999, pp., 79-86.

[28] This photo appeared over several Chinese websites.  It appeared to come from a brochure. 

[29] Interview, Taipei, Taiwan, June 2002.

[30] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.

[31] Interview, Taipei, Taiwan, August 1997.

[32] Steven J. Zaloga, "Russian strategic cruise missiles," Jane's Intelligence Review, May, 1996, p. 200.

[33] Taylor, p. 74.

[34] Douglas Barrie, "China provides cash for Israeli cruise missile," Flight International, May 17-23, 1995, p. 5.

[35] "TAAS Delilah," Jane's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Targets, June 1995.

[36] "Israel to equip Chinese cruise missile with penetrator warhead," Flight International, February 5-11, 1997, p. 13.

[37]Kenneth Munson, "Ups and Downs of the UAV," Air International, July, 1997, p. 45; Douglas Barrie, "Israel offers cruise missile for export," Flight International, April 12-18, 1995, p. 4.

[38] Bill Gertz, "China deploys drones from Israel; U.S. learns of anti-radar weapons targeted at Taiwan," The Washington Times, July 2, 2002, p. A01.

[39] "IAI Sells Harpy Drones To China," Flight International, November 5, 2002, p. 5.

[40] DoD PLA Report 2002, p. 5.

[41] A. Karpenko, "ABM and Space Defense," Nevsky Bastion, No. 4, 1999, p.2; Yuri Antipov, "Forty Years of the First ABM Interception," Military Parade, May, 2001, 

[42] Sergei Boyev, "Shrewd Eyes and Mind of the Missile and Space Defense High-Potential Radars: Past Present and Future," Military Parade, September 2001,

[43] Vladimir Temnyy, "Missile Defense. Asymmetrical Chaos," Moscow, March 19, 2002 in FBIS, CEP20020322000007.


[44] Piotr Butowski, "Russian S-400 to deploy by year-end," Jane's Intelligence Review, February 2000, p. 7.

[45] Steven J. Zaloga, "'Grumble,' Guardian of the skies," Jane's Intelligence Review, April, 1997, p. 156.

[46] Konstantin Makiyenko cited in Kommersant, November 6, 2002; in another article Makiyenko says the more proper "battalion," Konstantin Makiyenko, "Beijing Changing Its Priorities," Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 12, 2003, p. 14.

[47] Tony Cullen and Christopher F. Foss, eds., Jane's Land-Based Air Defence, 2001-2002, Coulsdon: Jane's Information Group, 2001, p. 153.

[48]Liu P'ing, ""Directing Against Taiwan's Referendum, Communist China Steps up Arms Purchases" Chung-Kuo Shih-Pao, January 8, 2004.

[49] Michal Fiszer and Jerzy Gruszczynski, "Castles in the sky: The rise, fall, and rebirth of Russia's integrated air-defense network,"  Journal of Electronic Defense, February 1, 2002, p. 46.

[50]" Multi-Function SAM-D Radar A Key to System's Flexibility," Aviation Week and Space Technology, May 19, 1975, p. 38.

[51] Steven J. Zaloga, "The Evolving SAM Threat: Kosovo and Beyond," Journal of Electronic Defense, May 1, 2000, p. 45.

[52] "SA-10.,"Jane's, op-cit.

[53] Piotr Butowski, "Russian missiles show ever-growing capability," Jane's Defence Weekly, September 10, 1997, p. 5.

[54] Data from brochures obtained at Moscow Airshow, August 1997.

[55] Sergey Grigoryev, "The Air Show  Favorite: Oboronitelnyye sistemy Is Prepared To Defend Against Any Airborne Threat," Moscow Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Oboronitelnyye, August 29-September 4, 1997, p. 6, in FBIS-SOV-97-252.

[56] Interview, Taipei, Taiwan, March 2000.

[57] Taiwanese acknowledgement of their threat is in Kuo Nai-jih, "S300 Air-Defense Missiles Deployed in Fujian's Yongan" Lien-Ho Pao, September 3, 2002, in FBIS CPP20020903000060.

[58] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 1997.

[59] Pavel Felgenhauer, "No One Is Fooled by NMD," The Moscow Times, May 31, 2001.

[60] "SA-12 'Gladiator/Giant' (S-300V/ 9M82/ 9M83)," Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems-Issue 23, January 1997.

[61] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 1998.

[62] Prasun K. Sengupta, "China's KS-1A and FT-2000A air defence systems unveiled," Tempur, January 1, 2003, p. 60, in FBIS  SEP20030123000046.

[63] David A. Fulghum, "China Exploiting U.S. Patriot Secrets," Aviation Week and Space Technology, January 18, 1993, p. 20, and "Defense Dept. Confirms Patriot Technology Diverted," Aviation Week and Space Technology, February 1, 1993, p. 26.

[64] Interview, Washington, D.C., 1997. 

[65] David A. Fulghum, "U.S. Confirms Israeli Missiles Used by China," Aviation Week and Space Technology, April 30, 2001.

[66] Office of Naval Intelligence, Worldwide Challenges To Naval Strike Warfare, 1997, p. 17.

[67] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 1997.

[68] Fulghum, op-cit.

[69]Veronika Romanankova and Viktor Gritsenko, "Russo-Chinese Space Cooperation," Tass,October 17, 1996; Mark Wade, "Project 921," Encyclopedia Astronautica,;  "Russia helped China prepare for first manned space mission," Agence France Presse, October 12, 2003.

[70] Craig Covault, "China Adds Science Ops to Manned Effort," Aviation Week and Space Technology, January 13, 2003, p. 401.

[71] Craig Covault, "Shenzhou Solos," Aviation Week and Space Technology, October 20, 2003, p. 22.

[72] Sven Grahn, "Shenzhou-3 Notes;" Craig Covault, "Chinese Milspace Ops," Aviation Week and Space Technology, October 20, 2003, p. 26.

[73] Sibing He, "Space Official in Beijing Reveals Dual Mission of Shenzhou,", March 7, 2003.

[74] Mark Wade, "Shenzhou-Divine Military Vessel," DRAGON SPACE, October 2, 2003,

[75]Li Tung-mei and Wu Yung-chiang, "Chinese Academy of Sciences Successfully Develops Shenzhou Spacecraft-Mounted Infrared Camera with A Resolution of 1.6 Meters," Ta Kung Pao, October 12, 2003, in FBIS CPP20031013000062.


[76] Wade, op-cit.

[77] The many military variants of the Soyuz planned by the Soviets are well described by Mark Wade on his Encyclopedia Astronautica web page.

[78] Cheng Ho, "China Seeks Russian Help With Own Space Station,", March 7, 2000; "Sino-Russian Space Station Cooperation,", March 22, 2000.

[79] Mark Wade, "Project 921-2,"

[80] Interview, Zhuhai Air Show, November 2000.

[81] Wei Long, "ESA To Help China Join ISS," Space Daily, July 29, 2001, 

[82] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2000.

[83] Wei Long, op-cit; Craig Covualt, "China Seeks ISS Role, Accelerates Space Program," Aviation Week and Space Technology, November 12, 2001, p. 52.

[84] Craig Covault, "NASA Eyes China Ties As New Shenzhou Flies," Aviation Week and Space Technology, April 1, 2002, p. 27.

[85] Stokes, China's Strategic Modernization, p. 178.

[86] Mark Wade, "Project 921-3,"

[87] Brochure, Beijing Institute of Aerodynamics, pp. 20, 29.

[88] Wade, op-cit.

[89] Stokes, p. 178.

[90] Mark Hewish, "In space, smaller is beautiful," Jane's International Defense Review, January 2001, pp. 47-52.

[91] Wei Long, "China To Launch Micro Imaging Birds," Space Daily (, November 20, 2000.

[92] Press Release, Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd., October 14, 1998.

[93] Dee Ann Divis, "Surrey Satellite establishes joint venture in China, Shares technology to build remote sensing satellite," Spacebusiness Today-An Aerospace Daily Extra, March 30, 1999, p. 1.

[94] James Oberg, "Year of the Rocket," IEEE Spectrum, May 2001, p. 65.

[95] Interview, 2000 Zhuhai Air Show, November 2000.

[96] Interview with Hangtain officials. 2000 Zhuhai Air Show.

[97] Wei Long, "China Microsat Performs Well: Nanosat Is Next," WWW.SpaceDaily.Com, August 22, 2000.

[98] "Launch of 'Chuangxin I' marks new stage for China in aerospace technology," People's Daily, October 21, 2003,

[99] DoD PLA Report, 2003, p. 36.

[100] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.

[101] Data from Go Taikonauts, by Chen Lan. 

[102] Jeff Gerth, "Reports Show Chinese Military Used American-made Satellites," The New York Times, June 13, 1998, p. A1.

[103] Craig Covault, "Israeli-Chinese Deal Positions IAI in Asia," Aviation Week and Space Technology, February 4, 2002, p. 40; Barbara Opall-Rome, "Israel-China Satellite Pact Proves Progress in Bilateral Impasse," Defense News, January 18, 2002.

[104] Private communication with author, January 2003.

[105]Dror Marom, "IAI Far Eastern satellite venture likely to be cancelled," Globes online, January 23, 2003; " IAI Deal in China Fails," Aviation Week and Space Technology, June 23, 2003, p. 37.

[106] Brian Harvey, The Chinese Space Program, Chichester: Praxis Publishing, 1998, p. 68.

[107] Craig Covault, "China Seeks ISS Role, Accelerates Space Program," Aviation Week and Space Technology, November 12, 2001, p. 52.

[108] "Beijing eyes second manned space flight in 2005," Agence France Presse, November 15, 2003.

[109] Bill Gertz, "China's military links forces to boost power," The Washington Times, March 16, 2000, p. A1.

[110] Brochure, DFH Satellite Co., Ltd, obtained at the 2002 Zhuhai Airshow. 

[111] "Satellite Plan Reviewed," July 15, 2000, on Go Taikonauts, by Chen Lan, Canaveral/Launchpad/1921.htm. 

[112] Craig Covault, "Chinese Plan Aggressive Satellite Development," Aviation Week and Space Technology, November 12, 2001, p. 56.

[113] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2003.

[114] "Satellite Plan Reviewed," July 15, 2000, on Go Taikonauts by Chen Lan.

[115] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November, 2002; Covault, op-cit.

[116] Ibid.

[117] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.  NPO Mashinostroyenia officials told the author of PRC interest in their new radar satellite in an interview at the Moscow Air Show, August 1997.

[118] Brochure, "Small Spacecraft "Kondor-E" With A Radar," NPO Machinostroyenia, obtained at the 2001 Moscow Airshow. 

[119] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November, 2002.

[120] "China to use Italian software to Interpret Imagery," Space News, March 2-8, 1992, p.23.

[121] Michael A. Taverna, "Spot 5 Launch Boosts Imagery Market," Aviation Week and Space Technology, May 20, 2002, p. 63.

[122] Glenn W. Goodman, Jr., "Unclassified Space Eyes," ISR Journal, Issue 4, 2002, p. 33.

[123] James A. Lewis, "Assessing China's Military Space Efforts," Center For Strategic and International Studies, October 2003, p. 4.

[124] Resolutions also from Goodman.

[125] For a primer on GPS see, Gregory T. French, Understanding The GPS, Bethesda MD: Georesearch Inc., 1996.

[126] Jonathan McDowell, "Jonathan's Space Report No. 442," December 29, 2000,

[127] Wei Long, "China Completes First Satellite Navigation System,", January 8, 2000; Stokes, pp. 181-182.

[128]Andrey Garavskiy, ""GLONASS IS Our Hope" Krasnaya Zvezda, December 30, 2003.

[129] Vladimir Karnozov, "Russia's Glonass set to be reborn," Flight International, March 5, 2002, p. 41.

[130] Tim Furniss, "Russia in move to rebuild Glonass," Flight International, December 11, 2001, p. 24.

[131] Karnozov, op-cit.

[132] Peter B. de  Selding, "EU and China Collaborate on Galileo Navigation Satellite Project," Space News, September 21, 2003.

[133] "U.S. Galileo Hurdle Removed," Defense News, April 7, 2003, p. 3. 

[134] "Chinese Galileo," Flight International, October 9, 2001, p. 28.

[135] "German-Italian agreement clears the way for Galileo development," Flight International, April 8-14, 2003, p. 28.

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