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Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the Peoples Republic of China 2012 - Cover

Annual Report to Congress:
Military and Security Developments Involving the Peoples Republic of China 2012

Appendix 1: Size, Location, and Capabilities of Chinese Military Forces

China’s long-term, comprehensive military modernization is improving the PLA’s capacity to conduct high-intensity, regional military operations, including counter-intervention operations. For China, “counter-intervention” refers to a set of operationally-defined tasks designed to prevent foreign (e.g., U.S.) military forces from intervening in a conflict and preventing China from accomplishing its military objectives. China employs anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weapons in support of this broader counter-intervention strategy – a strategy not bound by a set geographic area or domain.

Consistent with a near-term focus on Taiwan Strait contingencies, China bases many of its most advanced systems in the military regions (MRs) opposite Taiwan. Although China could employ these capabilities for a variety of regional crisis or conflict scenarios, China has made less progress on capabilities that extend global reach or power projection. Outside of peacetime counter-piracy missions, for example, the PLA Navy has little operational experience beyond regional waters. Although the PLA’s new roles and missions in the international domain, like counter-piracy, reflect China’s expanding set of interests, regional contingencies continue to dominate resources and planning (Appendix IV, Figure 5).

Size, Location, And Capabilities Developments

Ballistic and Cruise Missiles. China continues investments in its land-based ballistic and cruise missile programs. It is developing several variants of offensive missiles, upgrading older systems, forming additional units, and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses.

The PLA is acquiring large numbers of highly accurate, domestically built cruise missiles, and has previously acquired large numbers of Russian ones. These include the domestically produced, ground-launched CJ-10 land-attack cruise missile (LACM); the domestically produced ground- and ship-launched YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM); the Russian SS-N-22/SUNBURN supersonic ASCM, which is fitted on China’s SOVREMENNY-class guided missile destroyers; and the Russian SS-N-27B/SIZZLER supersonic ASCM on China’s Russian-built KILO-class diesel-powered attack submarines.

By October 2011, the PLA had deployed between 1,000 and 1,200 SRBM to units opposite Taiwan. In the past year, China has fielded new SRBM systems, added additional missile brigades in southeastern China, and upgraded the lethality of its existing SRBM force by introducing variants with improved ranges, accuracies, and payloads.

During comments to the media in 2011, China confirmed it is developing an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), based on a variant of the DF-21 (CSS-5) medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). Known as the DF-21D (CSS-5 Mod 5), this missile is intended to provide the PLA the capability to attack large ships, particularly aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean. The assessed range of the DF-21D exceeds 1,500 km, and the missile is armed with a maneuverable warhead.

Naval Forces. Since the 1990s, the PLA Navy has transformed from a large fleet of singlemission platforms to a leaner force equipped with more modern, multi-mission platforms. In contrast to the fleet of just a decade ago, many PLA Navy combatants are equipped with advanced area air-defense systems, modern ASCMs, and torpedoes. These capabilities not only increase the lethality of PLA Navy platforms, particularly in the area of anti-surface warfare, but also enable them to operate beyond the range of land-based air cover.

The PLA Navy possesses some 79 principal surface combatants (destroyers and frigates), 50 submarines, 51 amphibious and medium landing ships, and 86 missile-equipped patrol craft. The PLA Navy has now completed construction of a major naval base at Yalong, on the southernmost tip of Hainan Island. The base is large enough to accommodate a mix of nuclear-powered attack and ballistic-missile submarines and advanced surface combatants, including aircraft carriers. Submarine tunnel facilities at the base could also enable deployments from this facility with reduced risk of detection.

China’s aircraft carrier research and development program includes renovation of the KUZNETSOV-class aircraft carrier Hull 2 (formerly the Varyag), which began sea trials in 2011. It will likely serve initially as a training and evaluation platform. Once China deploys aircraft capable of operating from a carrier, it should offer a limited capability for carrier-based air operations. Some components of China’s first indigenously-produced carrier may already be under construction; that carrier could achieve operational capability after 2015. China likely will build multiple aircraft carriers and associated support ships over the next decade.

China currently has a land-based training program for carrier pilots; however, it will still take several additional years for China to achieve a minimal level of combat capability for its aircraft carriers.

The PLA Navy is improving its long-range surveillance capability with sky-wave and surfacewave over-the-horizon (OTH) radars. In combination with early-warning aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and other surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, the radars allow China to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance over the western Pacific. These radars can be used in conjunction with reconnaissance satellites to locate targets at great distances from China, thereby supporting long-range precision strikes, including employment of ASBMs.

China has developed torpedo and mine systems capable of area denial in a Taiwan scenario. Estimates of China’s naval mine inventory exceed 50,000 mines, with many more capable systems developed in the past 10 years.

China is producing a new class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). The JIN-class SSBN (Type-094) will eventually carry the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile with an estimated range of some 7,400km. The JIN-class SSBN and the JL-2 will give the PLA Navy its first credible sea-based nuclear capability. The JL-2 program has faced repeated delays, but may reach initial operating capability within the next two years.

China has expanded its force of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN). Two secondgeneration SHANG-class (Type-093) SSNs are already in service and as many as five thirdgeneration SSNs will be added in the coming years. When complete, the new class of SSNs will incorporate better quieting technology, improving China’s capability to conduct a range of missions from surveillance to the interdiction of surface vessels with torpedoes and ASCMs.

The current mainstay of modern diesel powered attack submarines (SS) in the PLA Navy submarine force are the 13 SONG-class (Type-039) units. Each can carry the YJ-82 ASCM. The follow-on to the SONG is the YUAN-class (a Type-039 variant), as many as four of which are already in service. The YUAN-class probably includes an air-independent power system. The SONG, YUAN, SHANG and the still-to-be-deployed new SSN-class all will eventually be capable of launching a new long-range ASCM.

China has deployed approximately 60 of its HOUBEI-class (Type-022) wave-piercing catamaran- hull guided missile patrol craft. Each boat can carry up to eight YJ-83 ASCMs. These boats have increased the PLA Navy’s littoral warfare capabilities.

The PLA Navy has acquired modern, domestically-produced surface combatants. These include at least two LUYANG II-class (Type-052C) guided missile destroyers (DDG) fitted with the indigenous HHQ-9 long-range SAM, with additional hulls under construction; two LUZHOU-class (Type-051C) DDGs equipped with the Russian SA-N-20 long-range SAM; and at least nine JIANGKAI II-class (Type-054A) guided-missile frigates, fitted with the mediumrange HHQ-16 vertically launched SAM. These ships improve the PLA Navy’s area air defense capability significantly, which will be critical as the PLA Navy expands its operations into areas beyond the range of shore-based air defense.

Air and Air Defense Forces. China bases approximately 490 combat aircraft within unrefueled operational range of Taiwan and has the airfield capacity to expand that number by hundreds. Newer and more advanced aircraft make up a growing percentage of the inventory.

The January 2011 flight test of China’s next-generation fighter prototype, the J-20, highlights China’s ambition to produce a fighter aircraft that incorporates stealth attributes, advanced avionics, and supercruise-capable engines.

China is upgrading its B-6 bomber fleet (originally adapted from the Soviet Tu-16 BADGER) with a new, longer-range variant that will be armed with a new long-range cruise missile.

The PLA Air Force has continued expanding its inventory of long-range, advanced SAM systems and now possesses one of the largest such forces in the world. Over the past five years, China has acquired multiple S-300 battalions, the most advanced SAM system that Russia exports. It has also introduced the indigenously designed HQ-9.

China’s aviation industry is developing several types of airborne early warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft. These include the Y-8 MOTH and the KJ-2000, based on a modified Russian IL-76 airframe.

Ground Forces. The PLA has about 1.25 million ground force personnel, roughly 400,000 of whom are based in the three MRs opposite Taiwan. China continues to gradually modernize its large ground force. Much of the observed upgrade activity has occurred in units with the potential to be involved in a Taiwan contingency. Examples of ground unit modernization include the Type-99 third-generation main battle tank, a new-generation amphibious assault vehicle, and a series of multiple rocket launch systems.

Nuclear Forces. China’s nuclear arsenal currently consists of about 50-75 silo-based, liquid-fueled and road-mobile, solid-fueled ICBMs. This force is complemented by liquid-fueled, intermediate-range ballistic missiles and road-mobile, solid-fueled MRBMs for regional deterrence missions. By 2015, China’s nuclear forces will include additional CSS-10 Mod 2s, enhanced CSS-4s and likely JL-2’s. The first two JIN-class SSBNs are in operational service, but the associated JL-2 SLBM continues to undergo flight testing. The JIN-class/JL-2 combination may be operational within the next two years.

China continues work on technologies to counter U.S. and other countries’ ballistic missile defense systems as well as development of training and operating procedures that augment technological developments. Together, they strengthen China’s nuclear force and enhance its strategic strike capabilities.

The introduction of more mobile systems will create new command and control challenges for China’s leadership, which now confronts a different set of variables related to deployment and release authorities. For example, the PLA Navy has only a limited capacity to communicate with submarines at sea, and the PLA Navy has no experience in managing an SSBN fleet that performs strategic patrols with live nuclear warheads mated to missiles. Landbased mobile missiles may face similar command and control challenges in wartime.

Beijing’s official policy toward the role of nuclear weapons remains unchanged and focuses on maintaining a nuclear force structure able to survive an attack and respond with sufficient strength to inflict unacceptable damage on the enemy. The new generation of mobile missiles is intended to ensure the viability of China’s strategic deterrent in the face of continued missile defense advances in the United States and, to a lesser extent, Russia.

Beijing’s “no-first-use” (NFU) nuclear policy remains unchanged: “China will not be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstance, and unequivocally commits that under no circumstances will it use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapon states or nuclear weapon free zones.” There has been no clarification of the ambiguity regarding the conditions under which China’s NFU policy might not apply or where conditional nuclear threats might be permissible.

Beijing will continue to invest considerable resources to maintain a limited nuclear force, also referred to by some Chinese writers as “sufficient and effective,” to ensure that the PLA can deliver a damaging retaliatory nuclear strike response (Appendix IV, Figure 7).

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