Thursday, May 9, 2013

US Department of Defense 2013 Report to Congress regarding Chinese Military and Security Developments: Analysis

The 2013 DOD Annual Report to Congress is an important tool to not only gain insight into the current modernization of China's military capabilities and doctrine outlooks, but to gain an equally important look into the mindset of the US Department of Defense related to the developments that are taking place in China. Below are excerpts taken from the report with some brief analysis. The report in its entirety can be viewed here.

Chapter 1: Annual Update 

Regarding Sovereignty Claims of the PRC: 
"In September 2012, China began using improperly drawn straight baseline claims around the Senkaku Islands, adding to its network of maritime claims inconsistent with international law"

China has continued to approach its territorial claims in a manner that run counter to international norms.  Its approaches of historical claims, as well as ambiguous markers, such as its nine-dashed line regarding claims in the South China Sea, continue to hinder China's objective of making a "peaceful rise" in terms of international standing.  States such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan have all made military cooperation overtures on various levels towards the United States as a result of such practices.

Current Capabilities of the People's Liberation Army 

*Second Artillery

"By December 2012, the Second Artillery's inventory of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) deployed to units opposite Taiwan stood at more than 1,100" 

"To improve the lethality of this force, the PLA is also introducing new SRBM variants with improved ranges, accuracies, and payloads"

Although  relations between  China and Taiwan have improved on many levels during the Taiwanese Presidential administration  of Ma Ying-jeou, who took office in 2009, China continues to enhance and build up its missile deterrent towards Taiwan.  Many analysts within Washington have stated that enhanced cooperation between the two countries would lower China's aggressive military stance towards Taiwan, the levels in which the PLA  adds missiles pointed at Taiwan has not decreased since 2009.

PLA Navy (PLAN) 

"During 2012, China continued series production of several classes (of guided missile destroyers (DDG) and guided missile frigates (FFG), including construction of a new generation of DDG.  Construction of the LUYANG II-class DDG (Type 052C) continued, with one ship entering service in 2012, and an additional three ships under various stages of construction and sea trials, bringing the total number of ships of this class to six by the end of 2013"

The report also states the launching of the LUYANG III-class DDG (Type 052D) , which is expected to enter service in 2014. The DOD report states that the vessel will be the PLAN's "first multipurpose vertical launch system, likely capable of launching ASCM, land attack cruise missiles (LACM), surface-to-air missiles (SAM), and anti-submarine rockets."

Beijing has taken a rather patient and methodical approach to modernizing its Navy.  Previous suggestions that the PLAN was modernizing its fleet with a traditional  defensive doctrine in mind look to be inaccurate.   As reported by Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes in September, "...having experimented with various DDG designs, the PLAN was simply settling on a model that incorporated the best of each test platform."

PLA Air Force (PLAAF) 

"China bases approximately 500 combat aircraft within unrefueled operational range of Taiwan and has the airfield capacity to expand that number by hundreds.  China continues to field increasingly modern 4th generation aircraft, but the force still consists mistly of older 2nd and 3rd generation aircraft..."

PLAAF J-31 Test Flight 

While the PLAAF continues to modernize its aircraft modernization, it still lacks the numbers of modern aircraft, modern doctrine approaches, and training of their American, Japanese, and Taiwanese counterparts. With the development of the J-20 and J-31, however, the gap in qualitative aircraft capability will continue to shrink in the upcoming years.  Taiwan once enjoyed a highly superior air force over their PLAAF counterparts, yet with the upcoming retirement of its F-4 fighter platform without a viable replacement, the long-term upgrading of its F-16 fleet that will take a sizable portion of its most advanced fighters offline for years at a time, and the expensive maintenance costs of its French-built Mirage fighters, Taiwan faces a dire need for a modern addition to its current Air Force fighter jet arsenal.

China continues to look for options to acquire a long range bomber platform.  It currently utilizes the H-6, which was acquired from the Soviet Tu-16 design in the late 1950s, and has recently upgraded its current fleet. If a new platform was acquired, it would provide additional strategic depth for the PLA's nuclear delivery capabilities.

Part 2 of the Analysis will examine the PLA's objectives of joint training, coordination, and military information operations.

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