The Buzz

The Chinese Military Report You Missed (But Need to Read, Now)

Okay, so coming in at a beefy 631 pages, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s (USCC) annual report might not exactly be a light read. However, for those of us on the hunt for the latest non-classified, open-source material on China’s military there appear to be several important data points worth seeking out.

Truth be told, the entire report is not about Beijing’s mighty military, with the bulk of the report detailing U.S.-China trade relations as well as Beijing’s interactions around the world. However, Chapter 2 is where Chinese military geeks need to pay attention. Below are some of the highlights that I found of most interest:

Point #1 - Chinese Nuclear Submarines Are Advancing:

“China launched three new Type 093 SHANG-class nuclear attack submarines in May, according to Chinese media reports. The new submarines are reportedly the first SHANGs to carry a vertical missile launch system capable of firing the long-range YJ–18 anti-ship cruise missile. The increasing number of Chinese submarines and the growing range of Chinese submarine-launched munitions will greatly complicate the threat environment for U.S. ships operating near China.”

Point #2 - Chinese Diesel Submarines Are About To Get Even More Dangerous:

“In May, a report from Chinese state-run People’s Daily claimed China has developed a highly efficient air-independent propulsion (AIP) system for diesel-electric submarines. Because AIP-equipped diesel-electric submarines need to surface to recharge their batteries less frequently, this will allow China’s AIP-equipped submarines to operate for longer periods while limiting their chance of detection.”

Point #3 - Here Come Chinese 5th Generation Stealth Fighters:

“Media reports suggest China has built two new fifth-generation J–20 fighters, bringing its J–20 fleet to six aircraft. The two aircraft reportedly conducted their first flights in late 2014. The J–20 could reach initial operational capability in 2017–2018, and China reportedly hopes to build 24 J–20s by 2020. The PLA Air Force views the J–20 as key to improving China’s ability to conduct offensive operations to deny an enemy’s chance to mobilize defensive forces. The J–20’s stealth features and electronic warfare capabilities would degrade the ability of U.S. forces within the first island chain to detect and engage it.”

Point #4 - The Chinese Navy (PLAN) Wants to Sail Further Out To Sea:

“In late 2013, China began its first known submarine deployment to the Indian Ocean. Chinese officials have claimed these submarines support China’s anti-piracy activities in the Indian Ocean. The more likely purpose of these deployments, though, is to collect intelligence on U.S., Indian, and other forces in the Indian Ocean; test and enhance the ability of China’s submarine crews to operate for long durations at extended distances from the Chinese mainland; prepare for potential crises and wartime operations in the Indian Ocean; and demonstrate China’s growing strategic interests in the region.”

Point #5 - China Purchases the S-400 from Russia (And Might Build Its Own):

“China will purchase S–400 air and missile defense systems from Russia, according to an April 2015 statement from the chief executive officer of Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport. China signed a contract to purchase the S–400s in 2014. Analysts say the order likely includes four to six units, at a total cost of $3 billion. The S–400 will extend the range of China’s surface-to-air missile force from 300 kilometers (approximately 186 miles) to 400 kilometers (approximately 249 miles)—enough to cover all of Taiwan, the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and parts of the South China Sea—and feature an improved ballistic missile defense capability over China’s existing surface-to-air missile systems. China also is developing its own next-generation surface-to-air missile, the HQ–19, which likely will have capabilities similar to the S–400.”

Point #6 - Beijing Is Becoming Quite the Arms Dealer:

“China overtook Germany to become the third-largest arms exporter worldwide in 2015, according to a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute study. Between the periods 2005–2009 and 2010–2015, China’s exports of major arms rose 143 percent from $3.1 billion to $7.6 billion. China’s arms exports increasingly include advanced weapons and platforms, such as jet fighters and missile corvettes. The surge and growing complexity in China’s arms exports reflect the maturation of China’s domestic defense industry after decades of significant Chinese government investment in defense research and development, as well as China’s efforts to secure foreign military technology through arms transfers and espionage. China is poised to continue growing its arms exports as it increasingly offers low-cost alternatives to advanced platforms formerly available only from the United States and Russia. Moreover, these mounting arms exports will support China’s military modernization program by defraying the costs of some of the country’s investments in its domestic defense industry.”

Point #7 - China Sees U.S. Satellites in Orbit as a Weakness It Could Attack:

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