Five Chinese Weapons of War India Should Fear

Should New Delhi be concerned about Beijing's growing military might?

Editor's Note: Please also see Kyle's recent articles including Five Chinese Weapons of War America Should Fear, Five American Weapons of War China Should FearThe Five Most-Powerful Navies on the Planet, Five Japanese Weapons of War China Should Fear and Five Indian Weapons of War China Should Fear.

Last week I discussed in these pages five Indian weapons of war China should fear. This week it’s time to turn the tables and lose the Twitter followers I gained after the article’s publication.

As I noted previously, the mountainous terrain on the Chinese-Indian border makes a land war difficult to prosecute and relatively easy to defend. The decisive war would take place at sea as India--sitting astride the shipping lanes providing a significant part of China’s energy--could set up a naval blockade and essentially strangle Beijing’s economy. China would have to sortie the People’s Liberation Army Navy into the Indian Ocean to break the blockade.

That having been said, China has ways to asymmetrically attack India and fight across multiple domains of conflict to entice India to back down. Beijing’s large fleet of conventionally armed ballistic missiles could be used to bombard Indian territory and compel India to a ceasefire. China could even argue that as an Indian blockade harms China’s economy, Indian economic targets, such as factories, refineries, and energy reserves would be fair game. Beijing’s ongoing development of hypersonic weapons will add a new level of complexity to such an attack.

Once again, such analysis is not meant to suggest that war between China and India is likely, or even practical but an understanding of such weapon systems is important. That having been said, let’s take a look at some Chinese weapons that would stand out during such a conflict.

WU-14 Hypersonic Weapon System

On January 9th China tested a completely new type of weapon, one capable of blistering speeds. The weapon, a WU-14 boost glide hypersonic weapon system, was launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province.

Hypersonic weapons were conceived by the Bush administration after 9/11 as a way to strike time-sensitive targets such as terrorist meetings or weapons of mass destruction. Hypersonic weapons travel between Mach 5 and 10, or 3,840 to 7,680 miles an hour. The kinetic energy of object traveling at hypersonic speeds makes a high explosive warhead optional.

American research into hypersonic weapons has spawned Russian, Indian and Chinese development efforts. Before the January 9th test China was known to have a hypersonic program, but little was known about what direction it was taking.

China’s test involved using the so-called “boost glide” method to get to hypersonic speeds. The test likely involved a hypersonic weapon strapped on top of a repurposed DF-21 intermediate range ballistic missile. The weapon was then boosted high into the atmosphere and glided back to Earth at hypersonic speeds. Hypersonic weapons are very difficult to develop, but China’s test was reportedly considered at least a limited success.

India should rightly fear Chinese hypersonic weapons because they are extremely fast and difficult to shoot down. A hypersonic weapon launched from Xinjiang, western China and traveling at Mach 7 could reach Bangalore in twenty minutes, and Delhi in less than ten.

Future Chinese Carrier

In the event India blockades Chinese shipping from the Indian Ocean, China will have to send a fleet to engage the Indian Navy and break the blockade. At the forefront of such a fleet will be the next generation of Chinese aircraft carriers.

While China already has one carrier as part of its naval arsenal, the rebuilt Liaoning, this could be just the start of things to come. Earlier this month photographs circulated on the Internet of an aircraft carrier model displayed at an official event in Zhongshan. The carrier appears larger than Liaoning. The carrier model appears very similar in length to American aircraft carriers, which would put it at roughly 100,000 tons displacement with an aircraft complement of up to 75.

As War Is Boring recently pointed out, the carrier seems to adhere to the American layout, with an island, angled flight deck, three aircraft elevators, and four, likely electromagnetic aircraft catapults. In addition to fighter aircraft and helicopters the model has what appears to be China’s version of the E-2D Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.

An article cited in The Diplomat last week asserts that China is aiming for an additional three carriers, each having an overall length of 1,049 feet and displacing 85,000 tons. The carriers would have an air complement of 50 planes, eventually including 25-27 J-20 fifth generation fighters. The original Straits Times article (which The Diplomat recommends taking with a grain of salt), estimates the first new carrier is three years from completion.