What Makes China's Military So Deadly. One Word: Missiles
Over the past four years, China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has added ten brigades and new weapons.
Defense One recently published an analysis of the latest missile technology being developed by China. Such information, the publication said, was gleaned from sources that include “everything from official announcements to social-media tracking to unit commanders’ bios.”
The authors of the analysis found that over the past four years, China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has added ten brigades, and with them, new weapons. These include “the intermediate-range DF-26 ballistic missile, DF-31AG and DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, CJ-100 cruise missile, and DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle.”
In addition, China has developed a DF-21 variant, possibly called the DF-21E, which may have been deployed.
That DF-26, which has been around since 2015, is believed to be one of the Rocket Force’s most frequently deployed systems, represented among many of the brigades and in multiple parts of China. The DF-26, per the report, can deliver conventional or nuclear warheads.
This is fascinating for historical reasons. Both the United States and the Soviet Union, during the Cold War, always kept nuclear and non-nuclear weapons apart, China appears to have not.
“A U.S. strike on such a brigade risks hitting China’s nuclear arsenal. It is believed that the PLA sees this ambiguity as an advantage, in that it could deter such strike,” according to the analysis. “But it also risks miscalculation and escalation—which is why the U.S. and USSR kept conventional and nuclear missiles separated.”
Another weapon, the DF-31 ICBM. It first was displayed in 2017 and has a range of eleven thousand kilometers. Another missile, the DF-41, was revealed just two years ago.
There are concerns brought about by China’s missile arsenal centers around the country’s “carrier killer” missiles, which could also threaten U.S. allies in the region. Taiwan’s government has reportedly been studying exactly what it would need in order to repel such an invasion from mainland China- and announced last year that it was purchasing hundred one-hundred-mile-range Harpoon missiles from Boeing, at a cost of $2.4 billion.
“We need to be able to manage targets and track where we are at in terms of finding the targets and engaging, and communicate from the operational level down to the wing level,” Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Commander Europe and Africa told reporters at the 2021 Air Force Association Symposium.
In testimony before Congress earlier this month, Navy Adm. Philip Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, testified that China has become “emboldened.”
“Absent a convincing deterrent, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will be emboldened to take action to undermine the rules-based international order and the values represented in our vision for a Free and Open IndoPacific,” Admiral Davidson said in his opening statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“The combination of the PRC’s military modernization program and willingness to intimidate its neighbors through the use, or threatened use of force, undermines peace, security, and prosperity in the region.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.