DoD’s 2010 Report on China’s PLA Modernization (III)

No DoD assessment of Chinese military power would be complete without an update on the People’s Liberation Army’s ongoing effort to build an anti-ship ballistic missile; a weapon some hyperbolically claim could change the balance of power in the Western Pacific. We’ll set aside for the moment the issue of whether an individual weapon can dramatically alter the power balance between the U.S. military and any country x, and look at what the report says.

China has the “most active” land based ballistic missile and cruise missile program in the world, the DoD report says. The PLA is building a huge missile arsenal for precision conventional strike because it lacks, so far anyway, a stealthy strike aircraft. The vast majority of China’s ballistic missiles are of the short range (under 600km) SCUD type and lack “true precision strike capability.” And the vast majority of those missiles are aimed at Taiwan.

In the anti-access arena, China is building or buying medium-range ballistic missiles (1,000-3,000km): “to increase the range at which it can conduct precision strikes against land targets and naval ships, including aircraft carriers, operating far from China’s shores out to the first island chain.”

Regrettably, the report doesn’t tell us much about where the anti-ship ballistic missile is in terms of development progress:

“China is developing an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) based on a variant of the CSS-5 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). The missile has a range in excess of 1,500 km, is armed with a maneuverable warhead, and when integrated with appropriate command and control systems, is intended to provide the PLA the capability to attack ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean.”

The maneuverable warhead and an over the horizon tracking and targeting system are the key components as the missile must have terminal guidance to hit a moving ship. Geoffrey Forden discusses some of the technical challenges in fine tuning the warheads guidance in an excellent post here; the comments section is very much worth reading as well.

As Forden notes, between the time an ASBM is launched and it arrives over a patch of sea in the Western Pacific a carrier could have moved 8 miles; the missile’s warhead must be maneuverable after the end of the boost phase and he discusses various options. China would be pushing the envelope technology wise and the missile would require extensive testing before was proven, he writes.

As for an advanced targeting system, which we’ve discussed before, the DoD report says:

“Over the long term, improvements in China’s C4ISR, including space-based and over-the-horizon sensors, could enable Beijing to identify, track, and target military activities deep into the western Pacific Ocean.”

— Greg Grant

  • yesjb

    Ultimately that is true. There has been tremendous progress in the last few years much remains to be done.
    It would be far better to disable these in the boost phase; not while they’re approaching from overhead (s shown)

  • China’s technology base is pushed to the limits trying to develop quality avionics and radars. Precision ICBM targeting is a huge leap in technology that I don’t think the Chinese are going to make any time soon, unless they steal it.

  • chanel

    Don’t show the teeth to whom you take. The PLA of China is able to do with the fact that the outer space missiles with the nuclear warheads go shoots in any places in China and get hangs over the raidpots in the States for a long term as synchronous satellites or the mines in earth and drop suddenly as the raindrops through the remote instructions. If the warheads hit, thousands of A-bombs or H-bombs go exploding over the States. It is just a work of the spacial synchronous technology. If the states show the teeth to China as the Smart Power, disasters as thousands of the September 11th or more are focused of the people in the States.

    • Guesty McGuesterson


    • praetorian

      What ??

    • Tim

      Must have been driking too many Chicom Kool-Aid… uh… tea.

      Thousands of A-bombs/H-bombs go exploding over where? Do these grow on trees?

    • chaos0xomega

      I think he’s trying to say that we have nukes in orbit, and that the Chinese are going to hack them so that they can redirect them to fire on the U.S.

      If that is what he is trying to say, then trying to make sense of the gobbledy-gook he posted ain’t worth my time.

    • Andres

      in contrary to your “thousands of H/A-Bombs are going to explode over the states – who has the 50’000 warheads?

  • chanel

    Recently, China sends more than 10 satellites a year to set up its spacial network for the globe control and the Chinese Spacial Station of the outer space relays. The PLA of China lessens the people as the States lessen the F-35 for the wars in remoteness and multidimension but in Chinese philosophy. If the States go war with China, they must be trapped by second strikes unless smash it thoroughly in few days. If Japan,Viet Nam and so on, together go against China, the States work. If not, the States pay big and get nothing.

  • Let’s start with some basic English skills then eh…

  • chanel

    If we fight with one with a knife, we use a spear; if one with a spear, we use a gun.

    • Andres

      If you only had a gun against the japs in WWII.

  • jsallison

    All your base are belong to us.

  • chanel

    The vertical raids must be a trend. The nukes like the products on trees. We wish I drank while the exploding bombs.

  • Scott

    The question must be asked did china ever acquire tech from the pershing 2`s? the active radar area correlator worked

  • Ying & Yang

    when do you stop??? after everyone on earth is dead??? The nukes today are alot more powerful than 1945.

  • chanel

    Pershing 1a, 1b, 2 are out and quit by the PLA. The raids from zenith to earth are too quick to be caught by the ARAC that even caught in the half way they cause explosions. If you know the ChiCom, you know the Viet Com is the ChiCom’s; if you know ChiCom Kool Aid, you know ChiCom’s records.The Wars came Com World and the peace came Com Collapse as in the Soviet.

    • josh

      Guy why are you rambling?

  • josh

    One can only hope I am right on this point. When is the last time any one has bought anything out of China that was worth a crap? Even if they do manage to steal what they need, their workmanship is so poor that the failure rate will be through the roof. I mean look at what they have stolen so far. All I have seen is multiple failures. To hit a moving ship the size of an aircraft carrier with something the size of a mini van is a long shot. For us yes for the chinese I would venture to bet its more than a longshot.

  • Mat

    I’ve realised Chanel is writing poetry. (See? It sort-of makes sense now.)

  • Stevemarino

    WAL_MART, the third arm of China. It was Nixon who gladly opened the door to China junk and put America in the position we are today. Leave it to GOP and the Chamber of Commerce to sell this country at any cost. It’s all about money like those in the House of the Lord, where Christ chased them out.

  • STemplar

    I think we get what the Chinese are developing, and I think what we are doing in response will counter it just fine.

    The X-47B seems to be working out fine, as long as they can integrate it into carrier landings. That will give US carriers plenty of legs to avoid any Chinese anti access weaponry and deliver Day stealth strikes from the sea.

    The SSGNs clearly rattled cages when they surfaced around the Pacific a couple weeks ago. They give us 600+ Tomahawk strikes.

    The DARPA article asking industry to provide a 2000nm fast strike option from VLS, will add to the USNs ability to hammer Chinese targets beyond their ability to prevent.

    The bomber/global strike program is still underway in some fashion, the specs for the proposed range and payload pretty clearly say, “Stealthy un-refueled combat radius from Guam”

    So while we worry about the Chinese anti ship ballistic missile, I’d say what we are developing is making plenty of people worry in Beijing.

  • danf

    Don’t worry about our buying cheap Chinese goods. The are forced to loan it back to us so in effect they have paid for our wars and our continuing military spending. The greater threat are the democrats who hate the US and Obama who is a clear member of the “loath the military” wing of the democratic party. For evidence one only has to see that the economy clearly needs a boost which would be perfectly served by a massive dose of spending on a new generation of aircraft, missles, ships, submarines and space capabilities….Instead the administration is going out of its way to cancel programs and dismantle our military industrial base.

  • roland

    So my question is : Do we have anti chnese balistic missiles installed on our warships, boats, planes, subs and bases?

  • roland

    And another big question is what if China did fire one thoudands of these one our ships, are we ready to respond back?

  • roland

    Another option is if China use this weapon and technology against us the other alternative other than counter offensive is knocking down the satellites that was directing and controlling these Chinese ballistic missiles on space.

  • chanel

    The Com is sort of suicide bomber to collapse the world while he is hurt that they win in number at last. By the way, the people in the States need to work hard on the high tech not on the sharp teeth and let the social welfare policy promoting the Living Standard Income Level. The Com has been catching the dinner remains the people don’t need and growing. Otherwise, the people take low-pay jobs with low-tech equipment from now on. We regret that the high tech doesn’t come into heavy labor jobs.

  • Ben

    Directed energy wont work agains a hypersonic kinetic warhead. Even if you could melt it in time, which would be virtually impossible, the thing will still carry the same mass and hit you as hard.

  • Wess

    China will win in the long run, reson is they don’t have idiots in congress or senators or any of that interferring BS, instead they have a clear cut plan with only one direction. You will lose America and you will deserve as you cannot manage yourself properly, they can.

    • Andres

      so china is able to manage (whatever that means) itself? that’s simply ridiculous.

  • Ryan

    chanel sounds like chinese propaganda to me…

  • roland

    I think missile technology is todays trend. Conventional wars are already outdated and hope both will never be used.

  • Enthusiast

    Anti-ship ballistic missiles is ridiculous, not rational and useless idea. It’s clearly indication that China still far from being capable to make any serious worry for US aircraft carriers. Chinese engeneers and industry are not capable to design and produce “stealth” nuclear submarine with decent noise parameters and armament to for using of a typical Soviet/Russian tactics – come close enough to aircraft carrier group and use sub-launched torpedo and cruise missile(which are supersonic with capability of zig-zag evasions at the final stage to defeat defenses) attack..

    Thats why Chinese “invented” moronic idea with AshBM. These “anti-ship” warheads should be pretty easy targets for AEGIS BMD. DF-21 is waste of money.

  • Andres

    your last sentence is the only true thing you have written here.

  • Ynotturbo

    If the United States would quit buying some much junk made in China then they would not have money to build weapons that they want to use against us. Every thing is now made in China. We would have plenty of jobs if we quit importing items that can be made here. I would gladly pay more money if it was supporting our own people and families. Guess the White House does not get it…..

  • Rhit

    The American worker wants and expects to much in return for their hours worked. Why are union auto workers making 60-100k/year? There’s no reason for that. They work an assembly line. Outsourced labor is factory work.

    It’s this arrogant American mentality that yields outsourced jobs and illegal alien employment.


    I think I hear the ping, ping, sonar pings, of Peking, training submariners in Russia, for Peking, along with A/C Carrier Pilot Training! If, I lived in Tiawan, I’d be sleeping very uneasily these days!

    Furthermore, China sent senior nuclear scientests to N. Korea, for a looksee! The Chineese are very patient people and have been our “frendly enemy” for quite some time throughout our history militarily! China usually gets what it wants – then shys away, for awhile! I think this time things will get pretty interesting to say the least!

  • Tim Adkison

    Dont worry by the time Obama is out of office the U.S. will be so weak and indebted to China that they will have the time to develop precision strike capabilities while we are still recovering