PLA prow­ess on rise

Af­ter sev­eral years of mod­ern­iza­tion, fight­ing force among best-equipped in the world

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

In the past five years, the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army has made huge strides in its mod­ern­iza­tion drive, and now boasts an ar­ray of world-class weaponry and equip­ment.

Ground force

The PLA Ground Force has a pow­er­ful land-strike spear­head, com­pris­ing the Type-99A main bat­tle tank, the ZBD-04A in­fantry fight­ing ve­hi­cle, the HJ-10 anti-tank mis­sile car­rier and the PLZ-05A self-pro­pelled how­itzer.

China North In­dus­tries Corp, the coun­try’s big­gest man­u­fac­turer of land ar­ma­ments, said the Type-99A is a third-gen­er­a­tion tank with strong fire­power, ad­vanced ac­tive pro­tec­tion sys­tems, cut­ting-edge com­pos­ite ar­mor and supreme mo­bil­ity.

Weapons ex­perts said it has a high-tech­nol­ogy data link that pro- vides ac­cess to bat­tle­field in­tel­li­gence ob­tained by other com­bat ve­hi­cles.

Liu Qing­shan, editor-in-chief of Tank and Ar­mored Ve­hi­cle, said the Type-99A has one of the most pow­er­ful en­gines in the world, along with high au­to­ma­tion and in­for­ma­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Ger­many’s Fo­cus mag­a­zine re­ported that the Type-99A is mainly armed with a 125-mm smooth­bore gun ca­pa­ble of fir­ing anti-tank guided mis­siles, and is pro­pelled by a 1,500-horse­power diesel en­gine.

Other unique el­e­ments in­clude an ac­tive laser self-de­fense weapon and a laser warn­ing re­ceiver, both lead­ing, but rarely used, coun­ter­mea­sure tech­nolo­gies, ac­cord­ing to Russian media.

The ZBD-04A in­fantry fight­ing ve­hi­cle has sev­eral weapons — a 100mm ri­fled gun, a 30-mm auto-can­non and a 7.62-mm coax­ial ma­chine gun — strong enough to de­stroy any tar­get, ob­servers said.

Com­pared with its pre­de­ces­sor, the ZBD-04, the new model has im­proved fire-con­trol in­stru­ments and ad­di­tional ar­mor. It also has an ad­vanced in­for­ma­tion sys­tem ca­pa­ble of be­ing in­te­grated with the sys­tem used on the Type-99A.

As the PLA’s lat­est mul­ti­pur­pose anti-tank mis­sile, the HJ-10 can also be used to at­tack ar­mored ve­hi­cles, small for­ti­fi­ca­tions and even he­li­copters fly­ing at low al­ti­tude, ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese de­fense pub­li­ca­tions. Ear­lier re­ports said the PLZ-05A self-pro­pelled how­itzer has good mo­bil­ity and can de­stroy tar­gets from a long dis­tance, thus clear­ing the way for ar­mored forces.

The Ground Force has equipped its air as­sault units with WZ-10 and WZ-19 com­bat he­li­copters. The WZ-10 is re­garded as one of the best at­tack he­li­copters in the world due to its su­pe­rior ma­neu­ver­abil­ity and com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties. It was de­signed pri­mar­ily for anti-tank mis­sions, but was later given a sec­ondary air-toair fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity, avi­a­tion in­dus­try sources said.

Naval prow­ess

The PLA Navy has a car­rier bat­tle group, led by the air­craft car­rier CNS

Liaon­ing, and the unit con­tin­ues to move to­ward gain­ing full op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity, ac­cord­ing to the Navy. The

Liaon­ing car­rier bat­tle group com­pleted a cross-sea, live-fire ex­er­cise at the end of last year and re­cently un­der­took a long-dis­tance train­ing ex­er­cise. Dozens of pi­lots and land­ing sig­nal of­fi­cers are now qual­i­fied to op­er­ate the J-15 fighter jets de­ployed on the car­rier, the Navy said.

China’s sec­ond air­craft car­rier, as yet un­named, was launched in April. Once com­pleted, it will have a dis­place­ment of around 50,000 met­ric tons, a con­ven­tional propul­sion sys­tem, and it will carry J-15 fighter jets and other air­craft. The ship will em­ploy a ski jump mode to launch fixed-wing air­craft.

It is cur­rently be­ing fit­ted out, and en­gi­neers and work­ers will soon com­plete in­stal­la­tion of in­te­rior equip­ment and weapons. En­gi­neers will test and fine-tune equip­ment al­ready mounted on the ship. At the same time, moor­ing tri­als will be con­ducted to as­sess the car­rier’s over­all de­sign, the Navy said.

At a media brief­ing in March, Ma­jor Gen­eral Chen Zhou, a se­nior strat­egy re­searcher at the PLA Academy of Mil­i­tary Sci­ence, said the sec­ond car­rier will def­i­nitely not be the end of China’s air­craft car­rier pro­gram.

“The num­ber of car­rier bat­tle groups will de­pend on our na­tional plans and mil­i­tary strate­gies, but we will not have as many as 12 groups like the United States plans to do be­cause our mil­i­tary strat­egy is de­fen­sive in na­ture,” he said.

The Navy will con­tinue com­mis­sion­ing Type-052D guided-mis­sile de­stroy­ers, and has also launched a larger de­stroyer, which ob­servers

The num­ber of car­rier bat­tle groups will de­pend on our na­tional plans and mil­i­tary strate­gies ... our mil­i­tary strat­egy is de­fen­sive in na­ture.” Ma­jor Gen­eral Chen Zhou, se­nior strat­egy re­searcher at the PLA Academy of Mil­i­tary Sci­ence

re­gard as the first in the Type-055 class.

Mil­i­tary ex­perts said the Type052D class is the most pow­er­ful de­stroyer and the most ca­pa­ble fleet es­cort in ser­vice with the PLA. Some Western ob­servers have called it a “car­rier killer” be­cause of the large num­ber of anti-ship and land-at­tack cruise mis­siles it car­ries.

Ac­cord­ing to mil­i­tary sources, Type-052D de­stroy­ers have a full dis­place­ment of nearly 7,000 tons, and a wide range of weapons in­clud­ing a sin­gle-bar­rel 130-mm naval gun, a close-in weapon sys­tem and dozens of long-range anti-air­craft mis­siles and anti-ship cruise mis­siles. The ves­sel fea­tures a low radar sig­na­ture, a high in­for­ma­tion level and sta­teof-the-art phased ar­ray radar.

The Type-055 class is a 10,000-ton de­stroyer. It will be equipped with new types of air de­fense, mis­sile de­fense, anti-ship and anti-sub­ma­rine weapons, the Navy said.

Yin Zhuo, di­rec­tor of the PLA Navy’s Ex­pert Con­sul­ta­tion Com- mit­tee, pre­vi­ously said each Type055 de­stroyer will be able to carry more than 100 ver­ti­cal launch cells ca­pa­ble of fir­ing a range of mis­siles.

Zhang Jun­she, a se­nior re­searcher at the PLA Naval Mil­i­tary Stud­ies Re­search In­sti­tute, said com­pared with other Navy de­stroy­ers, the Type-055 fea­tures stronger fire­power, higher in­for­ma­tion ca­pac­ity and im­proved ca­pa­bil­i­ties in terms of re­con­nais­sance and early warn­ing.

He added that the ves­sel will im­prove the Navy’s long-range op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity and such ships will play a ma­jor role in the coun­try’s car­rier bat­tle groups.

Cao Wei­dong, also a re­searcher at the in­sti­tute, said Type-055 de­stroy­ers will make ef­fec­tive mis­sile-de­fense plat­forms be­cause they can carry and launch Chi­nese-made ad­vanced mis­sile in­ter­cep­tors, ef­fec­tively ex­pand­ing the coun­try’s mis­sile de­fense net­work.

The Navy also has some of the world’s most ad­vanced ar­ma­ments, such as the YJ-12 heavy-duty, su­per­sonic anti-ship mis­sile. With its ul­tra­fast speed and long strike range, the weapon is ca­pa­ble of pen­e­trat­ing the outer de­fense sys­tems of a car­rier bat­tle group, and can use sea-skim­ming ma­neu­vers to avoid in­ter­cep­tion when ap­proach­ing a tar­get, ac­cord­ing to ob­servers.

If a 100,000-ton air­craft car­rier is hit by two YJ-12s, it will ba­si­cally lose all its func­tions, they said.

Air power

The PLA Air Force is be­lieved to have started tak­ing de­liv­ery of the J-20 stealth fighter jet, a third-type, fifth-gen­er­a­tion com­bat air­craft.

Its maiden flight was made in Jan­uary 2011, and the air­craft was de­clas­si­fied in Novem­ber last year when it per­formed at a de­fense ex­hi­bi­tion in China. The Air Force said the J-20 is de­signed for fu­ture aerial com­bat.

Mil­i­tary an­a­lysts said the cut­tingedge air­craft will en­able the Air Force to en­gage all lead­ing fighter jets, sub­stan­tially im­prov­ing op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Wang Ya’nan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowl­edge, said the J-20 is not only a su­pe­rior fighter jet, but can also con­duct air-to-ground strikes and anti-ship op­er­a­tions.

The Air Force has also im­proved its trans­porta­tion ca­pac­ity via the de­ploy­ment of the Y-20 strate­gic trans­port plane.

With a max­i­mum take­off weight of about 200 tons, the Y-20 can ferry cargo and per­son­nel over long dis­tances in all types of weather, strength­en­ing the Air Force’s strate­gic power pro­jec­tion ca­pa­bil­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to Wang, com­pared with trans­port planes made over­seas, it is eas­ier for the PLA to use and main­tain the Y-20 be­cause its de­sign was based on the ex­pe­ri­ence and re­quire­ments of the PLA Air Force.

He ex­plained that the jumbo jet can fly more than 5,000 kilo­me­ters in eight hours, mean­ing it can ful- fill most of the PLA’s trans­porta­tion needs.

The Air Force has also de­ployed sev­eral early-warn­ing and aerial con­trol planes, in­clud­ing the KJ-500, the lat­est model. The air­craft has one fixed phased-ar­ray radar and two pas­sive elec­tronic in­tel­li­gence ar­rays, ac­cord­ing to IHS Jane’s De­fence Weekly in London, which re­ported that it can track up to 100 tar­gets si­mul­ta­ne­ously to a range of 470 km.

The Air Force also uses a wide range of un­manned air­craft such as the GJ-1 re­con­nais­sance/strike drone and the BZK-005 high-al­ti­tude, lon­grange re­con­nais­sance drone. They are ex­pected to ex­tend op­er­a­tional scope and give the PLA more op­tions to con­duct re­con­nais­sance and land at­tack tasks at lower cost, ex­perts said.

Mis­sile de­ter­rence

The PLA Rocket Force, the pil­lar of the na­tion’s strate­gic de­ter­rent, is prob­a­bly the best in the world in terms of the va­ri­ety of mis­siles it uses — it has at least nine dif­fer­ent ground-to-ground mis­siles, in­clud­ing the DF-31A in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile, the DF-15B short-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile and the CJ-10A ground-launched cruise mis­sile, ac­cord­ing to PLA Daily.

The lat­est ad­di­tions are the DF-16 short-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile, the DF-21D anti-ship bal­lis­tic mis­sile and the DF-26 in­ter­me­di­ate-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile.

The Rocket Force said the DF-21D is its “trump card” in asym­met­ric naval war­fare, while the DF-26 can de­stroy fixed tar­gets and mov­ing tar­gets on the ocean. They are prob­a­bly the only bal­lis­tic mis­siles in the world ca­pa­ble of de­stroy­ing ves­sels as large as air­craft car­ri­ers, Chi­nese media re­ported.

Mil­i­tary ex­perts said the DF-16 has a strike range of more than 1,000 km, boasts a sim­i­lar level of ac­cu­racy as a cruise mis­sile and can un­der­take ter­mi­nal ma­neu­vers to pen­e­trate de­fen­sive fire­power.

2015 China North In­dus­tries Corp 2015 2015 2014 125-mil­lime­ter smooth­bore gun China North In­dus­tries Corp 2012 Anti-tank mis­siles Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Cor­po­ra­tion of China 2012 Air-to-air mis­siles and anti-ship mis­siles Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Cor­po­ra­tion of China 2015 China Aerospace Sci­ence and In­dus­try Corp PLZ-05A self-pro­pelled how­itzer Pub­lic de­but: Man­u­fac­turer: Pub­lic de­but: Main weapon: DF-21D medium-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile Pub­lic de­but: Pub­lic de­but: Type 99A main bat­tle tank

Man­u­fac­turer: DF-26 in­ter­me­di­ate-range bal­lis­tic mis­sile WZ-10 at­tack he­li­copter Pub­lic de­but: Main weapon: Man­u­fac­turer: J-15 car­rier-borne fighter jet Pub­lic de­but: Weapons: Pro­ducer: CJ-10A land-at­tack cruise mis­sile Pub­lic de­but: Man­u­fac­turer:

PHOTO IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS BY CAI MENG AND TIAN CHI / CHINA DAILY

2015 Air-to-sur­face mis­siles Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Cor­po­ra­tion of China 2014 Anti-ship and air-de­fense mis­siles China State Ship­build­ing Corp and China Ship­build­ing In­dus­try Corp 2013 200 met­ric tons Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Cor­po­ra­tion of China 2015 De­tect and mon­i­tor in­com­ing en­emy air­craft and mis­siles, co­or­di­nate and com­mand air­craft Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Cor­po­ra­tion of China GJ-1 re­con­nais­sance/ un­manned com­bat aerial ve­hi­cle Pub­lic de­but: Main weapon: Man­u­fac­turer: Pub­lic de­but: Main weapon: Pro­ducer: Type 052D de­stroyer Y-20 strate­gic trans­port plane Pub­lic de­but: Max­i­mum take­off weight: Pro­ducer: A new class of sub­ma­rine will pa­trol the oceans J-20 stealth fighter jet Pub­lic de­but: Main weapon: Man­u­fac­turer: 2016 Air-to-air mis­siles Avi­a­tion In­dus­try Cor­po­ra­tion of China KJ-500 early-warn­ing and con­trol air­craft Pub­lic de­but: Func­tions: Pro­ducer: CNS air­craft car­rier Liaon­ing Pub­lic de­but: Main weapon: 2012 J-15 car­rier­borne fighter jets China Ship­build­ing In­dus­try Corp (Re­fit of ves­sel pur­chased from Ukraine)

Man­u­fac­turer:

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