US in West­ern Pa­cific faces in­creas­ing ri­valry from China

The China Post - - LOCAL -

A re­port pub­lished Satur­day by The Na­tional In­ter­est, an Amer­i­can con­ser­va­tive bi-monthly in­ter­na­tional af­fairs mag­a­zine, sug­gests that backed by its eco­nomic might, ad­vances in Chi­nese ar­ma­ments are poised to el­e­vate the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army ( PLA) into a cred­i­ble ri­val to U.S. forces in the West­ern Pa­cific theater.

Th­ese weapons in­clude stealth fighters, mis­siles and sub­marines, and are clas­si­fied by the Pen­tagon as anti-ac­cess/area de­nial (A2/AD). They are de­signed to chal­lenge the U.S. pres­ence in the Pa­cific, a domain seen by China’s lead­ers as their own turf.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the J-20 is China’s first at­tempt to build a fifth-gen­er­a­tion stealth fighter that might be able to chal­lenge the lead in air­power cur­rently en­joyed by the U.S. in the Pa­cific. Although many de­tails re­main murky, the J-20 is a large twin-en­gine jet be­lieved to have stealth at­tributes and to be ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing big­ger pay­loads. It boasts an ac­tive elec­tron­i­cally scanned ar­ray radar and an elec­tro-op­ti­cal tar­get­ing sys­tem that pro­vides sim­i­lar com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties to the Pen­tagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The re­port lists China’s YJ-12 su­per­sonic anti-ship cruise mis­sile as a “dead­lier” threat to the U.S. Navy in the Pa­cific. With a range of 320 kilo­me­ters, it can be launched from PLA air­craft, ships and sub­marines in large salvos at U.S. car­rier strike groups, from out­side the range of cur­rent Aegis bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fense sys­tems and SM-2 in­ter­cep­tor mis­siles.

U.S. air­craft also face po­ten­tial threats from China’s HQ-9 ac­tive radar hom­ing sur­face-to-air mis­siles, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. With a range of 190 km and speeds of Mach 4.2, the mis­sile can hit tar­gets fly­ing at al­ti­tudes as high as 27,400 me­ters. The ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the HQ-9 have since gar­nered in­ter­est from Turkey, caus­ing ob­jec­tions from the U.S. and other Euro­pean NATO peers.

The ar­ti­cle also notes that while the PLA has yet to es­tab­lish a very threat­en­ing sub­ma­rine force, it has made tremen­dous progress in this en­deavor in the form of its Yuan- class diese­l­elec­tric sub­ma­rine. Diese­l­elec­tric sub­marines, while not on the lead­ing edge of mil­i­tary weaponry, are highly ef­fec­tive as their low acous­tic sig­na­ture makes them dif­fi­cult to de­tect. The Yuan-class is also China’s first sub­ma­rine to be fit­ted with an air- in­de­pen­dent propul­sion sys­tem, which gives it ex­tended range un­der­wa­ter while run­ning qui­eter.

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