China continues to modernize its nuclear forces by enhancing its silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and adding more survivable mobile delivery systems. In recent years, the road-mobile, solid-propellant CSS-10 Mod 1 and CSS-10 Mod 2 (DF-31 and DF-31A) intercontinentalrange ballistic missiles have entered service. The CSS-10 Mod 2, with a range in excess of 11,200 km, can reach most locations within the continental United States. China may also be developing a new road-mobile ICBM, possibly capable of carrying a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV).
The PLA Navy has the largest force of major combatants, submarines, and amphibious warfare ships in Asia. China’s naval forces include some 79 principal surface combatants, more than 55 submarines, 55 medium and large amphibious ships, and roughly 85 missile-equipped small combatants.
The Liaoning aircraft carrier will continue integration testing and training with the aircraft during the next several years, but it is not expected to embark an operational air wing until 2015 or later.China also continues to pursue an indigenous aircraft carrier program (the Liaoning is a refurbished vessel, purchased from Ukraine in 1998), and will likely build multiple aircraft carriers over the next decade. The first Chinese-built carrier will likely be operational sometime in the second half of this decade.
The PLA Navy places a high priority on the modernization of its submarine force. China continues the production of JIN-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN). Three JIN-class SSBNs (Type 094) are currently operational, and up to five may enter service before China proceeds to its next generation SSBN (Type 096) over the next decade. The JIN-class SSBN will carry the new JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile with an estimated range of more than 4,000nm. The JIN-class and the JL-2 will give the PLA Navy its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent.
China also has expanded its force of nuclearpowered attack submarines (SSN). Two SHANG-class SSNs (Type 093) are already in service, and China is building four improved variants of the SHANG-class SSN, which will replace the aging HAN-class SSNs (Type 091). In the next decade, China will likely construct the Type 095 guided-missile attack submarine (SSGN), which may enable a land attack capability.
China is projected to build more than a dozen of these ships to replace its aging LUDA-class destroyers (DD). China has continued the construction of the workhorse JIANGKAI II class FFG (Type 054A), with 12 ships currently in the fleet and six or more invarious stages of construction, and yet more expected. These new DDGs (guided missile destoyers and FFGs provide a significant upgrade to the PLANavy’s area air defense capability, which will be critical as it expands operations into “distant seas” beyond the range of shorebased air defense.
China bases approximately 500 combat aircraft within unrefueled operational range of Taiwan and has the airfield capacity to expand that number by hundreds. China continues to field increasingly modern 4th generation aircraft, but the force still consists mostly of older 2nd and 3rd generation aircraft, or upgraded variants of those aircraft. Within two years of the J-20 stealth fighter’s first flight in January 2011, China tested a second next generation fighter prototype. The prototype, referred to as the “J-31,” is similar in size to a U.S. F-35 fighter and appears to incorporate design characteristics similar to the J-20. It conducted its first flight on October 31, 2012.
China’s leaders characterize the first two decades of the 21st century as a “strategic window of opportunity.” They assess that during this period, both domestic and international conditions will be conducive to expanding China’s “comprehensive national power,” a term that encapsulates all elements of state power, including economic capacity, military might, and diplomacy. China’s leaders anticipate that a successful expansion of comprehensive national power will serve China’s strategic objectives, which include:perpetuating Chinese Communist Party (CCP)rule, sustaining economic growth and development, maintaining domestic political stability, defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and securing China’s status as a great power.
China’s leaders routinely emphasize the goal of reaching critical economic and military benchmarks by 2020. These benchmarks include successfully restructuring the economy to maintain growth and increase the quality of living of China’s citizens to promote stability; making major progress in military modernization; and attaining the capability to fight and win potential regional conflicts, including those related to Taiwan, protection of sea lines of communication (SLOCs), defense of territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea, and the defense of western borders.
Using 2012 prices and exchange rates, the DoD estimates that China’s total actual military-related expenditure for 2012 falls between $135 billion and $215 billion. The 2013 estimate is $150 million to $237 million.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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