Increasing investment and improving technology are improving all China’s defense industrial sectors. However there is a distinct pecking order persists among them.
In descending order of favor and results:
- missiles and space,
- aviation, and
- ground-forces materiel.
For years, China has clearly been a leading power in space and counter-space capabilities, but a Pentagon report has provided unprecedented details. With respect to space capabilities, in 2015 China launched 19 rockets bearing 45 diverse spacecraft, including navigation, surveillance, and test satellites. China introduced the “next generation” Long March (LM)-6 and the LM-11 SLVs. Of military relevance, the LM-11 is a “quick response” system to orbit a small payload. In another sign of sophistication, a single LM-6 orbited 20 “CubeSats” (small satellites), including four Xingchen femto-satellites weighing only 100 grams each.
Meanwhile, China’s Beidou/Compass positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) satellite network is on track to span the globe by 2020. It is behind the U.S. GPS system, but more versatile than Russia’s GLONASS and further along than Europe’s Galileo.
It is widely known that China has developed and deployed directed energy weapons, satellite jammers, and kinetic kill vehicles; a major reason Beijing purports to champion space arms control, but categorically refuses to consider initiatives that restrict ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities.
The Chinese Navy now possesses the largest number of vessels in Asia, with more than 300 surface ships, submarines, amphibious ships, and patrol craft.
Submarine force modernization — a technologically demanding area — remains a top Chinese priority, with its navy projected to possess “between 69 and 78 submarines” by 2020. The Pentagon judges that four Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) are already “operational” and surmises that during the next decade “up to five may enter service before China begins developing and fielding its next-generation SSBN, the Type 096.” The Type 096 will boast the follow-on JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). During that time, China also “may construct a new Type 095 nuclear-powered, guided-missile attack submarine (SSGN), which not only would improve the PLAN’s anti-surface warfare capability but might also provide it with a more clandestine land-attack option.” As for nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), “four additional SHANG-class SSN (Type 093) will eventually join the two already in service.”
China is modernizing its anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) and over-the-horizon targeting needed to ensure their effectiveness at long range. In a typical example of China improving on Russian systems that it accesses, digests, and emulates, Song– and Yuan-class conventional submarines as well as Shang-class SSNs will be equipped with its “newest indigenous submarine-launched ASCM, the [supersonic] YJ-18 and its variants.”
China is capable of producing ground weapon systems at or near world class standards.” To be sure, “quality deficiencies persist with some export equipment,”
SOURCES- Pentagon, War on the Rocks