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25 janvier 2013 5 25 /01 /janvier /2013 07:35


Rex Features


Jan. 24, 2013 by Greg Waldron – FG


Singapore - on 11 January, China's defence ministry confirmed that Chengdu J-10 fighters had been dispatched to keep an eye on two Boeing F-15 aircraft operated by Japan. According to its statement, the F-15s were trailing a Shaanxi Y-8 patrolling near a cluster of islands in the East China Sea that are contested by Beijing and Tokyo.


Irrespective of the merits of either party's claim to these islands, neither side appears willing to back down. Although the prospect of an all-out war over what Tokyo calls the Senkaku and Beijing the Diaoyu islands is remote, any conflict that may develop would involve air combat - possibly on a large scale. This would lead to Japan's historically strong air force being challenged by an ambitious newcomer.


In recent years China's air force has made significant strides. It now operates almost 500 advanced fighters, including about 200 single-engined J-10s and more than 270 Shenyang J-11s and Sukhoi Su-27s (above). It also operates several hundred more examples of older types, including nearly 400 J-7s: a license-built version of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21. Unsourced media reports have speculated that some J-7s can be controlled remotely, effectively transforming them into cruise missiles.


While the Japan Air Self-Defence Force boasts fewer aircraft, it operates 153 F-15J fighters (below), 63 Mitsubishi F-2As, and over 80 McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms.



Commonwealth of Australia


Despite China's apparent numerical equality, experts feel it is in no position to impose and maintain aerial superiority - let alone aerial supremacy - over the disputed area.


"In short, Japan has a significant edge," says Oriana Mastro, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security think tank. "But the Chinese can create challenges for Japan to maintain aerial superiority."


One challenge facing Japan, she feels, is its ability to provide constant surveillance of the disputed islands. As Chinese naval and aircraft activities become more routine, it will become harder for Tokyo to determine Beijing's intentions.



Beijing's Y-8-based KJ200 surveillance aircraft are largely untested - Rex Features


Indeed, Tokyo has identified persistent surveillance as a priority area. "The current mid-term defence programme [from March 2011 to March 2015] takes drones into consideration as part of the study on warning and surveillance posture around our country," Japan's defence ministry said in an email to Flightglobal.


"We will further study the efficiency and operational role of drones, the comparison of the cost-effectiveness with existing equipment [and] offsettability, and take into account technological trends."


Although Tokyo declines to mention specific programmes, unsourced media reports have suggested that it is interested in the Northrop Grumman RQ-4N Broad Area Maritime Surveillance variant of the Global Hawk, being developed for the US Navy.


Another regional defence expert feels that Beijing would be at a significant disadvantage in any shooting war over the islands.


H-6M Bomber

China has adapted some of its aged H-6 bombers to act as tankers


"They can fly a few J-10s out and perhaps fly alongside Japanese F-15s, but could they sustainably project power that far out from the mainland over an extended period?" he asks. "China only has limited experience using its [Xian] H-6 as tankers." Tokyo, by contrast, can call on a four-strong fleet of Boeing KC-767s.


Another area where Beijing is weak is in airborne early warning and control (AEW&C). Its new force of Y-8-based KJ-200 and adapted Ilyushin Il-76 KJ-2000 platforms are untested, while Japan has four recently upgraded E-767 AEW&C aircraft (below) and 13 Northrop E-2C Hawkeyes.



US Air Force


"In a conflict Japan would have far better situational awareness," the source says. "Also, Japanese pilots are able to operate autonomously of ground control, but Chinese fighters would likely operate under GCI [ground controlled interception]."


Mastro feels that the current tensions will not greatly change long-term procurement trends, with both China and Japan to continue to build their air power capabilities. The key is for the USA and its Pacific ally to make the right procurement choices now, she says, so as to offer a capable deterrent to China 20 years from now.


"The trajectory is what concerns the USA," Mastro says. "China can create challenges without catching up, and they don't need to catch up to achieve political victories. With air power tipping in China's favour, [Beijing] may be more inclined to use force."

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23 janvier 2013 3 23 /01 /janvier /2013 08:35

Kongyu 2000 early waring aircraft


22.01.2013 Pacific Sentinel


To counter the F-22 stealth fighter in a potential air war against the United States, China is developing third-generation early warning aircraft, according to our sister paper Want Daily.
Reports published by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based thinktank, have noted that the phased array radar technology of the KJ-2000 and KJ-200 AWACS systems of the PLA Air Force is already one full generation ahead of the E-3C and E-2C early warning aircraft of the US. China is also currently one of the only four nations in the world to export its airborne early warning systems technology to foreign market after the United States, Sweden and Israel.
Read the full story at Want China Times
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21 janvier 2013 1 21 /01 /janvier /2013 19:35

le-rafale photo source india-defence


January 21, 2013 Claude Arpi - rediff.com


The People's Daily, the Chinese Communist newspaper, says the sale of the Rafale fighter plane 'encourages, excites and spurs India's appetite and ambition to become a great military power while intensifying its aggressive and expansionist tendencies, which poses a serious threat to peace and stability in Asia.'


Does India have a choice, considering the People's Liberation Army's frantic speed of development, wonders Claude Arpi.


There were six in contention; four were dropped, and one became the Chosen One: The Rafale.

In French, 'Rafale' poetically means a 'sudden gust of wind.'


It was one of the six fighter aircraft in competition for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, MMRCA, when the Indian Air Force wanted to acquire 126 polyvalent fighter planes.


In April 2011, the IAF shortlisted two birds -- the Rafale produced by Dassault Aviation and the Eurofighter (known in Europe as 'Typhoon') from EADS, the European consortium.


It was a big deal worth $12 billion. You can imagine the stakes, especially for Dassault which a few months earlier, was unsuccessful in exporting its flagship plane to Brazil and the Emirates.


Finally on January 31, 2012, the IAF announced that the Rafale was the chosen one.


The 'deal of the century' was that 18 Rafales would be supplied in fly-away condition by Dassault to the IAF by 2015 (or three years after the signature of the contract) and the remaining 108 pieces would be manufactured in India under a transfer of technology agreement.


The concurrent company did not let go easily and a lot of lobbying started. The British prime minister wanted Delhi to explain the reasons of favouring the French. 'The Typhoon is a superb aircraft, far better than the Rafale,' David Cameron said, adding: 'Of course, I will do everything I can --- as I have already -- to encourage the Indians to look at the Typhoon, because I think it is such a good aircraft.'


Interestingly, the Chinese were also unhappy with the selection of the Rafale by the IAF, but for other reasons.

An article published in The People's Daily (French edition only) argued that India and France were supposed to be non-violent countries, how could they ink such a deal?


The Chinese Communist Party newspaper affirmed: 'During the twentieth century in France there was a great writer called Romain Roland (1866-1944), the Nobel Laureate for Literature, who was strongly opposed to war. In India, there has been an illustrious politician named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) who was a pacifist leader, known worldwide for his fights against violence.'


'At present, their homelands are engaged in a sinister and repulsive arms race, which shakes and profoundly changes the international scene. If by chance these two great and illustrious men were still alive, what would they feel about this selfish and pernicious transaction and what opinion would they give in this matter?'

Is it not amusing that the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece today quotes Gandhi in connection with the Rafale deal?


The People's Daily article also says the sale of the Rafale 'encourages, excites and spurs India's appetite and ambition to become a great military power while intensifying its aggressive and expansionist tendencies, which poses a serious threat to peace and stability in Asia.'


Well, does India have a choice, considering the frantic speed of development of the PLA (People's Liberation Army), PLAAF (Chinese Air Force) and PLAN (Navy)?


A few months later, an Indian MP alleged that there had been 'manipulation in the evaluation process'.


This eventually delayed the process as an independent investigation had to be conducted; it finally concluded that the evaluation was conducted according to the RFP (Request for Proposal) terms and defence procurement procedures. The intricate negotiations thus lost several months.


Once the hurdle created by the MP was removed, it was reported that in September, while in Bangalore, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne stated that the process continued: 'The negotiations are absolutely on. We hope that at least this financial year, we should be able to finish the negotiations and finalise the deal... It is a very complex project, as we are discussing various areas like transfer of technology, the offset clause, what Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd will do and the cost as well.'


Dassault had some doubts about HAL's capacity to produce 108 aircraft; probably with reason, looking at the fate of the Tejas project which has taken more than 30 years to take off.


On November 6, Rakesh Sood, the Indian ambassador in France, told the Indian Journalists Association at India House in London that the contract would soon be concluded. 'The Rafale deal is in the final stages and hopefully, it should be concluded in the next 3 to 4 months.'


The negotiation, Sood added, was a hugely complex exercise. 'Along with that a pretty stringent clause has been put for transfer of technology, (there is an) offset clause, and Dassault Aviation has accepted them.'


At that time, it was probably thought that the signature of the deal could be synchronised with French President Francois Hollande's visit to India. Though Sood had certainly not read the French edition of The People's Daily, he spoke of France's 'long interest in Indian civilisation', adding 'recently a (French) lady had produced a nine volume Ramayana in French... Indian music, yoga and films are quite popular in France.'


Sood's conclusions about the civilisational closeness between India and France were not similar to Beijing's: India needed the Rafales. But it was not considering the cash crunch. The Indian economy was not doing as well as Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India's Planning Commission, had announced, and the fiscal deficit had to be cut, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said.


Last May, Defence Minister A K Antony told Parliament that his ministry would seek a hike in the Rs 193,408 crore (Rs 193 trillion) defence outlay of the 2012-2013 budget as only a budget increase could take care of the threat of the China-Pakistan military nexus. Antony spoke of 'new ground realities' and the 'changing security scenario'.


But with the changing scenario, the Indian defence ministry announced it had to prioritise its expenditure for the remaining months of the financial year. The ministry decided to focus on purchases that would impact on the armed forces' operational preparedness.


For example, the ministry planned to speed up infrastructure development in Arunachal Pradesh, buy ammunition to end shortages and acquire high-value assets, from aircraft to warships.


In December, the finance ministry announced that the armed forces's modernisation budget would be slashed by around Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion) in the forthcoming Budget.


The Rafale deal would have to wait for the next financial year, along with the artillery guns modernisation programme (Rs 20,000 crore/Rs 200 billion), and the creation of a new mountain corps to counter China (Rs 65,000 crore/Rs 650 billion).


In the plan expenditure, the government has already allotted Rs 55,000 crore (Rs 550 billion) for the MMRCA deal. But this was five years ago and cost escalations are bound to have crept in, which might prove to be a serious problem.


The Times of India commented: 'The move will lead to a major slowdown in the ongoing acquisition projects. It also makes it clear that the already much delayed $20 billion MMRCA project to acquire 126 fighters will not be inked anytime before March 31.'


Though the IAF had been promised an additional Rs 10,000 crore to cater for the first installment of Rafales, defence expert, Major General Mrinal Suman (retd) told The New Indian Express that the budgetary cuts would impact 'all acquisitions in the pipeline, as they become easy targets.'


A gloomy scenario


It is in these circumstances that a new development occurred -- Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid visited Paris last week. While many had doubts about the deal, Agence France Press reported that India could buy up to 189 Rafales instead of the 126.


Apparently, Khurshid raised the possibility of an additional 63 jets being added to the shopping list. A source told AFP: 'There is an option for procurement of an additional 63 aircraft subsequently for which a separate contract would need to be signed.'


The deal would then mean a staggering $18 billion contract, which would be a great boon for the French defence industry, but costly for India though Indian suppliers could secure work equivalent to 50 per cent of the total value with the clause currently under negotiations.


Khurshid seemed confident during his visit to Paris. 'We know good French wine takes time to mature and so do good contracts. The contract details are being worked out. A decision has already been taken, just wait a little for the cork to pop and you'll have some good wine to taste.'


His counterpart Laurent Fabius said, 'The final decision belongs to the Indian government in its sovereignty. But from what I am told by my colleague minister of India things are progressing well, and I can confirm the full support of the French government.'


Another issue which might slightly delay the deal is that the IAF requires two-seater jets and not the one-seater model presently produced by Dassault, but this should be solved in due time.


The People's Daily had said, 'The delirious and bustling feeling of excitement from the French side resembles the behavior of Fanjin, which had a fit of madness upon learning that he was successful in the three-year provincial tests (under the Ming and Qing dynasties).' It is not exactly the attitude of the French (and the Indian) authorities who are progressing slowly, but surely towards an agreement, which is very important for both countries.

One can however understand that the Chinese are nervous.


Major General Luo Yuan, a well-known Chinese expert on military issues, recently quoted the ancient Art of War: 'The best policy in war is to thwart the enemy's strategy; the second best is to disrupt his alliances through diplomatic means; the third best is to attack his army in the field; the worst policy of all is to attack walled cities,' his conclusion was that to thwart the enemy's strategy, deterrence is the key.



It is valid for India too; too much delay in the 'deal' won't be good.

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18 janvier 2013 5 18 /01 /janvier /2013 13:35



January 18, 2013: Strategy Page


Photos from China confirm rumors that the air force there has been developing an air transport similar to the American C-17. The new Chinese aircraft is called the Y-20 and appears to have a max weight of 220 tons and a max payload of 80 tons. In most other respects it appears very similar to the C-17. The Y-20 will likely include many characteristics of the 195 ton Il-76, a Russian heavy transport that can carry up to 50 tons and that the Chinese have been using for decades. The two Y-20 prototypes have been undergoing ground taxi tests, which usually happens within months, or up to a year before the first flight.


The C-17 entered service 17 years ago and each one has a useful life of 30,000 flight hours. The 290 ton C-17 can carry up to 100 tons (including one M-1 tank) anywhere in the world because of in-air refueling. The C-17 costs about $250 million each. Britain, with eight, is the largest foreign user of the C-17. Australia and the UAE each have six while Canada and Qatar each have four. India has ordered ten. The U.S. Air Force operates 203. China does not need that many Y-20s, but it does want to get away from depending on Russia for heavy transports. Dealing with Russia can be difficult.


Last year China revived, in part, a 2005 deal to buy Il-76 transports from Russia. The new arrangement only involved China buying ten refurbished Il-76s. Back in 2005, China placed a $1.5 billion order for 38 Il-76 transport planes and Il-78s (tanker versions of the Il-76). A year later China cancelled the deal when Russia tried to up the price 27 percent. China went looking elsewhere, including urging its domestic aircraft manufacturers to come up with something. That process eventually led to the Y-20, but in the meantime China needs some more jet powered military transports.


Similar to the older American C-141, the Il-76 was originally only manufactured in Uzbekistan. That's because one of the Russian aircraft plants moved east during the German invasion of 1941, and ended up in Central Asia, a part of the Soviet Union that became independent Uzbekistan in 1991. Over the last decade Russia has been moving Il-76 production from Uzbekistan to Russia.


Over 900 Il-76s were manufactured over the last thirty years, most by what is now the Chkalov Tashkent Aircraft Production Company in Uzbekistan. Nearly a hundred Il-76s were exported, so far, mainly to Cuba, Iraq, China, India, Libya, and Syria. However, until the 2005 Chinese order came along, Chkalov was surviving by manufacturing wings and other components for the An-124, An-70, and An-225 transports. In addition, it made replacement parts for the Il-76 and Il-114 aircraft.


Russian commercial aircraft survived during the Cold War partly because they had a captive market (the former Soviet Union, the East European nations the Soviets dominated) and were attractive to a few other nations looking for cheap, often free, and rugged aircraft. While many old Soviet transports still serve on in secondary markets, these designs are no longer competitive. Western models, while more expensive, are cheaper and easier to operate. The old Soviet era aviation firms have tried hard to compete, but that competition will eventually kill off most of the Soviet era producers, leaving only a few who managed to catch up with the rest of the world or found a specialized niche.


China is no longer interested in buying 38 Il-76/78s but is willing to work with Russia in developing a Chinese replacement for the Il-76. That’s the Y-20 which is using Russian engines and much more Russian aviation technology as well.

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16 janvier 2013 3 16 /01 /janvier /2013 20:35

asia-pacific source harvard.edu


16 janvier Par Edouard Pflimlin, chercheur associé à l’IRIS - affaires-strategiques.info


En matière de dépenses militaires en Asie, c’est généralement la Chine qui frappe les esprits. Mais en ce début d’année, c’est le Japon qui surprend. L’exécutif japonais affiche sa volonté d’accroître, pour la première fois depuis 11 ans, le budget de la défense de l’Archipel. Le ministère de la Défense japonais a indiqué mercredi 9 janvier qu’il souhaitait bénéficier d’une rallonge budgétaire de 180,5 milliards de yens (1,6 milliard d’euros) pour moderniser quatre avions-chasseurs F15, acheter des nouveaux systèmes antimissiles PAC-3 et des hélicoptères, dans le cadre d’un plan de relance économique préparé par le gouvernement. Devrait s’y ajouter une trentaine de milliards de yens (25 millions d’euros) supplémentaires pour l’année en cours, non inclue dans le train de mesures économiques spéciales.


Plus précisément, le grand quotidien Yomiuri Shimbun(1) , indique mercredi 9 janvier que cette hausse répond à plusieurs objectifs :
- assurer le paiement des coûts du carburant et de maintenance pour les avions d’alerte précoce et de de contrôle ;
- permettre la recherche sur la technologie radar capable de détecter des petits avions à longue distance.
- permettre les préparatifs pour l’introduction de l’avion de transport MV-22 Osprey de l’armée américaine. Cet avion à décollage vertical peut voler plus loin et plus vite que les hélicoptères actuels du Japon, permettant à ses troupes d’atteindre plus facilement les îles japonaises lointaines.

L’annonce par le ministère de la Défense japonais est intervenue au lendemain de l’annonce par le Parti Libéral Démocrate (PLD) au pouvoir depuis le 26 décembre sous la direction du premier ministre, Shinzo Abe, que le Japon devrait augmenter ses dépenses militaires pour l’année budgétaire 2013-2014 qui commence au 1er avril.

Avec cette rallonge, le budget de la défense devrait atteindre autour de 4 700 milliards de yen, soit 41 milliards d’euros. La demande du ministère de la Défense doit encore être approuvée par celui des finances avant d’être incluse dans le paquet de relance de plus de 110 milliards d’euros pour l’année courant jusqu’au 31 mars. Le tout doit être annoncé prochainement par le gouvernement de Shinzo Abe. Le PDL et son allié clé, le parti Nouveau Komeito, ont remporté 325 sièges (sur 480) à la Chambre basse lors des élections générales le 16 décembre dernier, ce qui signifie que le parti au pouvoir pourrait faire passer ses projets budgétaires à la Diète même s’ils se voyaient opposer un veto à la Chambre haute.

Hausse modeste du budget

Le budget militaire n’avait pas connu de hausse depuis 2002, alors que le Japon traîne une dette colossale équivalant à près de 240 % de PIB. La hausse est certes modeste par rapport à celle que connaît le budget de la défense chinois habitué aux taux de croissance à deux chiffres. Néanmoins, elle marque un tournant dans la politique de défense japonaise. Sur l’exercice budgétaire en cours, qui s’achève en mars, le budget de la défense a subi une dixième année de baisse consécutive à 4.650 milliards de yens (40 milliards d’euros environ). Fin octobre dernier, le gouvernement de Yoshihiko Noda avait toutefois débloqué des crédits supplémentaires de 17 milliards de yens (170 millions d’euros à l’époque) en faveur des garde-côtes pour, selon l’agence de presse Kyodo, se procurer quatre patrouilleurs de 1.000 tonnes, trois autres de 30 mètres de long et trois hélicoptères capables de voler par gros temps. De son côté, fin décembre, la Chine a ajouté deux destroyers et neuf autres navires de guerre à sa flotte de surveillance maritime.

La hausse est symbolique de la volonté des nouveaux dirigeants nippons d’affirmer la position régionale du Japon, surtout en période de tension avec le grand voisin chinois ainsi, quoiqu’à un degré moindre, avec la Corée du Sud. « Nous avons besoin d’améliorer nos équipements à un moment où l’environnement sécuritaire du Japon est devenu plus dur : la Corée du Nord a procédé à deux lancements tests de missiles l’année dernière, et les tensions avec la Chine se poursuivent. », en raison d’un conflit territorial en mer de Chine orientale, a précisé mercredi à l’AFP un responsable du ministère de la Défense.

Les relations sino-japonaises sont exécrables depuis quatre mois à cause d’un conflit territorial en mer de Chine orientale. Pékin clame vigoureusement sa souveraineté sur les îles Diaoyu, tandis que Tokyo, qui les administre sous le nom de Senkaku, n’entend pas en céder un pouce. Pékin envoie régulièrement des navires patrouiller dans les eaux territoriales de cet archipel inhabité à 200 km au Nord-Est des côtes de Taïwan et 400 km à l’ouest de l’île d’Okinawa (Sud du Japon), en mer de Chine orientale. Lundi 7 janvier, 4 navires de surveillance maritime chinois sont entrés dans les eaux territoriales japonaises. La Chine a même envoyé fin décembre un appareil survoler l’archipel, ce qui a provoqué le décollage immédiat de chasseurs nippons. Outre sa position hautement stratégique, l’archipel recèlerait d’hydrocarbures dans ses fonds marins. Suite à la dernière incursion maritime lundi, Tokyo a convoqué mardi l’ambassadeur chinois en poste au Japon.

Réarmement ou remilitarisation ?

Cette hausse du budget japonais est une traduction de l’engagement et de la volonté du premier ministre, Shinzo Abe, de renforcer la défense de son pays. Le budget militaire japonais est déjà le 6e de la planète. Le Japon a une des armées les plus grandes et les plus avancées en Asie, mais il a maintenu jusqu’à présent un profil bas pour éviter de remuer des souvenirs des exactions commises par l’empire japonais au XXe siècle, notamment en Chine et en Corée.

Aussi cette évolution nouvelle questionne. Assiste-t-on à un réarmement du Japon, voire à une remilitarisation de l’Archipel nippon ?

Le réarmement est en réalité à l’œuvre depuis de nombreuses années comme le montrent l’acquisition récente programmée sur plusieurs années de 42 avions de chasse américains furtifs F-35(2) à plus de 100 millions de dollars l’unité, l’augmentation – prévue par le pouvoir précédent - du nombre de sous-marins passant de 16 à 22(3) ou encore l’acquisition de destroyers porte-hélicoptères aux dimensions de porte-avions(4) . A cela s’ajoutent la volonté d’acheter des drones d’observation américains Global Hawk comme le rapporte la revue Jane’s defence weekly, le 2 janvier, afin de renforcer la surveillance des eaux territoriales japonaises. Ils pourraient être introduits pour cette mission autour des Senkaku d’ici à 2015(5) . De leur côté, les Chinois ont d’ailleurs aussi des programmes de développement de drones et pourraient « construire 11 bases de lancement de drones le long des côtes d’ici à 2015 ». Une course aux drones est lancée entre les deux pays...

Par ailleurs, d’après le quotidien Yomiuri, le 8 janvier, le programme quinquennal d’acquisitions de matériels militaires sera revu d’ici à la fin de l’année 2013. Ces évolutions ont fait s’envoler les actions de groupes industriels japonais d’aéronautique et armement mercredi 9 janvier à la Bourse de Tokyo. L’action de Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) a gagné 4,98% à 442 yens, et celle de IHI 6,49% à 246 yens. MHI fabrique sous licence les avions F-15 et systèmes PAC-3 pour lesquels IHI fournit des moteurs.

A cette modernisation des moyens et équipements s’ajoute l’évolution de la doctrine de défense. Celle-ci devrait aussi être modifiée assez rapidement. Le Japon reverra sa politique de défense d’ici à la fin de l’année, écrit aussi mardi 8 janvier le Yomiuri. L’actuel Livre blanc de la défense japonaise remonte à deux ans. Adopté pour une période de dix ans par le Parti démocrate alors au pouvoir, il prône des réductions dans le budget de la défense et dans les effectifs de l’armée de terre dont les effectifs devaient diminuer de 1 000 hommes à 154 000.

Cette politique de défense a été critiquée par Shinzo Abe, qui a ramené le Parti libéral démocrate au pouvoir à la faveur des législatives du 16 décembre dernier. Le premier ministre défend, lui, une augmentation des dépenses militaires et des effectifs des forces japonaises. Il milite également pour une révision de la Constitution pacifiste du Japon, en vigueur depuis 1947.

Remilitarisation du Japon donc ? Il est encore trop tôt pour l’affirmer tant la population reste profondément attachée au pacifisme. Il convient plutôt de parler d’une réaffirmation de la place du Japon sur la scène internationale et régionale. D’ailleurs, selon le site The Diplomat(6) , le Japon envisage aussi maintenant plusieurs scénarios de guerre avec la Chine, notamment autour des îles Senkaku mais aussi sur Taïwan si l’île venait à être attaquée par Pékin.

Ces évolutions sont sources de nouvelles tensions et d’autant plus inquiétantes que, selon une étude publiée en octobre dernier par le Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), un think tank américain, les dépenses de défense dans les pays d’Asie qui y consacrent le plus gros budget - Chine, Inde, Japon, Corée du Sud et Taïwan - ont pratiquement doublé en dix ans, quadruplant en Chine. Le total des budgets militaires de ces cinq pays a atteint 224 milliards de dollars en 2011, estimait le CSIS.

La course aux armements en Asie n’est donc pas prête de s’arrêter, alors qu’au Nord de l’Archipel nippon la Russie modernise ses forces, et notamment la flotte du Pacifique et que le budget de la défense japonaise ne représente que 1 % du PIB et a donc de la marge pour éventuellement s’accroître...

(1) http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/nationa...
(2) http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com...
(3) http://www.affaires-strategiques.in...
(4) http://www.affaires-strategiques.in...
(5) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/201...

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15 janvier 2013 2 15 /01 /janvier /2013 23:18



January 15, 2013 China Defense Blog



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10 janvier 2013 4 10 /01 /janvier /2013 13:35



January 10, 2013: Strategy Page


Recent Chinese TV coverage of Chinese Air Force training revealed that the code word for the main Chinese training base is “Area 52”. This is an interesting shout-out to the U.S. Air Force Tonopah Test Range (also known as Area 52) in Nevada. This has long been the site for testing new aircraft, and providing advanced training for fighter pilots. Nearby is Area 51, an even more secretive base used for experimental aircraft and, according to local lore, UFO activity.


What this shows is how much China understands that the only way to achieve victory in the air is to adopt Western pilot training methods. China is doing this in a big way. China is already getting rid of its thousands of old Cold War era warplanes. These were copies of Russian designs and Chinese air force experts noted that no one ever won a war with these aircraft. Since the 1990s China has been acquiring Western-style designs (MiG-29, Su-27/30) from Russia and developing similar aircraft. But these aircraft are only effective if operated by highly trained and experienced pilots. So China has provided the large quantities of fuel and spare parts needed to keep their several hundred modern fighters in the air a lot. This, however, was not enough. The pilots who started out on the old Cold War style aircraft did not become much better when moved to modern fighters, even after a lot of time in the air. Something was missing, and that turned out to be technical education and specialized training in the intricacies of modern air combat. That meant greater use of realistic flight simulators (so very dangerous maneuvers could be practiced). So the Chinese are taking care of all this, including establishing a “pilot university” that provides a four year academic and flight training program. All this closely follows methods and techniques pioneered by the United States.


The Chinese Air Force now has a training unit that will accurately (as possible) portray enemy (especially American and Indian) aircraft and combat tactics. Thus there are three Blue-Army Aggressor Squadrons (Blue is the bad guys in Chinese training, Red is the good guys) for this. One is equipped with Su-30s, to represent American F-15s or Indian or Vietnamese Su-30s. Another has the J-10A, which is similar to the F-16. The third squadron has J-7s (Chinese copies of the MiG-21), which represent low end threats, like the many MiG-21s India still uses.


Using your own aircraft for "aggressor (or dissimilar) training" began in 1969, when the U.S. Navy established the original "Top Gun" fighter pilot school. This was done in response to the poor performance of its pilots against North Vietnamese pilots flying Russian fighters. What made the Top Gun operation different was that the training emphasized how the enemy aircraft and pilots operated. This was called "dissimilar training". In the past, American pilots practiced against American pilots, with everyone flying American aircraft and using American tactics. It worked in World War II because the enemy pilots were not getting a lot of practice and were using similar aircraft and tactics anyway. Most importantly, there was a lot of aerial combat going on, providing ample opportunity for on-the-job training. Not so in Vietnam, where the quite different Russian trained North Vietnamese were giving U.S. aviators an awful time. The four week Top Gun program solved the problem. The air force followed shortly with its Red Flag school. In the early 1980s, the Russians established a dissimilar air combat school (and began building Western style fighters), and the Chinese followed in 1987.


Over the last four decades the two American training programs have developed differently, and the entire concept of "dissimilar training" has changed. The navy kept Top Gun as a program to hone fighter pilot's combat skills. The air force made their Red Flag program more elaborate, bringing in the many different types of aircraft involved in combat missions (especially electronic warfare).


After the Cold War ended in 1991, it became increasingly obvious that none of our potential enemies was providing their fighter pilots with much training at all. In other words, the dissimilar training for U.S. fighter pilots was not as crucial as it had been during the Cold War. Actually, it had been noted that flying skills of Soviet pilots was declining in the 1980s, as economic problems in the USSR led to cuts in flying time. During that period American pilots were actually increasing their flying time. Moreover, U.S. flight simulators were getting better. American pilots were finding that even the game oriented combat flight simulators had some training value. But now, with China aggressively doing all they can to improve pilot quality, the U.S. has to pay more attention to staying ahead.

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9 janvier 2013 3 09 /01 /janvier /2013 08:35

China Carrier (Liaoning)


January 8, 2013 china-defense-mashup.com


1. China’s first aircraft carrier, the “Liaoning” ship, was officially delivered to PLA Navy.


After the construction, test and trial navigation were completed as scheduled, China’s first aircraft carrier was formally delivered to the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on September 25, 2012.


Approved by the Central Military Commission (CMC), it was named the “Liaoning” ship of the PLA Navy with a designated hull number of “16″. Related scientific experiments and military trainings continued following the official delivery and commissioning of the “Liaoning” ship.


On November 25, Chinese Navy’s first batch of carrier-borne aircraft pilots successfully flew the home-made J-15 fighters to accomplish the arrested deck landing and ski-jump takeoff on the “Liaoning” ship.


2. The U.S. announced new military strategy.


US President Barack Obama announced a new military strategy on January 5, 2012 to shift U.S. focus to the Asia-Pacific region. According to the strategy, the U.S. will slim down its army’s scale, reduce its military presence in Europe and strengthen its military presence to the Asia-Pacific region.


The US Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta expounded the “rebalance strategy in Asia-Pacific region” at the Shangri-La Dialogue on June 2, 2012 and stated that the U.S. would deploy 60% of its warships in the Pacific Ocean by 2020.


3. Russia’s first fifth-generation strategic missile corps established


The Russian Ministry of Defense announced the establishment of its first fully-equipped missile corps of the fifth-generation guided missiles, namely “Yars” and “Aspen-M”, on September 20 in the State of Ivanovo near Moscow. After the fifth-generation guided missile system is equipped, Russia further enhanced its capability to break through the anti-missile system.


Prior to that, the NATO announced the official launch of the European anti-missile system on May 20.


4. “RIMPAC 2012 exercise held


The world’s largest multi-national maritime military joint exercise, namely the “Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012″ led by the U.S. was held in Hawaii and its surrounding waters on June 29 with the participation of 42 warships, 6 submarines, 200-plus aircraft and 25,000 soldiers from 22 countries. Russia and India participated in the exercise for the first time.


The contents of this exercise included the offense-defense combat of aircraft carriers, beach landing drills and others aiming to test the coordinated operation capability between the U.S. fleet and the allied fleets in the Asia-Pacific region.


5. Israel took “Defense Pillar” military action against Gaza.


The number of rockets fired into Israel by armed personnel of Palestinians saw sudden increase in Gaza Strip starting from November 10. Israel’s Defense Forces initiated a large-scale military operation, code-named “Defense Pillar”, against Gaza from November 14 to 21.


This action led to the death of 162 Palestinians, including Jabari, the No. 2 leader of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and leader of the Qassam Brigade, together with the destruction of a great number of infrastructures in Gaza. This was the most intense fire exchange between Israel and Hamas in recent years.


6. Syrian civil war upgraded


The Syrian government forces and the main opposition armed forces successively expressed their willingness on October 25 to accept the proposal made by Brahimi, the special representative of the UN-Arab League’s envoy for the Syrian crisis, to cease fire during the Eid al-Adha period.


However, on the first day of the ceasefire, also the first day of Eid al-Adha festival, a car bomb exploded in the south of Damascus, capital of Syria, killing 5 and injuring 32, and nullified the agreement of the Eid al-Adha ceasefire. Under the support from exterior forces, the Syrian opposition armed forces gained rapid growth in their strength and more places kept falling into their control.


7. DPRK successfully launched “Light Star III” satellite.


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) used the Galaxy III carrier rocket and successfully launched the second “Light Star” satellite into the pre-selected orbit on December 12.


The U.S. and its allies held that DPRK’s usage of the satellite launch to test its ballistic missile technology posed a threat against the peace and security in the region, and committed a provocative act to undermine the global non-proliferation system.


8. Indian test-fire of intermediate-range ballistic missile “Agni-5 successful


India successfully launched the “Agni-5″ intermediate-range ballistic missile on April 19 for the first time. With a range of 5,000-plus kilometers, the missile is capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads. To date, it is India’s farthest-reaching missiles, covering the entire Asian continent, half of Europe and most of the Indian Ocean.


9. U.S. and its allies held “Schriever-2012 joint military exercise.


The U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, France, Australia and other countries held the “Schriever – 2012″ international military exercise from April 19 to 26 at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Through the use of network to simulate military operations in outer space, the operations of aerospace and cyberspace were closely integrated with the cooperation between the U.S. and its allies being greatly promoted in the fields of aerospace and cyberspace.


10. UN Security Council decided to deploy Africa-led Support Mission in Mali.


Both Mali of the West Africa and Somalia of the East Africa and their nearby areas have witnessed an aggravated threat of terrorism in 2012. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on December 20 to deploy an African-led international support mission in Mali (African-led Support Mission).


In a statement made by the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja on November 12, a total of 3,300 soldiers will be dispatched to Mali in order to help Mali fight against the armed organizations in the north.

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28 décembre 2012 5 28 /12 /décembre /2012 08:30


Chinese made Z-9 helicopter. (photo : K.L. Yim)


 24.12.2012 Defense Studies


Choppers Cambodia-bound
Cambodia's air force will be strengthened by the arrival of 12 military helicopters, including four attack choppers, from China next year, government officials said yesterday.
Prak Sokha, a spokesman for the Royal Cambodian Air Force, told the Post yesterday that 25 Cambodian pilots and mechanics were training in China in preparation for the Kingdom receiving the Chinese-made Z-9 helicopters between April and August.
“We expect that by April, some of them will finish their training and will return with two helicopters,” he said.
Of the 12 helicopters, four would be used for fighting purposes, six for general transport and two for transporting high-ranking officials, Sokha said.
These comments echoed earlier reports quoting Royal Cambodian Arm Forces commander Pol Sarouen and Royal Cambodian Air Force commander Soeung Samnang saying similar things.
“What I am not so clear on is whether the Cambodian government has bought these or whether they have been granted to us,” Sokha said.The government, boasting of a new era of cooperation with China, announced in August last year it had struck a deal with the superpower to receive a batch of Z-9 helicopters for $195 million. Media reports at the time suggested a loan from China would cover the cost.
About 100 tanks and 40 armoured personnel carriers, believed to be from Ukraine, arrived at Sihanoukville port in late October, one of the largest single shipments of military vehicles in Cambodia’s recent history.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said he was concerned about the percentage of the national budget allocated to military spending and the fact the government was making decisions about purchases without debate in parliament.
“We have doubts about equipment that is not accounted for or [deals] that are not transparent,” he said.
Chhay said military equipment from China was often expensive and of poor quality and the origin and volume of Cambodia’s military acquisitions were a topic for parliament.
“We as parliamentarians have a right to know,” he said.
Mey Vann, a director from the Ministry of Finance, could not be reached for comment.


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21 décembre 2012 5 21 /12 /décembre /2012 12:35

Yi Long UAV pic1

Chinese Yi-Long (Wing Loong) UCAV


20 December 2012 William Gallo – Pacific Sentinel


Analysts say China is using its rapidly expanding defense budget to make impressive advances in drone technology, prompting some to worry that the United States' global dominance in the market could soon be challenged.


At a recent biennial airshow in the southern coastal city of Zhuhai, China unveiled a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Long-time observers of Chinese military capability reported the drones on display were bigger and more sophisticated than in the past.


Though many of the prototypes and models on display at the Zhuhai air show did not have explicit military purposes, others appeared to be clones of U.S. drones, such as the Predator or Reaper, which have both been used in deadly missions on suspected militants.


There is no evidence suggesting China plans to use its drones in a similar manner as the United States, and observers say Beijing is still likely far behind Washington in drone technology.


US Defense Report Calls China's drone advances "alarming"


But a report published in July by the Defense Science Board, a committee that advises the U.S. Defense Department, suggested that Beijing's ramped up spending and research on drones could threaten U.S. supremacy in the sector.


The unclassified report called China's recent focus on UAVs "alarming," warning Beijing could "easily match or outpace U.S. spending on unmanned systems, rapidly close the technology gaps and become a formidable global competitor in unmanned systems."


Richard Bitzinger, an ex-CIA analyst and senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, says he dismisses parts of that report as being "melodramatic."


"There's certainly cause for concern and for watchfulness. But how could the Chinese outspend the United States on drones? I just don't see it," he said. "The United States has literally thousands of drones."


How has China used drones?


Bitzinger says it is difficult to determine how China, or any other country, uses drones, partly because of their often-times covert nature. He says drone programs with obvious military purposes are often disguised as only having humanitarian roles, such as disaster relief, counter-piracy or crime-fighting.


"Kind of all these warm fuzzies, these kind of 'mom-and-apple-pie,' benign things that you can say 'That's what we're building the drones for, and oh, by the way, we have a military purpose for them, as well," said Bitzinger. "When I hear all the kind of uplifting and peaceful-sounding kind of things [about drones], I think 'So what. They can be converted in a matter of hours, if not sooner, into an offensive, or at least an explicitly military, capability.'"


For China, state media said those reportedly peaceful missions include patrolling maritime regions. In September, the Xinhua news agency reported that China's State Oceanic Administration would step up the use of drones to "strengthen marine surveillance" in disputed areas of the South China Sea. A government report earlier this year called for 11 drone bases to be established along China's coastline by 2015.


But other missions were seemingly more mundane. The state-run Global Times reported in June that Beijing police is using a drone to spot illegal opium poppies in rural areas of the capital. Last year, the paper said the department would also use unmanned aircraft to "monitor traffic accidents, conduct aerial surveillance, or help with rescue operations."


So far there are no known instances of China carrying out deadly attacks with weaponized UAVs. But Li Yidong, a designer for the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, told the Global Times that one of the UAVs on display at the Zhuhai air show appears to have carried out 20 missions and fired 15 missiles, judging from the number of red stars and missile patterns on the drone.


At the Zhuhai air show, Huang Wei, the director of a drone program at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation told the Global Times that UAVs were, "as the Americans say," fit for missions that are "dirty, dangerous and dull."


Possible deadly missions in the future?


Bitzinger warns that if Beijing did decide to use drones for explicitly offensive missions, such as targeting suspected militants, it would likely draw on the experience of the U.S. military, which has used the highly effective unmanned planes to target militants in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen.


"The United States is basically field-testing the whole idea of drone warfare," said Bitzinger. "Armed hunter-killer drones have been going very well for the United States. And people walk away with this as a lesson. One of the lessons is, "Gee, it would sure be nice to have one of those things."


Wendell Minnick, Asia bureau chief at Defense News, says there is no evidence to suggest that China desires to carry out deadly drone strikes. But he says that if it did, it would likely point to U.S. drone use as justification.


"There's certainly an argument to be made that if the U.S. can make the same type of judgment call and justification for hitting militants in Pakistan, what's to stop the Chinese from hitting Tibetan or Uighur rebel groups that are technically within China's own sovereign country?" he asks.


The danger of Chinese drone exports


Another area of concern for the United States is that China will increasingly export its relatively inexpensive drone technology to nations around the world. That fear was heightened when the Global Times said in November that "some foreign sales" were reported at the Zhuhai air show.


Minnick says that Chinese drones, many of which are specifically produced for the export market, are very attractive for nations that cannot afford or are otherwise prevented from purchasing the U.S. alternatives.


"Our drone exports are very expensive platforms, very sophisticated. The Chinese produce a much cheaper variety that basically does the same job," said Minnick. "The Chinese have got cheap labor, technological know-how, and are looking at an export market that's growing."


But Bitzinger says price is only one factor that nations consider when purchasing foreign military equipment. He warns Beijing will not likely become the "Wal-Mart" of international drone sales anytime soon.


"I'm sure they'd like to be, but the question is, do you want to buy Chinese equipment?" asks Bitzinger. "The reliability, the maintenance of these things is still unproven, and there's a lot of political baggage that comes with buying Chinese [products]."


Bitzinger also says Chinese exports of drones may be limited by international arms sales regulations that govern exports of weapons and "dual-use" goods that have both civilian and military purposes.


Still, Bitzinger and other analysts warn against being dismissive of Chinese drone capability.


"I think at this point, they're still very much in that developmental, exploratory phase," he said. "That aside, I don't see them getting out of the business. I think they'll continue to work on it and get better."

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21 décembre 2012 5 21 /12 /décembre /2012 08:45

DF31A Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile


December 19, 2012: Strategy Page


On December 7th China conducted another test of its truck mounted DF-31A ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile). This was the second such test in the last four months and indicates that the DF-31A has matured after two decades of being questionable. Seventeen years ago China put the DF-31 into service, sort of. This was China's first solid fuel ICBM (and had a range of over 8,000 kilometers) and was roughly equivalent to the U.S. 30 ton Minuteman I (which entered service in 1962 with a range of 9,900 kilometers). The DF-31 weighs about 41 tons, 20 meters (62 feet) long, and 2.25 meters (7 feet) in diameter. It was designed for use on submarines, land silos, and mobile launchers. The truck mounted ones halt at those "parking lots in the middle of nowhere," visible in satellite pictures of Qinghai province, and fire from positions the missile guidance system has already been programmed with. The DF-31 has been shown stored in a TEL (transporter, erector, launcher) vehicle. Driving these vehicles along special highways in remote areas provides more protection from counterattacks rather than using a reinforced silo. The improved DF-31A has multiple (up to 5) warheads and more range (up to 12,000 kilometers, which could cover most of the United States).


The DF-31 has been in development for over twenty years and only had its first successful launch twelve years ago. It's now believed to have a reliable and accurate guidance system, as well as a third stage that carries multiple 50 kiloton nuclear warheads. Only about a dozen DF-31s are in service, plus about a dozen DF-31As. Many of these appear to be aimed at European Russia.


Last July the new DF-41 ICBM with multiple warheads was tested. China can apparently put 3-10 warheads in the DF-41 final stage. The DF-41 has not been displayed publicly but thanks to most Chinese having cell phones, and many knowing how to send photos to foreign web sites without getting arrested, there are photos of the DF-41 available. The DF-41 appears to have had a lot of development problems because few have been built and fewer (less than a dozen) put into service. The DF-41 is the only Chinese ICBM that can reach all of the United States.


Three years ago China announced that its nuclear armed ballistic missiles were not aimed at anyone. Like most countries, China has long refused to say who its nuclear armed missiles are aimed at. Most of those missiles only have enough range to hit Russia or India, or other nearby nations. For a long time most were very definitely aimed at Russia, which had rocky relations with China from the 1960s to the 1990s. But after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the new and much smaller Russia became friendlier with the wealthier (more capitalist but still run by communists) China. Relations between China and India also warmed up and then went into a deep freeze during the past decade.


China is believed to have over 400 nuclear warheads, most of them installed on ballistic missiles. Only a few dozen of these missiles can reach the United States. These include the older (and about to be retired) DF-5, plus the newer DF-31A and DF-41. For the last two decades China has had about two dozen DF-5 ICBMs, their only missiles that can reach the United States. Few of these are believed to be operational because of reliability and maintenance problems. The U.S. has since installed 18 ICBM interceptor missile systems in Alaska. These are to deal with North Korean missiles but could also destroy most Chinese missiles headed for the United States. Thus it makes sense for China to simply say that it is not aiming any of its missiles at anyone. Modern guidance systems can be quickly (in less than an hour) programmed for a new target, so it doesn't really matter that, normally, the missiles have no target information in them. The DF-5s, moreover, are liquid fueled and the considerable activity required to ready them for launch can be detected by spy satellites.


The DF-5s are to be replaced by solid fuel DF-41s. These missiles can be moved, erected, and launched from a special truck. With a 15,000 kilometer range they can reach all of the United States. The third stage contains 3-10 warheads, each with an explosive yield of at least 100 KT. The DF-41s appear similar to the American 36 ton Minuteman III (a 1960s design that has been much upgraded since then).


India is of growing concern to China but there are shorter range ballistic missiles, like the DF-21, to deal with that threat. The Chinese introduced the DF-21 in 1999, and now has over a hundred in service. Many have non-nuclear warheads. This missile has a range of over 1,800 kilometers and can haul a 300 kiloton nuclear warhead. It's a two stage, 15 ton, solid fuel rocket. Launched from Tibet, the DF-21 can reach most major targets in India.


Then there is a submarine launched missile the JL (Julang) 2 SLBM (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile). This missile has had a lot of problems as have the SSBNs (ballistic missile carrying nuclear subs) that carried them. The 42 ton JL-2 has a range of 8,000 kilometers and would enable China to aim missiles at any target in the United States from a 094 class SSBN cruising off Hawaii or Alaska. Each 094 boat can carry twelve of these missiles, which are naval versions of the existing land based 42 ton DF-31 ICBM. The JL-2 was supposed to have entered service three years ago but kept failing test launches. No Chinese SSBN has ever gone on a combat cruise because these boats have been very unreliable.


About two thirds of Chinese nuclear warheads are believed to be in missile warheads, most of them DF-21s. Normally, these warheads are stored separately and mated to the missiles only for actual use or the occasional training exercise.

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1 décembre 2012 6 01 /12 /décembre /2012 08:00
China Grows A Pair

November 30, 2012: Strategy page


China has put two helicopter gunship designs into production. Both the "back-up design" (WZ-19) and the troubled (and delayed) favorite WZ-10 have entered service. The WZ-19 armed scout helicopter has been spotted in the air for two years now, most recently painted in military colors. The WZ-19 was earlier known as the Z-9W. The WZ-19 is yet another Chinese helicopter based on the Eurocopter Dauphin (which has been built under license in China for two decades). The WZ-19 is a 4.5 ton, two seat armed helicopter. It can carry a 23mm autocannon and up to a ton of munitions (missiles, usually). Cruising speed is 245 kilometers an hour and range is 700 kilometers. The WZ-19 is basically an upgraded Z-9W.


China Grows A Pair

China has also been developing (since the 1990s) a larger (7 ton) and more complex WZ-10 helicopter gunship. This project has been going on for 14 years and several prototypes have been built. Attempts to buy or steal helicopter gunship technology from Russia and South Africa failed. Two years ago some of the prototypes were sent to Chinese Army aviation units for field testing. While not a failure, the Z-19 was apparently seen as a more capable combat helicopter. The WZ-10 had a lot of problems and was, at one point, in danger of being abandoned. The Chinese persevered and fixed most of the defects and put WZ-10 into production. Because the Z-19 is basically an armed scout helicopter and China still wants something more like the American AH-64 Apache, the WZ-10 was made to work, after a fashion.

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28 novembre 2012 3 28 /11 /novembre /2012 13:15



27 November 2012 By Sarosh Bana-  Pacific Ssentinel.


US President Obama was hard pressed to play the pacifist at a rather fractious ASEAN summit in Cambodia, where discussions on the maritime disputes of some of the grouping’s 10 members with China boiled over. The three-day annual summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations concluded on 20 November without resolving the dispute between these countries and a by far militarily superior China. The impasse thwarted the 45-year-old grouping’s efforts towards deepening cohesion within this economically vibrant region and its aspirations of transforming itself into an EU-like community by the end of 2015.
Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over almost the entire South China and East China seas have sparked disputes with its neighbours such as Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. Apart from Japan and Taiwan, the rest are ASEAN member countries, as also Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand. The bone of contention has been the various island enclaves, not of much value in themselves, but the possession of which would provide strategic, resource-rich continental shelves and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) that extend 200 nautical miles from the low-water shoreline.
Neither the United States nor China is a member of ASEAN, but each has votaries in the group. The flashpoint at the summit was the draft statement of the chairman – Cambodia, a staunch ally of Beijing – that pointed to a consensus against internationalising the South China Sea issue. This agitated the representatives of the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, in particular, rose to challenge what he said was Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s attempt to preclude any debate on the territorial disputes and divert the focus onto economic issues instead.
Cautioning against allowing such disputes to escalate, Obama urged the gathering to take steps to ease tensions. He, however, avoided any talk on this issue in his meeting with outgoing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the last day of the summit. Washington has nevertheless advocated a “code of conduct” that would avert any clashes in the disputed territories.
China has long held the position that whatever disputes that may arise should be resolved through consultations and negotiations by the concerned sovereign states. In Phnom Penh it, however, said it was open to debating the issue within ASEAN, though without the involvement of any other parties, an oblique reference to the United States.
Coincidentally or not, China’s maritime disputes with its neighbours in the littoral have been gaining global attention ever since Obama’s announcement in January 2012 of his country’s “pivot” strategy in the Asia-Pacific. These developments are posing a threat to this fastest growing economic region in the world and its vital waterways, confounding diplomatic efforts, rousing hostilities and heralding a geopolitical power struggle between the world’s two leading economies – the United States and China.
Further, anti-Japan street protests swept across China in September as the two largest economies in Asia sparred over a disputed island territory in the East China Sea which each claimed as its own. Potentially vast gas and oil fields have been estimated off the shores of the island, called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan. The two neighbours strove to keep the naval conflict from spiralling, mindful of their entrenched commercial ties that have resulted in two-way trade reaching a record $345 billion last year, China being the biggest trading partner of Japan.
While the Asia-Pacific has hitherto been driven by commercial interests, the widening unrest in the sea lanes that are the lifeline of this region may eventually compel the validity of a military front on the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Much in the manner in which China’s growing might is being perceived today, the 28-member NATO had been founded in 1949 in response to the threat posed by the Soviet Union, with its prioritised purpose having been to deter Soviet expansionism. NATO had codified cooperation in military preparedness among the allied signatories by stipulating that “an armed attack against one or more of them… shall be considered an attack against them all”.
Though Asia-Pacific countries are keen on safeguarding their territorial interests, they are at the same time anxious not to let regional conflicts flare into Asia’s next war. However, to lay the foundations of overall peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific, a NATO-like security structure would need to be inclusive, having China within its ambit.
The return of Asia-Pacific to the centre of world affairs is the great power shift of the 21st century. This economically integrated region is traversed by half the world’s commercial shipping worth $5 trillion of trade a year. More than 4.2 billion people live there, constituting 61 per cent of the world’s population. And apart from straddling vital supply chains, it holds dense fishing grounds and potentially enormous oil and natural gas reserves, though at present it is a net importer of fossil fuels. Energy-hungry export-driven economies in the region, heavily dependent on raw material and fuel imports, are keen on exercising their suzerainty over the regional Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) that are critical to the survival of the entire Asia-Pacific community.
Washington’s “pivot” strategy is juxtapositioning its desire to be neutral with the imperative to raise its already formidable profile in the Asia-Pacific. Its numerous military bases in the region include 17 in Japan and 12 in South Korea, while it also has a presence in Australia, Thailand, the Philippines, Guam and Singapore. Obama’s “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific entails the relocation of 60 per cent of America’s naval assets – up from 50 per cent today – to the region by 2020. The drawdown in Afghanistan, according to US deputy Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, will release naval surface combatants as well as naval intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and processing, exploitation, and dissemination capabilities, as also more Army and Marine Corps. EP-3 signals reconnaissance aircraft have already moved from CENTCOM (Central Command) to PACOM (Pacific Command). There will be a net increase of one aircraft carrier, seven destroyers, 10 Littoral Combat Ships and two submarines in the Pacific in the coming years. America’s military outpost of Guam is being readied as a strategic hub for the Western Pacific and Marines are being forward-stationed there. A full US Marine task force will also be established by 2016 in Australia, a key Asia-Pacific partner of the United States. The US Air Force will shift unmanned and manned reconnaissance aircraft from Afghanistan to the Asia-Pacific, apart from space, cyber and bomber forces.
The question remains whether this “rebalance” is aimed at containing China’s growing economic and military might or bolstering the American presence in the region. Beijing views Washington’s proposal as an attempt to curb Chinese influence across the region and to embolden countries to brazen out Beijing on the maritime disputes.
America’s concerted force multiplication in the region betrays the intent to forge some sort of a military front like NATO. “There is no multilateral organisation like NATO in the region,” notes Ashton Carter. “And in the absence of an overarching security structure, the US military presence has played a pivotal role over those last past 60 years, providing nations with the space and the security necessary to make their own principled choices.”
A NATO-like platform may not evolve soon, but appears inevitable in light of the rising volatility in the region. The similarities between now and at the time of NATO’s creation cannot be lost, notwithstanding the fact that the United States and China have very high stakes in their relationship, unlike the Cold War that had riven Washington and Moscow. Be that as it may, while announcing America’s renewed engagement in the Pacific, Secretary Clinton told the Pacific Islands Forum that “the Pacific is big enough for all of us”. There’s a lot of merit in keeping it that way.
Originally published by Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.in) and can be found HERE.
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27 novembre 2012 2 27 /11 /novembre /2012 18:55

J-15 test 12


Nov. 27, 2012 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: China Daily; published Nov. 27, 2012)


Fighter Jets Successfully Land On Aircraft Carrier


China has moved closer to its goal of building a blue-water navy, with pilots successfully landing on and taking off from the Liaoning, the country's first aircraft carrier, according to military experts.


Dai Mingmeng, a squadron leader from an aviation regiment of the East China Sea Fleet, landed a J-15 carrier-based fighter jet on the Liaoning on Friday morning, marking a milestone for the People's Liberation Army navy, according to the Beijing-based Mirror Evening News.


Following Dai, another four pilots also landed J-15s on the carrier and later took off, the PLA Daily reported on Sunday.


"This is a new landmark in the Chinese navy's efforts to develop the combat capability of its carrier battle group," Du Wenlong, a senior researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science, said on Sunday.


"The carrier-borne fighter jet is the core of a carrier battle group and the success of landing and take-off tests is of unparalleled importance as pilots further their training," he said, adding that the successful exercises indicate the Liaoning and the J-15 have met the navy's requirements.


"It also proves that our personnel training system for the aircraft carrier is successful."


Xu Yongling, a former test pilot and military aviation expert, said: "The landing operation is totally up to the pilot's manual manipulation of the aircraft. Together with the risks of the whole landing process, it is far more difficult than performing an outer space mission.


"The achievement and significance of the first landing on the carrier is equivalent to a breakthrough in aerospace exploration," he said.


China Central Television broadcast footage of the landing and take-off on Sunday. It showed a J-15, which took off from an airport in an unidentified location, approaching the Liaoning.


The pilot then lowered the tailhook, a hook attached to the rear of the plane and used to rapidly decelerate during landings, and engaged the second arresting cable. The J-15 taxied about 50 meters and stopped.


The plane folded its wings and technical checks were made. After take-off preparations were complete, the pilot restarted the engines and flew off the deck.


According to Southern Metropolis Daily, the earliest landing test that was disclosed on the Internet took place on Nov 20 when a J-15 landed on the Liaoning. Details about the earlier test remain unknown.


Advanced jet unveiled


The Liaoning, a refitted Soviet-era carrier, entered active service in September and is now in the middle of its second sea trial after joining the navy.


Since being commissioned to the PLA navy, its crew has completed more than 100 training and test programs, according to Xinhua News Agency.


Earlier this month, reports and photos appeared on the PLA Daily and the website of the Defense Ministry stated that the Liaoning successfully completed a touch-and-go test on Oct 29. The reports did not disclose which aircraft carried out the test and how many jets were involved in the operation.


However, according to military observers, it was conducted by a J-15 fighter jet.


The news of the landing test also marked the debut of the J-15 as China's first generation multi-purpose carrier-borne fighter jet, the PLA navy said.


It has been given an official nickname - Flying Shark.


According to aviation fans and Western media reports, the twin-engine J-15 was developed by Shenyang Aircraft Corp, a subsidiary of the Aviation Industry Corp of China, and at least 12 prototypes have been manufactured and used in tests.


Xinhua said the J-15 is able to carry anti-ship, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and precision guided bombs. It quoted military experts as saying the J-15 has comprehensive capabilities comparable to those of Russia's Sukhoi Su-33 and the US F/A-18 Hornet.


Although it was developed based on the Su-33, the avionics and weaponry on the J-15 are more advanced than those of the Su-33, and the jet features domestically developed, cutting-edge technologies, such as an active electronically scanned array radar, radar absorbent material and an infra-red search and track system, military experts said.


The J-15 "likely exceeds or matches the aerodynamic capabilities of virtually all fighter aircraft currently operated by regional militaries, with the exception of the US' F-22 Raptor", according to Gabe Collins, a China observer in the US, and Andrew Erickson, professor at the US Naval War College, in an article on their website, chinasignpost.com.


The J-15 is particularly good in an aerial dogfight, due to its maneuverability and high thrust-to-weight ratio, said Kanwa Defense Review, a Canadian online magazine on defense affairs and weapon technology.


In addition to the advanced jet, the landing also cast the limelight on the arresting gear on the Liaoning, which is one of the most sophisticated mechanical instruments on aircraft carriers.


Only a handful of nations have the technology and ability to develop and manufacture arresting gear and none of them will export such technology to other countries, defense industry insiders said, noting that the situation left China no other choice but to develop the equipment itself.


More time needed


In spite of great success, the completion of the landing and take-off tests is only a small step toward the Chinese aircraft carrier's fully possessing combat capability, experts said.


"The tests were carried out in daytime and under relatively simple circumstances," Du Wenlong said. "Our pilots haven't performed landing and take-offs at night or in complicated situations, and they will need more training on how to intercept enemy aircraft and destroy targets at sea."


"Considering the experiences of other countries, I think we have to wait at least two years before our carrier-based fighter jets become fully operational," said Zhang Junshe, a researcher from the Naval Military Studies Research Institute.


"And taking the time needed to provide training for other planes, such as airborne warning and control system aircraft, and anti-submarine aircraft, into account, it will take four to five years for our carrier to obtain full combat capability."


The J-15 fighter jets will begin to conduct combat and formation drills only after other aircrafts complete landing and take-off training, he added.


To become a pilot for a carrier-based fighter jet, a PLA aviator has to pass four rounds of tests, said Zhang Hongtao, a senior officer of the PLA navy who is in charge of selecting pilots.


The selected pilots must be under 35 years old and have at least 1,000 flight hours, he said, adding that they also must possess a strong mind and have quick responses.


"A pilot in the US Navy usually spends at least 21 months in training before he is deemed qualified to perform duties on an aircraft carrier. I don't think we can do it in less time," Du said.


"A take-off process alone requires 65 actions by our flight deck personnel and each step cannot allow any error," said Li Xiaoyong, deputy chief of the aviation section on the Liaoning.


"Although this work is arduous and dangerous, none of us has shown cowardice, for we are 'super warriors' on the carrier."


"After the landing and take-off tests, those who once looked down on China's capabilities can no longer call it (the Liaoning) a shark without teeth," said Chen Bing, a news commentator.

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21 novembre 2012 3 21 /11 /novembre /2012 19:15



November 21, 2012 china-defense-mashup.com


2012-11-21 — China’s locally made early-warning aircraft have proven their operational capabilities in drills and can now direct different forces to respond more effectively to aerial threats, the People’s Liberation Army Daily reported yesterday.


Analysts said the report could be seen as a response to Western reports that downplay the effectiveness of China’s military modernisation effort.


The PLA Daily report, which appeared in an inside page, did not identify the aircraft that took part in the drills, but it was accompanied by an illustration of a KJ-2000 early waring aircraft in flight. It said the plane had become an air operational centre to command land, air and naval forces in several drills this year.


The aircraft is larger than ordinary fighter jets and can detect threats such as enemy airplanes.


“It is a historic leap for our army’s combat ability on the modern battlefield … as the combat information transport system successfully connected with our advanced fighter jets during the drills,” the report said, adding that China had spent more than five decades developing its early-warning aircraft systems.


“The new achievement also indicates our army has overcome some critical bottlenecks in multi-unit command.”


In June, a report by Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted American and Taiwanese sources as saying the PLA had only nine such aircraft, including five small KJ-200s and four large KJ-2000s, and that they were at least 20 years behind the planes operated by the United States and Japan in terms of operational capability.


Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canada-based Kanwa Asian Defence Monthly, said China’s options were limited because it “doesn’t have enough advanced, big aircraft” suitable for the installation of early-warning systems.


“But it’s difficult to estimate how many years the PLA’s early-warning operation lags behind the Western countries because Beijing is trying to narrow the gap,” Chang said.


Lin Chong-pin, a former deputy defence minister in Taiwan, said the PLA Daily report was not propaganda, but further evidence of Beijing’s breakthroughs in the field.


“[The mainland] faced a developing bottleneck of military technologies in the 1990s, but it has made many breakthroughs in the 21st century, including the debuts of the J-21 and J-31 [stealth fighters] and the batch production of 052-D guided missile destroyers early this year,” Lin said.


He credited the rapid development to former president Jiang Zemin’s efforts to accelerate the army’s modernisation, including a funding boost and the unprecedented promotion of many officers with engineering backgrounds to decision-making positions.


The KJ series of early-warning aircraft debuted in the 2009 National Day parade, but the PLA Daily said the army had set up its first early-warning force five years earlier.

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16 novembre 2012 5 16 /11 /novembre /2012 17:35

Yi Long UAV pic1


November 16, 2012 China Military News


2012-11-16 — China is flexing its muscles as an arms exporter with a growing array of indigenous weaponry, offering something for most budgets in the global arms bazaar and revealing its wider ambitions to strategic rivals and watchful neighbours.


As a new leadership was anointed in Beijing and the world looked on to see what direction it might take over the next decade, military officials from Africa to Southeast Asia were shopping for Chinese weapons in the country’s south.


Change has come fast in China, now the world’s second-largest economy, and with its rise has come a new sense of military assertiveness with a growing budget to develop modern warfare equipment including aircraft carriers and drones.


All the signs point to newly named Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, who is slated to become president next March, continuing China’s aggressive military modernisation.


Now the world’s fourth-largest arms exporter, China laid out its wares this week at an air show in Zhuhai, a palm-lined port between Macau and Hong Kong that becomes a heavily armed industry showcase every other November.


In the 10 years to 2011, China’s foreign military sales have increased 95 percent, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).


Among dozens of items shown publicly for the first time this week were Chinese attack helicopters, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and air defences. As usual, the exhibit halls contained everything from shoulder-fired weapons to cruise missiles.


“China is getting more aggressive in the export market as its own industrial base develops,” said Doug Barrie, senior fellow for Military Aerospace at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.


“It looks at Russia and the U.S. as examples of how you can use the export arena to help develop your own industries.”


Between them, Washington and Moscow account for more than half of the world’s $410 billion in arms sales, but opportunities abound for China as the United States looks to cut its military spending to manage its mounting debt.


Still, U.S. spending dwarfs that of China. In its annual report on the Chinese military, the Pentagon in May estimated Beijing’s total 2012 spending would be between $120 billion and $180 billion. Washington will spend $614 billion on its military this year.


Most of Beijing’s trade is done with small states outside of the European Union, which like the United States, put China under an arms embargo after the crackdown on Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.


Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Myanmar are among China’s biggest clients, with aircraft at the top of their shopping lists, SIPRI data shows.


Beijing does not release official figures for arms sales. Foreign estimates put the figure at about $2 billion in 2011.




Shenyang J-31 photo Greg Waldron Flightglobal


The undisputed star of the show this week was a sleek, quarter-sized model of China’s second stealth fighter, dubbed the J-31 by most Western analysts.


Although officially a concept plane, it bore what industry bible Aviation Week called a “striking resemblance” to a mystery jet that flew briefly at the end of October.


Photographs of the jet leaked, or orchestrated to look like a leak, and emerged on the Internet days before this week’s Communist Party Congress and leadership handover, and confirmed China’s place in a select club of stealth-capable nations.


“China has stood up,” said John Pike, director of Virginia-based GlobalSecurity.org, an expert on industry strategy.


Only the United States has successfully produced more than one stealth jet and the challenges facing China’s less experienced developers are undoubtedly immense.


The unveiling also served as a reminder to its neighbours of China’s growing clout as tensions rise over rival claims for territory in the East China Sea and South China Sea.


“China is doing this as part of a political equation,” said Robert Hewson, editor of IHS Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons. “It has had a rapidly staged coming out but I am surprised to see it here so soon.”


By mixing domestic and international messages, the model also filled a void left by the absence of top Chinese government officials distracted by the transition in Beijing.




The business end of the show is about present-day realities.


After relying heavily on Russian and to a lesser extent Israeli technology in the 1990s, China is pushing exports of home-grown equipment to expand its influence in areas like Africa where it is busy buying land and forging new allies.


“The Chinese used to simply produce cheap knockoffs of their basic Russian equipment. They have made very considerable advances, but still have problems, particularly with engines,” said Simon Wezeman, senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.


“On some technology, they are now competitive on technology with European arms exports and very competitive on price.”


China has sold defence systems and co-developed a derivative of a Russian fighter with Pakistan and done smaller deals with African countries. There is also interest from Latin America.


Western analysts say China has a reputation for selling basic but reliable equipment with relatively few questions asked about its use, a key selling point.


But the range of products on display in Zhuhai is both increasing and gradually moving up in value, while remaining a decade or two behind the most advanced U.S. equipment.




For the first time at Zhuhai, China showed an export version of a long-range surface-to-air missile, the truck-mounted FD-2000, and a Predator-style UAV called the Wing Loong.


There was also a focus on systems that build relationships such as the L-15 trainer, which won its first export deal to an unidentified country at the show.


Admittedly, China’s other reputation for copying what it cannot make is unlikely to disappear any time soon.


A parlour game among delegates is to tick off the similarities between Chinese systems and foreign platforms.


“When you come and see these aircraft you relate them to what you have seen before. The K-8 is a Hawk, the J-10 a Eurofighter, the L-15 an Aermacchi M-346,” said an officer with an African air force delegation, asking not to be identified.


“That is why some people don’t want to send their planes here. You come back in five years and it’s called a J-something.”


Organisers said a record 650 companies from 38 countries showed up to present exhibits at the ninth Zhuhai show.


A few yards and a Chinese wall separate the military part of the show and Western aerospace suppliers striking deals with China’s fledgling civil aerospace industry.


This week’s flying displays included a surprise debut of the Z-10 months after U.S. company United Technologies admitted selling software that helped Beijing develop its first modern military attack helicopter.


“China’s aviation industry is turning out reasonably decent products,” said Pike in a telephone interview. “They are not there yet and they have a long way to go. But they are open for business.”

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16 novembre 2012 5 16 /11 /novembre /2012 12:30

Defense.gov News Adm. Mullen departs the PLA Navy submarine


November 14, 2012 China Military News


2012-11-13 ( from popularmechanics.com and by Joe Pappalardo)  — The U.S. government is reporting that China, after decades of trying, is on the verge of fielding a true underwater leg of its nuclear deterrent, with new long-range missiles tipped with nuclear weapons on board its fleet of new long-range submarines. And that could transform the Pacific into a tense militarized zone reminiscent of the Atlantic during the Cold War.


On November 14 the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission will release its annual report to Congress, and that report will contain some sobering language about new Julang-2 missiles China plans to field in two years. (Drafts of the report, created by a Congressional mandate, have already been leaked.)


According to the report, JIN-class submarines, two of which have already been put to sea, would carry nuclear tipped missiles. Naval intelligence documents estimate five such submarines will be ready for service. The submarines and the JL-2 missile combination will give Chinese forces “a near-continuous at-sea strategic deterrent,” according to the report, and Beijing is “on the cusp of attaining a credible nuclear triad of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and air-dropped nuclear bombs.”


The Pentagon has watched warily as China has ramped up its submarine fleet, which helps the nation secure its economically vital sea lanes and protect its coastlines from incursion. China has quiet, diesel–electric submarines to lay mines and shoot missiles during combat close to their shores. But the larger, nuclear-powered subs are a newer acquisition, and arming them with nukes poses a different kind of threat to the United States and global powers such as Russia and India.


Sub-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are hard to spot until they shoot, making them the ideal second-strike weapon in a nuclear exchange. The Pentagon knows where all of China’s ICBM silos are and could wipe them out in a preemptive nuke strike if the nations came to blows. But subs need to be identified, tracked, and sunk. So, having submarines with nukes in their firing tubes makes China a more credible nuclear threat. That threat backs up every diplomatic, geopolitical, and military action of the government—a government whose goals are often at odds with those of the U.S. government.


What will the U.S. do about this new threat?


There will be some underwater cat-and-mouse games played in the Pacific. U.S. submarines will likely be waiting when American satellites spot a Chinese sub leaving the port. (Those subs will be visible in the shallows between Yulin Naval Base and deep water.) “Some U.S. attack submarines probably will follow the Chinese submarines if and when they deploy,” says Hans Kristensen, an analyst with the Federation of American Scientists. “Part of those operations will be to learn more about noise level and operational patterns.”


The range of the JL-2 is about 4500 miles. That means the sub’s missiles can’t target the continental United States from the Chinese coast. They could hit Los Angeles from a position 1000 miles west of Hawaii, while Washington, D.C., would be in range only if the submarine could sneak its way to a position about 1500 miles from the West Coast.


That’s the trick for these subs: surviving outside Chinese waters. Japan and America have assets in the Pacific that could detect submarines; a Chinese skipper would have to hide from them to get close enough to take a shot at the continental United States. And Christensen cites Office of Naval Intelligence reports that say the JIN submarines are less stealthy than Russian submarines built two decades ago. “They are too noisy to slip through U.S. antisubmarine networks,” he says. “The U.S. submarine community trained for more than 60 years to track nuclear-powered ballistic submarines . . . Given that record, I’d be surprise if China’s would live for long in a war. To me, they would be sitting ducks.”


However, American antisubmarine capabilities have waned since the Cold War. The United States will be decreasing its number of attack submarines, but those that remain will be operating in the Pacific—the Pentagon has already deployed more attack subs to Guam and Hawaii. The Littoral Combat Ship, a troubled Navy program, is expected to have antisubmarine capabilities, but those ships (as the name implies) are made to dominate shallow water.


Furthermore, last week news leaked that the Navy plans to cut nearly one-quarter of its highly specialized multi-intelligence aircraft in the next few years, including the P3C Orion sub-hunting airplane. It does have sub-tracking replacements coming online, such as the P-8A Poseidon, a converted 747 that can drop sonobuoys to detect subs, and torpedoes to sink them. But coverage may be thin. The Navy will have only about 50 P-8As to do the job formerly done by 200 P-3Cs.


During the Cold War, the Navy tracked Soviet subs using a network of underwater microphones called the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). This is still functioning, albeit with fewer sensors, in the Pacific. The Pentagon is working on next-generation tracking technology that could help mitigate the China sub threat. The Distributed Agile Submarine Hunting program, run by DARPA, is creating a maritime version of a satellite. These robotic listening posts could operate in shallow or deep water, and possibly follow enemy subs once they’d been detected.


The last-ditch defense against these missile threats are ground-based interceptors in Alaska, built to thwart an ICBM launch from North Korea. They could target the warheads fired from a submarine, Kristensen says, if the warheads were launched from far enough away.

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16 novembre 2012 5 16 /11 /novembre /2012 08:30



15.11.2012 Pacific Sentinel


On November 13, CCTV Commentator, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, says China is developing a large amphibious assault ship which is similar to the Landing Helicopter Assault ship in United States Navy on CCTV-4 “Today’s Focus” Interview program. Yin’s voice is China’s first time publicly expression on amphibious assault ship development and attracts media attentions.
In the CCTV program, when the host asking that PLA new WZ-10 helicopters would be deployed on the aircraft carrier, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo replied: “WZ-10 and WZ-19 may deployed in China’s future amphibious assault ship. And China now is developing a new generation of amphibious ship, 40000 ton displacement, like U.S. Navy Landing Helicopter Assault LHD ship. The heavy transportation helicopters on this amphibious assault ship will be escorted by armed choppers like WZ-10 and WZ-19.”
There were indications that the Chinese Navy amphibious assault ship has displacement of 48,000 tons. When PLA Navy has these warships, China will be able to deploy armed forces in any country of the Western Pacific area. Analysts pointed out that, once the Sino-Japanese military conflict breaks, Chinese warships will use this type of amphibious assault ship on Okinawa and the Japan four largest islands landing operations.
Read the full story at China Military News
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31 octobre 2012 3 31 /10 /octobre /2012 22:01



November 01, 2012 By Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson - http://thediplomat.com


The engine of China's naval rise has flown under the radar - until now.


China’s military shipyards now are surpassing Western European, Japanese, and Korean military shipbuilders in terms of both the types and numbers of ships they can build. If Beijing prioritizes progress, China’s military shipbuilding technical capabilities can likely become as good as Russia’s are now by 2020 and will near current U.S. shipbuilding technical proficiency levels by 2030. China is now mass producing at least six classes of modern diesel-electric submarines and surface warships, including the new Type 052C “Luyang II” and Type 052D “Luyang III” destroyers now in series production.


Eight key themes, listed sequentially below, characterize China’s rise as a world-class military shipbuilder. For reference, the companies building the warships are China State Shipbuilding Corporation (“CSSC”) and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (“CSIC”).


1. China’s warship buildout thus far supports modernization and replacement, not rapid expansion


Over the past six years, China’s overall fleet of frontline combatants has expanded, but slowly, growing from 172 ships in 2005 to an estimated 221 vessels in 2012. However, the fleet has improved substantially in qualitative terms as newer ships and subs replace older ones. For instance, as Type 052 C/D Luyang-series destroyers, Type 054A Jiangkai II-series frigates, and Type 041 Yuan diesel-electric submarines have come into the fleet, they are allowing the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to steadily retire obsolete platforms like Luda destroyers and Ming submarines.


2. Chinese military shipbuilders are catching up to Russian and U.S. Yards


China’s large state-backed military shipbuilders are approaching their Russian and U.S. peers in terms of the number of warships built. China’s large submarine and surface warship buildout will, in a decade, likely have it become second only to the U.S. in terms of total warships produced since 1990. More importantly, the ramp-up of China’s construction of large warships in recent years will mean the PLA Navy will likely be taking delivery of larger numbers of modern surface combatants and submarines annually than the U.S. Navy.


Measured in terms of warships commissioned since 1990, China is now number three globally and is rapidly gaining on Russia, the number two country. Most of Russia’s post-1990 military ship deliveries simply reflected yards “finishing up” Soviet-era projects.


Chinese yards, in contrast, have come on strong over the past decade, with a big push in submarine construction that began in 2002-03 and a strong pipeline of surface warship deliveries that continues to gain steam to this very day. Chinese military shipyards—in particular the Changxing Island and Hudong Zhonghua yards near Shanghai—are humming with activity, and over the next 2-3 years, China is likely to commission enough large warships to put it second only to the U.S. in terms of large warships built and delivered since 1990.


3. China’s military shipbuilders are using modular mass production techniques


CSSC’s Jiangnan Shipyard is using modular construction methods to build Type 052-series destroyers. Modular construction involves building the ship in “blocks.” This maximizes a shipyard’s productive potential and also provides greater latitude for modifying designs and customizing ships. Modular construction also gives yards the flexibility to either build centers of expertise within the yard or outsource the production of certain components and then import them to the yard for final assembly.


CSSC’s Hudong Zhonghua shipyard also appears to be using modular construction techniques for the Type 071 LPD. The yard has now constructed four of the vessels, two of which are in service and two of which are in the trial/outfitting stage. They have also been able to fabricate the Type 071 hulls faster, with a time gap of nearly four years between the first and second vessels, but only 10 months between vessels two and three, and four months between vessels three and four.


4. China’s military shipyards appear to be sharing design and production information across company lines


Historically, CSIC built all Chinese submarines, but the current production run of Type 041 Yuan-class advanced diesel electric subs has seen at least two boats being built in CSSC’s Jiangnan yard. This suggests submarine construction expertise is growing outside of CSIC. However, there are no indications thus far that CSSC is doing submarine design work, which could mean that Beijing is making the companies and their design institutes share submarine design and construction information. Likewise, the new Type 056 corvette is being built in both CSSC and CSIC shipyards, suggesting that a standardized design and production approach is being shared by both companies.


5. China’s military shipbuilders will be able to indigenously build aircraft carriers


China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, which entered service on  September 25th of this year, started as an empty hull and gave CSIC valuable experience in effectively creating an aircraft carrier from the keel up. China has a total of seven shipyards with sufficiently large berths to assemble a carrier hull (three hundred meters or more), and the yards are basically equally dispersed between CSSC and CSIC. These yards are located in Dalian (CSIC), Qingdao (CSIC), Huludao (CSIC), Shanghai (CSSC), and Guangzhou (CSSC).


CSIC Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industry complex near Huludao (where China builds its nuclear submarines) is a top candidate due to its large, covered building sheds where carrier parts could be fabricated in modular fashion and out of the view of satellite surveillance. The company says it has the “largest indoor seven-step” ship construction facilities in China. This facility, together with CSSC’s large new Changxing Island yard, and CSIC’s Dalian yard—which fitted out the carrier Liaoning that just entered PLAN service—are the three leading candidates to build China’s indigenous carriers.


6. China will retain a military shipbuilding cost advantage


We project that for at least the next five years, Chinese shipbuilders will have a substantial labor cost advantage over their counterparts in South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. CSSC’s Jiangnan shipyard can likely deliver a Type 052C destroyer for 24% less than it costs Korea’s Hyundai heavy Industries to produce a KDX-III destroyer. Likewise, according to disclosures in the July 2011 issue of Shipborne Weapons, Wuchang shipyard can produce a late model diesel electric sub such as the Type 041 for roughly 47% less than it would cost South Korea’s DSME to make a Type 209 submarine. The lower labor cost in China likely serves as a core driver. This may help explain the larger Chinese cost advantage in building submarines, since advanced submarines can require substantially larger number of man-hours to build than surface ships do.


7. China’s neighbors feel increasingly compelled to augment their naval forces in response to Chinese warship production


South Korea has decided to expand its procurement of advanced diesel-electric submarines to include nine KSS-III 3,000-ton submarines by 2020 and nine 1,800-ton subs by 2018. This acquisition will basically double the size of the country’s current sub force and substantially enhance its capabilities, since the biggest boats in the fleet are currently 1,800-ton vessels. South Korea has also elected to double its Aegis destroyer purchases over the next decade.


Similarly, Vietnam’s maritime friction with China and fear of the PLAN’s growing power is making Hanoi into one of the Russian defense industry’s star customers. Vietnam has ordered six Kilo-class diesel submarines from Russia and is likely to take delivery of its first Kilo by the end of 2012. Hanoi is also adding advanced Russian anti-ship missiles and stealthy Gepard-class missile armed patrol boats to its naval force.


8. China now has the potential to become a significant exporter of diesel submarines and smaller surface warships


China’s shipbuilders are becoming increasingly competitive in terms of the ratio of cost to combat power they can deliver. For instance, the July 2011 issue of Shipborne Weapons reports that China will supply 6 potentially Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP)-equipped submarines to Pakistan for as little as 1/3 the unit price at which European shipyards would be able to supply comparable boats.


With the advent of the Type 041 Yuan-class diesel sub and Type 056 corvette, China now has two platforms for which it is already capable of series production and for which the unit costs are likely to drop significantly in coming years. The export version of Russia’s Steregushiy-class corvette, called Tigr, currently stands at around U.S. $150 million per vessel. As China’s Type 056 production run continues to expand, it would not be a surprise to eventually see the PLAN’s unit cost end up in the U.S. $110-120 million per vessel cost range, which would make the Type 056 a serious export competitor to the Tigr and other smaller Russian warships.




China’s naval shipbuilding industry has advanced to the point that it can series produce modern diesel submarines, landing platform docks (LPDs), destroyers, frigates, corvettes, and fast attack craft, albeit with some imported components for a number of key systems. The ongoing series production of Type 041 SSKs, Type 071 LPDs, Type 052 destroyers, and Type 056 corvettes strongly suggests that China’s military shipbuilders have rapidly assimilated commercial innovations such as modular construction.


Chinese naval shipbuilding faces several challenges moving forward. Most notably, six major questions remain:


1. Does Beijing have the political will to continue devoting substantial and growing resources to naval modernization?


2. Can China achieve requisite technical advances in weapons systems, propulsion, and military electronics?


3. Can China master the technologies needed to build nuclear submarines capable of surviving in a conflict with U.S. and Russian boats?


4. Can it build an aircraft carrier with catapults that would allow it to maximize the strike and air combat capabilities of the J-15 fighter it is likely to carry?


5. Will the Chinese leadership be willing to invest political and financial capital in establishing intensive and realistic training for the PLAN and provide diplomatic support for establishment of sustained access to facilities in key areas such as the Indian Ocean region?


6. Will continued weakness in the global ship market prompt Beijing to capitalize on the availability of shipyard space to further increase the pace of military shipbuilding?


China’s military shipbuilders are showing that they can meet Beijing’s current call for warships and could produce more if given the mandate and the resources. The U.S. strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific will need more than rhetoric if it is to remain credible in the face of China’s potential to rapidly produce modern warships.


The Pentagon should consider adjusting the U.S. Navy’s ship acquisition programs in response. As Chinese warships become better, the numbers ratio between the PLAN and U.S. Navy combatants will become increasingly important.  Given that shipbuilding is an industry where lead times can be many years, now is the time for Washington to begin responding to China’s warship production improvements and prepare strategically for further naval advances that Beijing is likely to unveil over the next 2-3 years.

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16 octobre 2012 2 16 /10 /octobre /2012 16:45


October 16, 2012 China Military News


2012-10-16 — (by Bill Gertz) China’s military is set to conduct a test of a new and more capable anti-satellite missile that United States intelligence agencies say can knock out strategic satellites in high-earth orbit, according to U.S. officials.


However, a recent intelligence assessment said the test of the Dong Neng-2 direct ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon is being delayed in an apparent effort to avoid upsetting President Barack Obama’s reelection bid, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.


Intelligence reports from September and this month revealed China will test fire the new DN-2 missile from a ground base sometime in early to mid November.


The missile is described by intelligence agencies as a high-earth orbit interceptor designed to destroy satellites by ramming them at high speeds. The intelligence reports called the new missile a strategically significant counterspace weapon, said the officials familiar with the reports.


Testing a high-earth orbit anti-satellite missile would represent a major advance in China’s satellite-killing capability, which has been underway for more than a decade. High-earth orbit, also known as geosynchronous orbit, is the location of major communications and navigation satellites, which orbit at a distance of between 12,000 miles and 22,236 miles from earth.


China’s last ASAT test in 2007 destroyed a low-earth orbit weather satellite about 558 miles in space, causing an orbiting debris field of tens of thousands of pieces of metal that U.S. officials say will threaten orbiting satellites and human space travelers for 100 years.


U.S. officials said it is unlikely China will conduct an impact test of a kinetic kill vehicle against an aging weather satellite as occurred in 2007, although the possibility of a second, major debris-causing test cannot be ruled out.


Instead, officials said the test most likely will be a demonstration of a precision-guided direct ascent missile flying out tens of thousands of miles.


“If the United States loses the strategic high ground of high-earth orbit [from a Chinese  high-altitude ASAT missile], we are in real trouble,” said one U.S. official.


U.S. Global Positioning System satellites, used for both navigation and precision missile guidance, are located in medium-earth orbit, or about 12,000 miles, and thus would be vulnerable to the new DN-2.


Whether or not the test is successful, development of the new high-altitude DN-2 ASAT reveals that China’s military is planning for future high-orbit space warfare despite seeking international agreements banning weapons in space.


China’s January 2007 ASAT test drew protests from the United States and other spacefaring nations, who saw it as a major threat to satellites used for both military and civilian purposes. That test also produced tens of thousands of pieces of space debris which threaten satellites.


A second possibility is the DN-2 missile test will be fired against a target missile, as occurred in 2010 as part of a joint Chinese ASAT-missile defense test.


Pentagon spokesmen declined to comment on the DN-2 ASAT program.


Michael Pillsbury, a former Reagan administration defense policymaker, stated in a 2007 report to Congress that Chinese military writers advocated covert deployment of sophisticated anti-satellite weapons system like the kind now being developed by the People’s Liberation Army for use against the United States “in a surprise manner without warning.”


“Even a small scale anti-satellite attack in a crisis against 50 U.S. satellites—assuming a mix of targeted military reconnaissance, navigation satellites, and communication satellites—could have a catastrophic effect not only on U.S. military forces, but on the U.S. civilian economy,” said Pillsbury, currently with the Hudson Institute. Chinese military writings also have discussed attacks on GPS satellites that are located in high-earth orbit, he stated.


ASAT a top-secret program


China’s anti-satellite missile system is a key element of the communist state’s growing arsenal of asymmetric warfare weapons, and remains one of Beijing’s most closely guarded military secrets.


Defense officials have said that with as few as 24 ASAT missiles, China could severely weaken U.S. military operations by disrupting global communications and military logistics, as well as by limiting celestial navigation systems used by high-technology weapons. Such an attack also would severely degrade U.S. intelligence gathering efforts against global targets, a key strategic military advantage.


A U.S. official familiar with reports of the ASAT test said China’s delay in conducting the test until after the Nov. 6 election is a sign Beijing wants to help President Obama’s reelection campaign. “It implies they’d rather have him reelected,” said the official.


The Obama administration has adopted conciliatory policies toward China’s military buildup and its large-scale human rights abuses. Critics say the administration also failed to hold Beijing accountable for its unfair trade practices and currency manipulation.


The administration’s questionable policies were revealed by a 2009 State Department cable that quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying, “How do you deal toughly with your banker?”—a reference to China’s potentially coercive leverage over the United States through its large holdings of U.S. debt securities.


Richard Fisher, a Chinese military affairs specialist, said little is known publicly of the DN-2 missile. However, the DN-2 may be China’s designation for an ASAT missile and kill vehicle combination mounted on launchers dubbed KT-2, or KT-2A. This ASAT weapon is based on DF-31 or DF-31A road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, respectively.


“ASATs derived from the KT-2 and KT-2A space launch vehicles have the potential to reach high earth orbits used by many strategic U.S. surveillance, communication, and navigation satellites,” said Fisher, with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.


Fisher said in 2002, during a military show in China, the KT-2A was touted by Chinese officials as having a 2,000-kilogram payload that could reach high-earth orbits.


“Since its appearance a decade ago, the KT series of space launch vehicles presaged what we now know, that a key Chinese strategic goal has been to deny outer space as a sanctuary to support American military operations,” Fisher said.


A KT-1 microsatellite launcher was displayed at the Zhuhai air show in 2000, and “it was fairly obvious that this could become the basis for an ASAT, and it was used as the basis for the SC-19 ASAT demonstrated successfully in January 2007,” Fisher said.


Because China will not join a verifiable space control agreement, “Washington has little choice, if it is to continue to deter China militarily, but to build far greater redundancy, passive and active defenses for outer space,” he said.


China ASAT caused space debris


U.S. officials estimate that China’s 2007 ASAT test that destroyed an aging weather satellite in low-earth orbit now accounts for 45 percent of all space debris in low-earth orbit.


After a year of stonewalling by China on the test, an official U.S. demarche, or protest note, was sent to Beijing in January 2008. According to a copy of the note made public by Wikileaks, the protest warned the Chinese government, “Any purposeful interference with U.S. space systems will be interpreted by the United States as an infringement of its rights and considered an escalation in a crisis or conflict.”


“The United States reserves the right, consistent with the [United Nations] Charter and international law, to defend and protect its space systems with a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military,” stated the protest, made by then-U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt.


A joint State Department-Pentagon report to Congress on export controls made public in April states that China is “developing space-based methods to counter ballistic missile defenses of the United States and our allies, including anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.”


“As China advances in operational space capabilities, it is actively focusing on how to destroy, disrupt, or deny U.S. access to our own space assets,” the report said.


China is developing and refining its ASAT weapons as part of a “multi-dimensional program to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by potential adversaries during times of conflict,” the report said.


“In addition to the direct-ascent [missile] ASAT program, China is developing other technologies and concepts for kinetic and directed energy for ASAT missions,” including electronic jamming of satellite communications and lasers that disrupt satellites, the report said.


ASAT weapons “have significant implications for anti-access/area-denial efforts against the United States in Taiwan Strait contingencies,” the report said. Those weapons and capabilities are being developed by China as a means to force the U.S. military out of Asian waters and territory and make it more difficult for U.S. forces to get into the region during a conflict, such as a defense of Taiwan. Other anti-access area denial weapons include anti-ship ballistic missiles, cyber warfare capabilities, and submarines.


Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess told Congress in February that “China successfully tested a direct ascent anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) missile and is developing jammers and directed-energy weapons for ASAT missions.”


Burgess said that as “a prerequisite for ASAT attacks, China’s ability to track and identify satellites is enhanced by technologies from China’s manned and lunar programs as well as technologies and methods developed to detect and track space debris.”


Another ASAT test by China will likely undermine the Obama administration’s controversial space arms control proposal, introduced in January. Many in the Pentagon oppose the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities over concerns it would place limits on U.S. space capabilities.


U.S. lagging in counterspace


Despite China’s continuing development of space weapons, the administration has done no research or development into so-called counterspace weapons and other capabilities that could deter China from its ASAT and anti-satellite laser and jammer arms, according to military officials. The opposition is based on the administration’s preference for arms control negotiations and agreements as a major element of its U.S. national security policies, the officials said.


Frank Rose, deputy assistant secretary of state for arms control, said in a speech in April that the space code of conduct would include legally nonbinding “transparency and confidence-building measures.”


However, a Pentagon Joint Staff assessment of the space code of conduct concluded that U.S. adherence to the code’s provisions would hurt U.S. space operations in several areas.


The Pentagon’s National Security Space Strategy from 2011 makes little mention of counterspace weapons. It states that U.S. policy is “to dissuade and deter” others from developing space weapons, without providing specifics.


The Pentagon indirectly demonstrated an ASAT capability in 2008 when it used a modified ship-based SM-3 anti-missile interceptor to shoot down a falling, low-earth orbit spy satellite that was considered a danger because its fuel tank might have passed through the atmosphere and landed on earth.


Cables detail PRC’s first ASAT test


According to a classified Jan. 12, 2010, State Department cable made public by Wikileaks, China conducted its most recent ASAT test on Jan. 11 of that year.


According to the cable, an ASAT missile designated SC-19 was fired from China’s Korla Missile Test Complex and successfully intercepted a CSS-X-11 medium-range ballistic missile launched from the Shuangchengzi Space and Missile Center.


The two missiles were tracked by U.S. missile warning satellites to an intercept point at an altitude of about 155 miles in space.


Until then, the SC-19 had been used previously to boost China’s first successful direct-ascent anti-satellite intercept on Jan. 11, 2007, when a missile rammed into China’s FY-1C weather satellite.


“Previous SC-19 DA-ASAT flight-tests were conducted in 2005 and 2006,” the 2010 cable said. “This test is assessed to have furthered both Chinese ASAT and ballistic missile defense [BMD] technologies.”


The cable contained a U.S. protest note to China on the 2010 test seeking an explanation for Chinese officials about the purpose of the test and “what steps were taken to minimize the creation of orbital debris.”


The cable said that since the 2007 ASAT test, the United States had urged China not to conduct further space weapons tests.


An earlier cable revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies had advance word of the 2010 space weapons test, and noted that China was not expected to provide notification in advance of the test, which proved accurate.


Other State Department cables revealed conflicting statements from Chinese officials on whether China planned to conduct future ASAT tests. Chinese Foreign Ministry official He Yafei unequivocally stated to U.S. officials in June 2008 that China would not conduct future ASAT tests. In July, China Lt. Gen. Zhang Qinsheng said there were no plans for an ASAT test in the near future.

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16 octobre 2012 2 16 /10 /octobre /2012 11:47

China Carrier (Liaoning)


October 16th, 2012 defencetalk.com (AFP)


Military spending by Asia’s major powers increased dramatically over the past decade with China leading the way, as its defense budget quadrupled since 2000, according to a study released Monday.


Defense spending in China and four other Asian countries doubled over 10 years and will surpass Europe’s military expenditures this year, said the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.


Asia’s arms race still leaves it trailing US defense spending, but it will ensure the United States likely will stick to its plan to shift the country’s strategic focus towards the Asia-Pacific region, it said.


Defense spending in China, India, South Korea and Taiwan reached a total of $224 billion in 2011, which “equates to almost twice the amount spent by these five countries in 2000,” said the CSIS study.


“With Asian defense spending projected to overtake that of Europe by the end of 2012, the United States’ posture rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region is likely to continue,” it said.


In 2005, China’s military budget outstripped Japan’s as the largest in Asia and recorded a 13.4 percent annual rise that year.


Among all countries, China now ranks second behind the United States in total military spending, though the Pentagon budget still dwarfs Beijing’s defense spending at more than $600 billion (463 million euros) year.


Experts say China’s emergence as a global economic giant has driven the spike in military spending, as Beijing seeks to assert its influence beyond its borders to safeguard its access to sea lanes and resources.


In 2011, Beijing spent $25.8 billion on new weapons and related research and development, up from $7.3 billion in 2000, the report said.


China’s total defense budget grew from $22.5 billion to $89.9 billion between 2000 and 2011, said the report, citing official figures from the Beijing government.


But the study acknowledged that independent estimates put Chinese spending at a much higher level, with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimating Beijing’s 2011 defense budget at $142.2 billion.


India’s defense spending grew 47.6 percent over the decade, reaching $37 billion in 2011. Japan’s military budget rose from $40 to $58.2 billion.


South Korea’s defense investments swelled from $17 to $29 billion, while Taiwan’s defense budget expanded at a slower pace, from $8 billion in 2000 to $10 billion in 2011.


Apart from Japan, which spent $238,000 per soldier in 2011, the four other countries devoted $28,000 to $44,000 to training, paying and equipping each of its soldiers, the study said.


“This discrepancy was predominantly caused by the small size of the Japanese forces, approximately 244,300 troops in 2011, relative to the other countries,” it said.

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16 octobre 2012 2 16 /10 /octobre /2012 07:30

asia-pacific source harvard.edu


October 15, 2012 China Military News


2012-10-15 — On the afternoon of Oct. 4, 2012, seven Chinese naval warships passed through the international waters between Okinawa and Miyako and headed for the Pacific for an ocean-going exercise, which caused vigilance of Japanese side. Hong Kong media outlets speculated that the activity of Chinese submarines on the First Island Chain and even Pacific Ocean is about to open to the public. In this regard, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, director with the Chinese Navy Advisory Committee for Informatization, said in an interview with the People’s Daily online that it is very common that Chinese submarines departed from the First Island Chain to carry out exercises and the ocean-going exercise was determined by the depth of water. Meanwhile, Yin warned Japanese side to treat the routine training of Chinese navy rationally.


Depth of water determined the training of Chinese navy in ocean-going regions


According to news released by Japanese Defense Ministry, seven Chinese warships passed through the water channel between Okinawa and Miyako on Oct. 4, which include guided missile destroyers, frigates, submarine rescue ships and depot ships. The foreign media paid close attention to the participation of submarine rescue ships in the training, speculating that there might be submarines in Chinese naval warships. “The Sun,” a Hong Kong-based newspaper, also said on Oct. 8 that the public debut of Chinese submarine rescue ships might imply Chinese submarines’ coming out into the open on the First Island Chain and even Pacific Ocean.


To these speculations, Yin said that the water in the continental shelf of the East China Sea is shallow, which is about 100 meters deep in average, and it is unable to meet the training needs of nuclear submarines and large conventional submarines, therefore the Chinese submarines must head for the First Island Chain for exercises in recent years.


The best anti-submarine training place is the sea area in the east of the First Island Chain and behind the Miyako Strait, in which the depth of water reaches 2 to 3 kilometers. It is common that the navy of a country goes to such waters to carry out combat drills and anti-submarine drills on water surface. Yin stressed, “I think any country having naval forces will understand it.”


Japan should treat regular blue water training of China rationally


For a long time, Japan has been tracking and monitoring China’s military exercises on the Pacific Ocean and more than once dispatched surface ships to close to Chinese naval vessels during regular blue water trainings, which seriously interfered with China’s normal exercises.


Japan’s P-3C anti-submarine patrol aircraft almost scouts about Chinese naval vessels’ sailing on the open seas for one to two times every day. In addition, Japan also monitors and supervises the guided missile tests and target practices of guided missiles, recording the emission frequency of guided missiles and other data. All of these acts show unfriendly attitude. Therefore, Chinese side hopes that Japan can take into consideration the overall situation of China-Japan relations and treat China’s blue water trainings rationally and friendly.

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7 octobre 2012 7 07 /10 /octobre /2012 16:35
Chine : un outil aéronaval en construction pour réaffirmer les ambitions géopolitiques de Pékin


octobre 7, 2012 by Marquis Seignelay - alliancegeostrategique.org


La nouvelle a fait le tour du monde : le « porte-avions » de la Marine populaire de libération a été mis en service le 26 septembre 2012 ! Cette entrée du navire en service actif est l’occasion de proposer quelques petites choses pour tenter d’apprécier la portée de l’événement. Ce qui est surprenant, c’est que l’attention des médias a été focalisée sur l’entrée au service actif d’un navire qui n’est capable de rien, ou presque, sur le plan opérationnel : le poids de la puissance aéronavale chinoise embarquée sur pont plat n’est donc pas actuel. Bien au contraire, la période allant des années 2015 à 2025 semble constituer un tournant aéronaval dans le monde et c’est bel et bien cela qu’il faut préparer. D’autre part, rien n’a été dit sur le nom du navire alors que la Chine ne baptise pas ses unités les plus importantes à la légère. Bien souvent, ces noms sur la mer valent au moins un discours adressé au monde, si ce n’est plus.


La Chine vers la puissance aéronavale embarquée : des années 80 vers 2011


Hervé Coutau-Bégarie, dans l’un de ses ouvrages phares, « Le problème du porte-avions » (1991), abordait la question dans le chapitre II consacrait aux porte-aéronefs sous le sous-titre « les velléités chinoises » :

« On parle depuis le début des années 80 de l’acquisition de porte-avions par la marine chinoise : les premières rumeurs fai­saient état de l’achat de 5 porte-aéronefs du type Invincible qui auraient été construits sous licence. L’intention chinoise d’acheter des Harrier a évidemment donné crédit à ces rumeurs. Mais cette évaluation des possibilités chinoises s’est révélée beaucoup trop ambitieuse et ce programme n’a reçu aucun commencement d’exécution en dehors de l’acquisition de la coque du Melbourne ferraillé par les Australiens : les ingénieurs chinois l’ont minutieu­sement examiné avant de commencer la démolition : ils en ont cer­tainement tiré d’utiles enseignements, mais la technologie du Melbourne datait des années 50.


La marine chinoise n’a pas pour autant abandonné tout espoir d’acquérir des porte-aéronefs : le débat continue dans les re­vues navales, un auteur demandant la construction de porte-avions légers dans la première décennie du XXIe siècle, d’autres suggérant d’acheter aux États-unis l’un des deux Essex moderni­sés encore en réserve [27]. La conjoncture budgétaire et internatio­nale semble rendre de tels projets chimériques, mais le besoin subsiste, notamment sur le flanc sud, face au Vietnam : les avions basés à Haïnan peuvent couvrir les îles Paracels, mais pas l’archipel des Spratley, situé beaucoup plus au sud, où Pékin a récemment entrepris de renforcer sa présence. D’après des rap­ports américains, dont les conclusions ont récemment été rendues publiques, l’état-Major de la marine chinoise aurait poursuivi des études dans deux directions : à long terme, un porte-avions classi­que de 48 000 tonnes, avec des avions conventionnels : l’amiral Zheng Mingh, directeur du matériel de la marine chinoise, aurait étudié de très près les rapports sur les essais du Tbilissi soviéti­que ; à court terme, la conversion d’un roulier en porte-aéronefs de fortune, sur le modèle de ce que la Royal Navy a réalisé avec l’Argus. Un navire actuellement armé par le ministère des com­munications, le Huayuankou, pourrait faire l’objet d’une telle transformation. Des entretiens sur ce thème ont eu lieu en avril 90 à Pékin [28]. Mais même un porte-avions modeste risque d’être hors de portée de la Chine au moment où l’économie connaît une dé­pression qui risque d’être durable et où le maintien de l’ordre passe au premier rang des missions des forces armées. La marine chinoise ne disposera pas de porte-avions avant le XXIe siècle ».


Le long périple de l’ancien Varyag


Un petit retour en arrière s’impose : « Racheté en [1998] au chantier ukrainien par l’intermédiaire d’un homme d’affaires chinois, la coque, à environ 70% d’achèvement, a été remorquée en 2002 à Dalian ». Il s’agit du Varyag qui est la seconde unité de la classe Kuznetsov et celle-ci ne compte pas d’autres navires. Il est question que la coque vendue à la Chine devienne un casino-flottant (un croiseur porte-aéronefs, le Kiev, tête de série de sa classe, a connu un tel destin en Chine. Un navire de la même classe, le Minsk, est devenu un musée).

Il y eu des chancelleries qui ne furent pas dupes de la finalité du projet puisque la Turquie bloqua le passage de ses détroits (des Dardanelles et du Bosphore). C’est à se demander si l’initiative d’Ankara n’avait pas été influencée. La coque eu alors quelques difficultés à quitter la mer Noire. Les détroits turcs ont la particularité d’être sous la juridiction de traités internationaux (comme, par exemple, la convention de Montreux, c’est une des formes de désarmement naval) qui prohibent le passage de navire porte-avions. Le pont plat quitte donc finalement l’Ukraine en 2001 et arrive en Chine, à Dailan, en 2002. Mais, le navire qui est livré n’est doté d’aucun engin de propulsion.


© Inconnu. Le porte-aéronefs Kuznetsov.

© Inconnu. Le porte-aéronefs Kuznetsov.


Porte-aéronefs et non pas porte-avions


Le Kuznetsov et l’ex-Varyag sont plus des porte-aéronefs que des porte-avions -et la différence est fondamentale. Première chose, les soviétiques les ont conçu comme des « croiseurs porte-aéronefs ». Il s’agissait de pouvoir s’affranchir de la convention de Montreux par un artifice juridique. Hors, Coutau-Bégarie le relevait, avec une certaine malice, dans le café stratégique numéro 4 consacré à la géostratégie maritime, quand il posait cette question : « avez-vous déjà vu un croiseur de 40 000 tonnes ? » L’auteur évoquait le cas des croiseurs porte-aéronefs de classe Kiev. A titre d’exemple, les croiseurs lance-missiles à propulsion nucléaire de la même classe que le Pierre le Grand déplacent 26 000 tonnes à pleine charge. Et pourtant, ce sont les derniers croiseurs de bataille du monde.

De plus, la stratégie navale soviétique s’appuyait sur des bastions. Ces zones, au nombre de deux, étaient sous la responsabilité des flottes du Nord et du Pacifique. Il s’agissait pour la marine russe de construire, par diverses actions opérationnelles, des zones interdites à toutes les menaces dans l’optique de sécuriser les vecteurs nucléaires (SNLE principalement) qui pouvaient y patrouiller.


Une parenthèse doit être ouverte car il est régulièrement évoqué la création d’une sorte de bastion en Chine autour de l’île de Hainan. Une base souterraine pour sous-marin y a été aménagée. Qui plus, le porte-aéronefs chinois pourrait être amené à y patrouilleur selon l’analyse de quelques personnes afin de protéger cette zone, le flanc sud de la Chine, qui est assez vulnérable. Coutau-Bégarie relevait déjà cet état de fait au début des années 90. Parenthèse refermée.

Donc, il y avait nécessité de navires de défense aérienne car l’attaque anti-navires se faisait par avions à long rayon d’action (Tu-95 et 142, par exemple) et croiseurs sous-marins lance-missiles à propulsion nucléaire (les fameux Oscar I et II dont le Koursk était l’un des représentants). En outre, il n’y avait pas de projection de puissance dans la doctrine navale russe car elle était essentiellement défensive.. Mais pas seulement, soit dit en passant puisque la doctrine navale soviétique des années 70 et 80 prévoyait de mener une guerre des communications contre les routes alliés à partir des différentes bases avancées de l’URSS dans le monde. Alors, ces deux navires (ainsi qu’une classe de quatre autres croiseurs porte-aéronefs : les Kiev) sont des croiseurs lance-missiles en tout premier lieu. Le navire tête de série, le Kuznetsov qui est en service dans la Marine russe, permet d’appréhender la chose. Ils (exemple de la classe Kuznetsov) ont donc :

  • une batterie principale composée de missiles : « 12 missiles anti-navires SS-N-19 Shipwreck (« Granit » de 555 km de portée) situés sous le pont d’envol au milieu de la piste (la phase de tir interromprait donc les opérations aériennes). La défense anti-aérienne du bâtiment est assurée par 4 groupements de 6 silos à 8 missiles surface-air SA-N-9 (15 km de portée), 4 systèmes anti-aériens CADS-N-1 (2 canons de 30mm et 8 missiles SA-N-11 -8 km de portée- chacun) et 6 canons anti-aériens multitubes de 30mm. Deux lance-roquettes anti sous-marins complètent le tout » ;
  • et d’une batterie secondaire qui repose sur un groupe aérien embarqué : « Le groupe aérien du Kouznetsov se compose généralement de trente aéronefs dont des chasseurs embarqués Su-33, des avions d’entraînement Su-25UTG et des hélicoptères anti sous-marins Ka-27, de guet aérien Ka-31 et de transport d’assaut Ka-29. A l’origine, il était également prévu d’embarquer des chasseurs à décollage vertical Yak-141 Freestyle avant abandon du programme à la chute de l’URSS. Le Mig-29K a quant à lui été testé mais n’a pas été retenu face au Su-33« .

Le problème pour la Chine, c’est que le navire a été livré sans sa batterie principale. Cette dernière prend une place considérable à bord, ce qui fait que le groupe aérien est plutôt limité (30 machines, officiellement) par rapport au tonnage du navire (60 000 tonnes, contre 32 aéronefs et 40 000 tonnes pour le Charles de Gaulle). Le vaisseau n’est pas non plus optimisé, à l’origine, pour les opérations aériennes puisqu’il fallait composer avec un navire hybride (croiseur/porte-aéronefs) avec deux batteries aux solutions architecturales presque contradictoires.




De plus, les deux navires russes (et six avec les quatre Kiev) relèvent de la filière aéronavale des STOBAR (Short take-off but arrested recovery). C’est-à-dire que les aéronefs à voilure fixe décollent à la seule force de leur réacteur et avec l’aide d’un tremplin et ils reviennent apponter sur le navire avec l’aide de brins d’arrêt. Il n’y a pas de catapultes et c’est une différence vraiment fondamentale d’avec la filière CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off Barrier Arrested Recovery) qui compte comme seuls membres les Etats-Unis, la France et le Brésil. Si la filière STOBAR simplifie l’architecture des navires, elle implique que l’avion embarqué soit inférieur en performances à son homologue terrestre. La chose est simple à constater : un Su-33 qui décolle du Kuznetsov ne le fait pas avec son plein chargement de munitions et de carburant, comme il aurait pu le faire depuis une base terrestre. La masse maximale de l’appareil est de 33 tonnes. A contrario, et avec la filière CATOBAR, un Rafale qui est catapulté du Charles de Gaulle a les mêmes performances que celui de l’Armée de l’Air qui décolle d’une base terrestre : ils sont tout les deux aussi chargés. Sauf que le Rafale M est catapulté, à l’heure actuelle, avec une masse maximale de 21 tonnes. Cette symétrie des performances entre l’avion catapulté et son homologue terrestre est vraie dans l’US Navy depuis les années 50. Dans la pratique, cela aboutit à ce que le groupe aéronaval CATOBAR ait une portée très supérieure au groupe aéronaval STOBAR.


Une refonte modeste pour l’entrée en service


Si l’ex-Varyag arrive finalement en Chine en 2002, il n’entre en cale sèche qu’au cours de l’année 2005. Ce long retard reste à expliquer : était-ce pour cacher la finalité de l’opération ? Les deux porte-aéronefs musée et casino ne suffisaient-ils pas pour faire illusion ?. Finalement, le navire ne quitte sa cale que pendant l’année 2011.

6 années de travaux, c’est à la fois beaucoup et à la fois très peu. Il fallait, au moins, motoriser le navire. Par la suite, les chinois l’ont un peu adapté à leurs besoins, comme c’est expliqué par Mer et Marine :

« Doté de matériels chinois en plus de ses équipements d’origine russe, l’ex-Varyag, qui devrait porter le nom de Shi Lang, mesure 304 mètres de long et affiche un déplacement lège de 46.000 tonnes, son déplacement à pleine charge étant estimé à environ 60.000 tonnes. Doté à l’avant d’un tremplin incliné à 12 degrés, il disposera comme le Kuznetsov d’une piste oblique avec brins d’arrêt. Par rapport à son aîné, divers aménagements ont été réalisés. Ainsi, la capacité du hangar aurait été augmentée, pour permettre à cet espace d’accueillir 22 avions, contre 18 suivant les plans originaux. Le groupe aérien embarqué du Shi Lang devrait comprendre des avions multi-rôles J10 et des intercepteurs J15, version chinoise du Su-33 russe. On rappellera d’ailleurs que Moscou a suspendu la livraison de 50 Su-33 après avoir découvert que le chasseur avait été copié par les Chinois. Il conviendra également de voir comment sera traitée la problématique de l’alerte lointaine, indispensable pour tout déploiement aéronaval lointain, alors que la marine ne dispose d’aucun avion de guet aérien embarqué ».


Il semblerait que la batterie principale n’ait pas été renouvelée. Mais les chinois n’auraient pas mené les travaux nécessaires pour optimiser les opérations aériennes à bord du navire. Ainsi, la Russie refond actuellement l’ancien Gorshkov, navire de la classe Kiev, pour l’Inde. Donc, à titre de contre-exemple par rapport aux travaux menés sur le frère jumeau du Kuznetsov, le Liaoning de la marine chinoise, voici l’ampleur de la refonte Gorshkov : « Long de 283 mètres pour un déplacement de 45.000 tonnes en charge, le porte-avions, qui sera rebaptisé Vikramaditya, mettra en œuvre 20 avions MiG-29 K et 12 hélicoptères ». Le Su-33 a beau être légèrement plus grand que le Mig-29K, il y a 12 aéronefs d’écart entre les deux navires. Tout est relatif puisque la place à bord des BPC français pour les hélicoptères le montre, mais c’est à relever.



© Inconnu. L'INS Vikramaditya, porte-aéronefs refondu par la Russie et qui doit être livré en 2013 à l'Inde.

© Inconnu. L'INS Vikramaditya, porte-aéronefs refondu par la Russie et qui doit être livré en 2013 à l'Inde.


Un navire d’essais, d’expérimentations et d’apprentissage des arts aéronavals


Le navire sert donc à pratiquer de nombreux essais à la mer depuis 2011, et il a surtout fait l’objet d’une mise en service, plutôt que d’une refonte aussi ambitieuse que celle choisie par l’Inde pour un autre croiseur porte-aéronefs.

Pékin présente son porte-aéronefs (puisque ce n’est pas un porte-avions) comme un navire-école. Il y a un décalage entre ce qui se passe en Asie et ce qui est perçu dans divers endroits de l’Occident. Ce décalage en sera que plus dommageable pour ceux qui perçoivent très mal la montée en puissance des capacités aéronavales chinoises.

Dans un premier temps, l’apprentissage de l’outil aéronaval fondé sur un porte-aéronefs sera très long pour la Chine. Comme le faisait remarquer Coutau-Bégarie, il est nécessaire de distinguer deux notions différentes :

  • le groupe aérien embarqué, qui va de paire avec le navire porte-aéronefs ou porte-avions,
  • le groupe aéronaval.

Groupe aérien embarqué incomplet


Le groupe aérien embarqué n’est pas une notion qui va de soi. Par exemple, dans le colloque du CESM consacré au centenaire de l’aéronautique navale française, Coutau-Bégarie notait qu’il avait fallu attendre les porte-avions Foch et Clemenceau pour que la notion s’impose en France. Entre temps, bien des compétences qui avaient été acquises depuis le début de la guerre d’Indochine jusqu’à la Crise de Suez avaient été perdues. Les chinois peuvent difficilement passer à côté d’une telle unité organique qui permet de générer, diffuser et de régénérer les compétences opérationnelles.


Pékin a pris les devants. D’une part, la Chine a conclu un accord aéronaval avec le Brésil, en 2010, relatif à la formation des futurs pilotes embarqués chinois. D’autre part, il y a de nombreuses installations terrestres en Chine qui permettent le début de la formation du groupe aérien embarqué et des personnels méconnus mais ô combien indispensables pour sa mise en œuvre (rien que la gestion du pont d’envol est tout un art).

La marine chinoise bénéficierait d’une très bonne préparation avant de percevoir son navire-amiral : mais la pratique sur le porte-aéronefs demeure indispensable…


De plus, si la Chine prépare la constitution d’un groupe aérien embarqué et sa mise en œuvre à la mer sur son pont plat, il est à noter que ce groupe est incomplet. Par exemple, il n’y a pas d’aéronefs dédié à l’éclairage de l’escadre ou à la coordination et au soutien des activités aériennes (comme le relevait Mer et Marine dès 2011). Ce groupe est donc sans aéronef de guet aérien (AEW dans la terminologie anglo-américaine) et c’est un manque crucial car c’est l’absence de ce genre d’appareils qui a coûté bien des pertes aux anglais lors de la guerre des Malouines (sans compter qu’il semblerait que la Royal Navy ait été incapable de débusquer et suivre le 25 de Mayo, le porte-avions Argentin -il rentrera au port de lui-même après le torpillage du croiseur argentin Belgrano). Pékin préparerait diverses solutions pour palier au problème : des hélicoptères d’alerte lointaine auraient été développés pour le ou les porte-aéronefs et un avion de guet aérien serait également en développement… Par ailleurs, à quoi peut bien servir un tel appareil, si ce n’est pour équiper un porte-avions dotés de catapultes ?…

C’est sans oublier les hélicoptères de sauvetage qui sont, eux aussi, indispensables pour parer à toutes les éventualités. De même que les hélicoptères logistiques sont nécessaires pour faire durer le navire à la mer grâce aux liaisons qu’ils permettent de faire rapidement entre navires et entre l’escadre et la terre.



© Wendell Royce McLaughlin Jr. Planes of Carrier Air Wing 7 (CVW-7) fly by USS George Washington (CVN-73) during the ship's maiden deployment to the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, May 20–November 17, 1994. Official US Navy photograph. Le CVN 73 George Washington est aujourd'hui prépositionné au Japon. Sur cette photographie, le groupe aérien embarqué était au grand complet : intercepteurs (F-14C Tomcat), chasseurs-bombardiers (F/A-18 Hornet), bombardiers (A-6 Intruder), avions de guerre électronique (EA-6B Prowler) et de guet aérien (E-2C Hawkeye).

© Wendell Royce McLaughlin Jr. Planes of Carrier Air Wing 7 (CVW-7) fly by USS George Washington (CVN-73) during the ship's maiden deployment to the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, May 20–November 17, 1994. Official US Navy photograph. Le CVN 73 George Washington est aujourd'hui prépositionné au Japon. Sur cette photographie, le groupe aérien embarqué était au grand complet : intercepteurs (F-14C Tomcat), chasseurs-bombardiers (F/A-18 Hornet), bombardiers (A-6 Intruder), avions de guerre électronique (EA-6B Prowler) et de guet aérien (E-2C Hawkeye).


Absence de groupe aéronaval chinois


Outre le couple porte-aéronefs/groupe aérien embarqué, il faut pouvoir l’escorter. Ce n’est pas une mince affaire que d’articuler une base aérienne flottante (tout comme il faut protéger une base aérienne déployée à l’étranger… ou en France !) avec, au moins, un escorteur dédié à la lutte anti-sous-marine et un autre à la lutte anti-aérienne. Ainsi, il est impensable de nos jours de déployer un porte-aéronefs ou un porte-avions sans sous-marin nucléaire d’attaque pour assurer sa protection (sauf quand la nation détentrice du pont plat ne possède pas de SNA, mais alors elle déploie rarement son porte-aéronefs de manière indépendante). C’est l’escorte minimale pour protéger le porte-aéronefs. En la matière, il est difficile de dire que la SNA regorge de SNA (une demi-douzaine) par rapport au nombre de sous-marins classiques qu’elle met en œuvre. Mais le « hic » est que, historiquement, le sous-marin diesel-électrique est inapte à escorter une escadre.


Et c’est sans compter sur le nécessaire train logistique pour faire durer le navire à la mer : il faut autant ravitailler le pont plat que ses aéronefs que son escorte. Tout comme l’escorte doit pouvoir être relevé si besoin est par de nouveaux navires. Cela implique d’avoir une flotte de surface bien dimensionnée par rapport au besoin -même si le navire n’est pas destiné à être projeté loin de sa base. Par exemple, quand le Charles de Gaulle œuvrait au Sud du port de Toulon, l’escorte de SNA était insuffisante.


Le porte-aéronefs chinois se prépare à entrer en service depuis l’année 2011 : c’est-à-dire que son équipage prend en main le navire et le porte vers l’état opérationnel en qualifiant les systèmes les uns après les autres. Si le navire est livré en fin d’année 2012 (le 23 ou le 25 septembre, peu importe), c’est qu’il aura fallu au moins une année pour le prendre en main depuis ses premiers essais à la mer.


Dans le même temps, le navire a commencé les essais aéronautiques dont les objectifs sont autant de qualifier les hommes que les machines et l’intégration des deux aussi bien sur le pont d’envol que dans les airs. Il faudra probablement une bonne année pour prendre en main tout cela.


Mais il faudra encore une bonne année, si ce n’est plus, pour adjoindre au pilier du groupe aéronaval son escorte et un train logistique efficace. La Chine s’est essayé à la projection de forces à l’occasion des opérations de lutte contre la piraterie au large de l’Afrique. Si le fait de déployer quelques frégates dans le temps au large de la Corne de l’Afrique peut passer pour un effort « modeste » et « non-alarmant » sur la puissance navale chinoise, il faut bien comprendre que Pékin fait dans ce cadre ses armes pour projeter loin de ses côtes des unités navales…

Enfin, il sera intéressant d’observer comment la Chine couplera sa force aéronaval terrestre constitué d’appareils d’attaque à long rayon d’action avec son groupe aéronaval : complémentarité ou rivalité ?


Groupe Aéronaval Chinois (GAC) : vers 2022 ?


Bernard Prézelin, l’auteur actuel de « Fottes de combat », estimait en 2011, que cinq année, au minimum, serait nécessaire à la Chine pour construire un groupe aéronaval crédible (par rapport à ce qui se faisait pendant l’opération Harmattan). Il faudra certainement quelques années de plus car il sera nécessaire à la marine chinoise d’apprendre de nombreux exercices, voire d’interventions militaires. Par ailleurs, il est bon de noter que la Chine semble développer une coopération aéronavale avec le Brésil : est-ce que ce sera la seule ?


Dire que le groupe aéronaval chinois ne sera crédible que vers l’an 2022, ce n’est ni exagéré, ni une sous-estimation. La Chine se donne les moyens de préparer l’aventure avant la perception du navire afin de gagner du temps sur les enseignements à tirer de la mer. Elle parviendra à construire l’outil qu’elle ambitionne de se doter, à n’en pas douter. Donc, il serait surfait de craindre que le navire puisse actuellement, et dès sa livraison (comme s’il pouvait être livré « prêt à l’emploi en guerre »), être la pièce maîtresse d’un dispositif naval offensif.


Un outil pour la guerre des archipels ?


Coutau-Bégarie proposait une utilité au futur navire porte-aéronefs ou porte-avions chinois en 1991 : « La conjoncture budgétaire et internatio­nale semble rendre de tels projets chimériques, mais le besoin subsiste, notamment sur le flanc sud, face au Vietnam : les avions basés à Haïnan peuvent couvrir les îles Paracels, mais pas l’archipel des Spratley, situé beaucoup plus au sud, où Pékin a récemment entrepris de renforcer sa présence ». C’est une possible utilisation du navire, qu’il serve d’école ou non, qui a encore été avancé cette année. Si les tensions qui règnent entre le Japon et la Chine autour de l’archipel des Senkaku focalisent aujourd’hui l’attention, elles ne doivent pas faire oublier les conflits territoriaux qui perdurent sur le flanc sud de la façade maritime chinoise.


Un navire bien encombrant pour la diplomatie navale chinoise ?


C’est sur le plan de la diplomatie navale que le navire produit ses premiers effets car il est l’objet du fantasme d’une « Chine impéraliste ». Tout du moins, il montre que la Chine entend aussi projeter sa puissance aérienne par la voie des mers, au moins au large de ses côtes.


Mais en attendant le nécessaire apprentissage, il n’est pas un instrument de combat, ce qui va compliquer les bénéfices politiques à retirer de ses croisières. Cela pourrait même fragiliser sa position : un navire inapte au combat ne va pas dans un théâtre d’opérations où pourrait se dérouler des actions offensives de moyenne ou haute intensité. Et donc, le moral chinois pourrait recevoir un coup terrible en cas de crise régionale puisque le fleuron de la flotte resterait au port ou loin des combats, dans une sorte de « fleet in being« . La diplomatie navale peut être à double tranchant.



© Inconnu. Maquette de porte-avions nucléaire soviétique, l'Ulyanovsk, qui était construit à 20% lors de la chute du mur de Berlin. Il a été déconstruit sur cale par la suite. Il pourrait inspirer le projet 085 chinois.

© Inconnu. Maquette de porte-avions nucléaire soviétique, l'Ulyanovsk, qui était construit à 20% lors de la chute du mur de Berlin. Il a été déconstruit sur cale par la suite. Il pourrait inspirer le projet 085 chinois.


Deux porte-aéronefs et un porte-avions supplémentaires à percevoir pour la Marine chinoise ?


Le décalage entre la situation opérationnelle du porte-aéronefs chinois d’aujourd’hui et la montée en puissance des capacités aéronavales chinoises dissimulent ce qui pourrait se passer en 2022. Ce navire demeurera très certainement un navire-école (tout comme il sera le centre d’un groupe aéronaval école, à vrai dire) car tant qu’il flottera, il sera une inappréciable source d’enseignements opérationnels pour la Chine. Si jamais il devait ne plus naviguer pour bien des raisons, alors ce serait autant de temps perdu.

Mais si Pékin tient son calendrier, alors la marine chinoise pourrait sereinement faire entrer en service d’autres porte-avions à partir de 2022. Deux projets seraient actuellement menés en Chine :

  • le projet 085 : « Les autorités chinoises envisageraient la réalisation d’un porte-avions à propulsion nucléaire. Ce grand bâtiment de 93.000 tonnes pourrait être mis en service à l’horizon 2020 [...]. En ce qui concerne le porte-avions nucléaire, sa conception et sa réalisation pourrait être confiées aux chantiers Jiangnan, près de Shanghai. Ses dimensions seraient très proches de celles de l’ex-porte-avions nucléaire russe Ul’yanovsk, soit plus de 300 mètres de long. Mis sur cale à Nikolaev en fin 1988, ce navire avait été finalement démoli en 1992, alors que sa coque était à 20% d’achèvement ».
  • Le projet 089 qui compterait deux navires : « Les autorités chinoises envisageraient la réalisation d’un porte-avions à propulsion nucléaire [...] viendrait compléter le dossier « 089 », portant sur la construction dans les 5 à 8 ans [à partir de 2007] de deux porte-avions classiques de 64.000 tonnes. Dotés de deux catapultes, ils pourraient mettre en oeuvre 30 à 40 avions J-10. Ces bâtiments seraient dérivés du Varyag, le sistership non achevé du porte-avions russe Kuznetzov ».

Les équipages du premier groupe aéronaval auront constitué le noyau dur de la puissance aéronavale chinoise. C’est à partir de ce noyau qu’elle grandira. Les actuelles agitations autour de la livraison du navire font oublier le fait que bien des échos annoncent la construction de porte-avions en Chine. S’ils étaient livrés en 2022, alors la Chine ferait un pas de géant dans le club des puissances aéronavales.


C’est cet accroissement soudain de la puissance aéronavale chinoise à l’horizon des années 2020 que peuvent craindre les nations asiatiques.


Le temps long de la construction hauturière de la marine chinoise est bien adapté à celui de la mer qui est, aussi, un temps long, Pékin pourrait prendre de vitesse bien des rivaux. Il doit être clair pour tout le monde que l’acquisition d’un porte-avions et sa préparation pour qu’il devienne la pièce centrale d’un outil stratégique relève du long terme puisque :

  • quelques années sont nécessaires pour concevoir le navire dans un bureau d’études.
  • La durée de construction généralement constatée d’un tel navire et pour l’armer de tout ses systèmes est de 5 à 7 ans.
  • Enfin, 5 à 10 ans années sont nécessaires pour le transformer en un outil opérationnel (à force d’entraînements et d’échanges avec les marines alliés) capable d’opérer avec un groupe aéronaval.

Nous sommes en 2012, et autant dire que si, effectivement, la Chine construit une escadre école pour accueillir deux porte-aéronefs de plus, et avec, peut être, le premier porte-avions (à propulsion nucléaire) sur la tranche des années 2020-2025, alors elle prendra bel et bien toute l’Asie du Sud-Est de court.


Développement horizontal de la puissance aéronavale en Asie


Ce n’est pas vraiment une projection saugrenue puisque :

  • les programmes indiens d’acquisition de porte-aéronefs accumulent les retards : les navires (un, voire deux Air Defense Ship/Indigenous Aircrafts Carrier et l’INS Vikramaditya (ex-Gorshkov soviétique) n’arriveraient en flotte en 2013 (Vikramaditya) et les deux autres vers 2017-2020. Actuellement la marine indienne ne met en œuvre que l’INS Vikrant, navire qui accuse son âge.
  • La Russie maintient le Kuznetsov en service, mais elle n’a pas encore retrouvé les capacités nécessaires pour le remplacer, voire augmenter sa flotte de ponts plats. La démonstration la plus flagrante de cet état de fait est que la Chine aura réussi l’exploit de refondre et mettre au service un ancien porte-aéronefs soviétique (classe Kuznetsov) avant que Moscou réussisse à en faire de même pour honorer le contrat d’acquisition passé par l’Inde pour un autre ancien porte-aéronefs soviétique (le Gorshkov, donc, de classe Kiev). Mais Moscou devrait percevoir un second porte-avions (en plus de ses deux premiers BPC et de son Kuznetsov qui serait alors toujours en service) vers 2020 et ils seront complétés par les modernisations et réactivations des croiseurs lance-missiles classe Pierre le Grand.
  • la Corée du Sud aura toujours ses trois Dokdo (et pourquoi pas des F-35B à mettre dessus?).
  • Le Japon aura alors au moins quatre porte-aéronefs (avec, peut être, des F-35B, même si Tokyo dit ne pas s’y intéresser à l’heure actuelle) : les deux destroyers porte-hélicoptères 16DDH et deux autres navires de ce type, mais plus volumineux et grands : les deux 22DDH.
  • Les Etats-Unis auront toujours un porte-avions basé au Japon, en sus des autres naviguant de la mer d’Arabie jusqu’au Pacifique en passant par l’océan Indien (soit trois navires autour du Rimland, en plus du navire basé au Japon).

Dans une telle mêlée, deux ou trois porte-aéronefs et porte-avions chinois en plus de l’actuel, ce n’est pas difficile à justifier.


Le problème naval américain ?


Il demeure donc essentiellement les Etats-Unis dans la région pour contre-balancer la puissance navale chinoise en devenir, et dans une moindre mesure, l’Inde. Ils sont directement impactés par le potentiel défi et cela ne fait qu’accentuer leur problème naval : avec un navire stationné au Japon, un ou deux patrouillant dans le Golfe Persique et un autre faisant la jonction entre l’océan Indien et l’Asie du Sud-Est, il n’y a pas tellement de navires américains face à un, deux ou trois, voire quatre ! (à l’orée 2020) navires chinois jouant à domicile. Les navires de la marine de l’armée populaire de libération ont cet avantage d’être directement sur zone quand les navires américains passent un bon tiers de leur temps en transit.


Si Pékin armait deux, trois ou quatre porte-aéronefs et porte-avions entre 2020-2025, que feront les Etats-Unis qui disposent, en moyenne, d’autant de porte-avions dans la zone ? Les valeurs respectives des groupes aéronavals de chacun ne seront pas les mêmes, certes. Mais comment se posera le problème naval américain si Pékin allait jusqu’à lancer un porte-aéronefs ou porte-avions de plus que ce que peuvent aligner les Etats-Unis dans la zone ? C’est une chose que l’URSS n’avait pas osé faire : dépasser quantitativement l’US Navy dans la projection de puissance via les ponts plats. D’un autre côté, et à moins d’un affrontement de haute intensité, la Chine pourrait rapidement se convertir à la « diplomatie du porte-avions » et donc envoyer ses porte-avions faire sentir l’influence de Pékin dans toutes les zones jugées stratégiques par la capitale chinoise.



© Inconnu. Repris sur le site de DSI : "Une vue d’artiste tirée d’internet et montrant le 22DDH, nouveau type de « destroyer porte-hélicoptères » aux côtés d’un Hyuga. La JMSDF japonaise, qui devait recevoir 4 Hyuga, a décidé que les deux derniers bâtiments seraient substantiellement plus gros (plus de 24 000 tonnes contre 18 000 pour les Hyuga) et plus long (248 m, largeur de 39 m). Tokyo n'a toutefois pas encore montré d’intérêt pour le F-35B".

© Inconnu. Repris sur le site de DSI : "Une vue d’artiste tirée d’internet et montrant le 22DDH, nouveau type de « destroyer porte-hélicoptères » aux côtés d’un Hyuga. La JMSDF japonaise, qui devait recevoir 4 Hyuga, a décidé que les deux derniers bâtiments seraient substantiellement plus gros (plus de 24 000 tonnes contre 18 000 pour les Hyuga) et plus long (248 m, largeur de 39 m). Tokyo n'a toutefois pas encore montré d’intérêt pour le F-35B".


Des noms de navires pour l’ambition


C’est justement la volonté des Etats-Unis qui est mesurée par Pékin.


Sur le plan naval, il faut bien comprendre que la Chine ne donne pas, par hasard, des noms à ses navires. Par exemple, le navire-école chinois qui sert à former les officiers d’une marine océanique en construction porte un nom bien particulier : le Zheng He. C’était aussi le nom d’un amiral chinois du XIVe siècle. La particularité de ce marin est qu’il est soupçonné d’être l’un des premiers à avoir découvert l’Amérique du Nord dès le XIVe siècle (mais d’autres pistes portent à croire que ce serait une découverte viking qui daterait du Xe siècle -l’Europe est sauvée). Mais plus encore, du temps de cet amiral, la marine chinoise était une force océanique capable de croiser depuis la Chine jusqu’au Golfe Persique et de soumettre ces côtes à l’influence chinoise.


Dans un premier temps, donc, ce premier porte-aéronefs chinois etait baptisé « Shi Lang« . C’est le nom d’un amiral chinois qui servit sous les dynasties des Ming et des Qing, soit au XVIIe siècle. Une des réussites militaires de cet amiral a une résonance toute particulière, encore aujourd’hui : il réussi à soumettre l’archipel de Taiwan. Donc, et alors que Pékin niait toujours, pour la forme, que l’ancien Varyag soviétique allait devenir un navire militaire, il était attribué d’un nom à la symbolique très forte. Il semblait bien trouvé puisqu’il permettait à Pékin de matérialiser une volonté politique très forte de faire entendre raison à cet archipel pour qu’il rejoigne « une seule Chine, deux systèmes » -ou trois systèmes pour l’occasion. C’était une réaffirmation politique qui aurait fait écho à bien des discours. Mais c’était aussi un risque calculé car si la Chine montait progressivement d’un cran dans le cadre de cette crise larvée, elle le faisait très progressivement sans déstabiliser la région. Les Etats-Unis auraient alors reçu très clairement le message puisque l’archipel de la Chine nationaliste est sous leur protection (bien que Washington évite de franchir des lignes jaunes en accordant une trop grande protection aux yeux de Pékin – autre chose à noter, les Etats-Unis se méfient, peut être trop tard, de la réussite chinoise à espionner les matériels américains vendus à Taiwan, ce qui pourrait expliquer quelques lenteurs à la livraison de matériels).


Mais ce n’était qu’un nom de baptême officieux : rien de rien n’était officiel.

C’est bien dommage, dans un sens. Il a été dit que bien des esprits se focalisent (trop ?) sur les capacités supposées du navire. Sans paraphraser ce qui a été dit plus haut, ce porte-aéronefs n’est pas la pièce d’un groupe aéronaval opérationnel. C’est la pièce maîtresse de la montée en puissance de la Chine dans le club fermé des marines dotées d’une aéronavale embarquée sur porte-aéronefs ou porte-avions. Ce qui aurait dû retenir l’attention, c’est le nom du navire. Première observation, c’est le nom de la province il a été refondu et mis en service : Liaoning. Et alors ? Il y a bien un porte-avions Charles de Gaulle qui était baptisé Bretagne au début de son programme en France et la première frégate du programme FREMM qui est nommée Aquitaine. Deuxième remarque : la Chine ne semble jamais donner un nom à un navire de premier plan à la légère…


La troisième remarque n’est que le fruit de la supposition de l’auteur : Liaoning, ce nom n’est pas inconnu dans nos manuels d’Histoire. Liaoning est donc le nom d’une province chinoise. Cette entité administrative abrite une ville, Dailan, où a été refondu et mis en service le navire. La capitale de cette entité territoriale est Shenyang. Le nom mandchou de cette ville est « assez intéressant » : Moukden. En 1931, l’empire du soleil levant organise un faux attentat sur une ligne de chemin de fer appartenant à une société japonaise. Cet « attentat » (il est avéré aujourd’hui que c’est bien le Japon qui l’avait monté de toutes pièces) a été le prétexte pour Tokyo pour occuper la Mandchourie. La suite de l’Histoire est connue : la Chine côtière fut en grande partie soumise par les armes japonaises, et ce fut un massacre parmi les chinois. Aujourd’hui encore, Pékin exige des excuses du Japon et la fureur populaire chinoise explose à chaque fois que cette période est minimisée au Japon, comme quand un manuel scolaire japonais restait bien « modeste » sur cette période.

Il faudrait donc admettre que le nom du premier porte-aéronefs chinois ait été effectivement choisi en liaison avec cet événement historique qui inaugurait une période noire pour la Chine. Les gouvernements successifs de Pékin, depuis la proclamation de la République Populaire de Chine, s’acharnent à démonter, les uns après les autres, les traités « inégaux » que la Chine aurait eu à signer au XIXe siècle (essentiellement). Cette fois-ci, la Chine pourrait (ce n’est qu’une supposition) adresser un message très fort au Japon : il y a des contentieux à régler, et cela ne peut plus se faire sur des bases que les gouvernants chinois jugent ou jugeraient inéquitables. Pékin afficherait alors une ligne géopolitique constante, mais renouvellerait également sa volonté par cet acte fort.

Dans le cadre de cette supposition, ce n’est plus seulement l’archipel nationaliste et rebelle qui est visé, mais c’est bien le Japon. Le protecteur stratégique est le même dans les deux cas. Ce ne serait pas du tout la même chose entre la réintégration de Taiwan dans le giron chinois et le lâchage du Japon par les Etats-Unis :

  • d’un côté, il y a un archipel qui est divisé entre indépendantistes et un autre camp plutôt désireux de se rapprocher de la Chine (ce qui ne veut pas dire rattachement pur et simple). Si la pression des armes chinoises se fait sentir, la porte n’est pas non plus fermée à une solution politique.
  • De l’autre côté, il y a le Japon. L’archipel dépositaire de l’empire du soleil levant est sous protectorat américain depuis 1945.

La sécurité nationale japonaise repose sur la volonté des Etats-Unis à rester suffisamment engagé en Asie pour défendre et leurs intérêts, et l’archipel. Si donc le message de la Chine passe par ce navire, dont le nom ferait référence à l’incident de 1931, alors un défi est lancé au Japon et aux Etats-Unis.

La Chine fait sentir sa présence navale, via ses agences paramilitaires, le long de ses côtes à travers tout les archipels et îlots qui font l’objet d’une crise larvée depuis plusieurs années, voire plusieurs décennies (Taïwan donc, mais aussi les Senkaku, Paracels et les Spratleys). Ces confrontations navales qui se font via des forces civiles ou paramilitaires font craindre l’engagement des marines de guerre des pays concernés. Par son porte-aéronefs, Pékin pourrait (conditionnel, toujours) faire savoir que, à l’avenir, la volonté de la Chine est suffisamment forte pour engager un ou deux autres porte-aéronefs supplémentaires, voire un porte-avions nucléaire. Il y a donc un défi militaire qui est lancé. Le Japon a d’ores et déjà lancé deux destroyers porte-hélicoptères (16DDH) et devrait percevoir dans les prochaines années deux autres navires porte-hélicoptères (les deux destroyers 22DDH, notoirement plus grands). La question qui est posée aux Etats-Unis est celle de la volonté :

  • est-ce que Washington relève le défi chinois et reste partie prenante dans les différentes crises qui secouent le Sud-Est asiatique, notamment et surtout les crises territoriales ?
  • Ou bien est-ce que la stratégie d’engagement prioritaire en Asie décrétée par les derniers gouvernements américains (dont celui d’Obama) n’est pas subordonnée à une volonté politique suffisamment solide ?

Pékin fait sentir sa détermination, notamment, et pas seulement, par le poids de son engagement naval. Alors soit les Etats-Unis répondent présent et l’US Navy s’engage encore plus en Asie, soit le Japon et les autres nations asiatiques se retrouvent en tête-à-tête avec la Chine. A ce moment là, les modalités d’un équilibre des puissances entre elles seront tout autre avec une présence américaine en reflux.

Cette supposition sur le choix du nom du porte-aéronefs chinois demeure une supposition. Il est certain que la Chine ne choisit pas au hasard le nom de ses plus importantes unités navales qui constituent le fondement de sa puissance de demain. Si c’est une manière de tester la volonté politique américaine, alors la réponse façonnera pour beaucoup les équilibres géopolitiques des 20 ou 30 prochaines années. Dans ce cadre, l’Europe ne peut que s’attendre à un seul cas de figure : un désengagement américain encore plus grand du Vieux continent. Effectivement, il faut noter que :

  • si les Etats-Unis relèvent le défi asiatique jusqu’au bout en continuant à construire un front d’opposition à Pékin, alors les américains auront besoin de la majorité de leurs forces disponibles dans le Pacifique, et cela se fera certainement au détriment de l’Europe (qui investit beaucoup moins sur le plan militaire que le reste du monde).
  • Mais si les Etats-Unis abdiquaient face à Pékin et abandonnaient la stratégie de containment de la Chine dans le Pacifique, alors pourquoi est-ce que les Etats-Unis s’investiraient-ils en Europe ?!

L’arrivée du Liaoning au service actif peut signifier un outil supplémentaire dans les mains de Pékin pour intervenir dans les crises territoriales qui secouent la façade chinoise. Mais c’est un outil à double tranchant dans le cadre de la diplomatie navale car ce navire pourrait être un poids bien encombrant pour Pékin puisqu’il n’a pas de valeur opérationnelle. Par contre, la Chine lance deux défis à l’Asie, aux Etats-Unis et à ceux qui ambitionnent de compter dans les affaires du monde : d’une part, le nom du navire pourrait indiquer que Pékin entend disputer, à travers le Japon, le statut des Etats-Unis comme première puissance asiatique, mais exogène. D’autre part, que ce défi supposé réussisse ou non, la Chine pourrait être amené à faire rapidement, sur la période allant de 2015 à 2025, un saut quantitatif et qualitatif dans sa puissance aéronavale. Et ce défi là, il sera très difficile à contourner.


Pendant ce temps là, en France, le second porte-avions et le remplaçant du Charles de Gaulle se font attendre… Que sera la puissance aéronavale française dans le contexte des années 2020 et du défi chinois ?

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3 octobre 2012 3 03 /10 /octobre /2012 12:15



October 02, 2012 China Defense Blog


Judging from the recent PLA Daily articles and internet photo "releases", the 8th LH brigade of the 38th Group Army, Beijing MR has become the 2nd LH unit armed with the latest Z-10 attach choppers (6th squadron).   It is interesting to note that the 8th is also home to the Z-19 light attack helicopter (5th squadron).


After two years of service with the 5th LH brigade, it is clear that the CMC is now ready to expand its Z-10 footprint


This Z-10 is obviously at Baoding (8 Army Avn Bde), where 12 large hangars (for MI-17) and 9 small hangars (for Z-10), all camouflage and with round roofs, have been built by 2011. They seem to be also constructing 8 large hangars (for Z-8?).


There are also round hangars at Sanshui-Daliao (6 Army Avn Bde), but they are not camouflaged and are in two consecutive rows of 10, not separated like those at Baoding.


Since Z-8 and Z-10 appear to go together, perhaps we should expect the next Z-10 squadron to be formed in 26 GA 7 Army Avn Regt (Bde?).

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30 septembre 2012 7 30 /09 /septembre /2012 17:05

China Carrier (Liaoning)




As I’m sure you all know by now, the formerly known Varyag Aircraft Carrier was commissioned into PLAN as Liaoning and given the Type 001 class AC with pennant number of 16. I haven’t spent as much time looking into this development, but it’s quite clear that there is a lot of excitement on Chinese military forum over Liaoning class. This news has already eclipsed the exciting unveiling of Shenyang AC’s 4th generation fighter jet (I’m using generation by Chinese standard) and the unveiling of the 052D class destroyers. The only news that has caused more stir in the recent years is the unveiling of J-20. On the English forum that I moderate, some of the fellow members have been waiting for 7 to 8 years for this moment. A few years ago, I had all but given up on Liaoning ever becoming a big part of PLAN’s blue water plans. This was even after Liaoning had been painted with PLAN colours in 2006. Now, it appears that Liaoning has a bigger role in PLAN than many people have expected.

For me, I haven’t been as excited about this development. I was quite excited when 054A and 056 came out. I was also excited when we saw that new mysterious large diesel submarine from WuChang shipyard in 2010. I was really excited when 052D came out. I couldn’t stop looking for more photos on it. I suppose I have already spent too much time looking at Liaoning from when it was first dragged to Dalian to when it was first painted to when it got the non-skid layers to when it was taken to dry docks to when work started on Island to when it made its first sea trials. The more exciting moments will still come in the future when we see J-15s take off and land on it. And after that, it will be interesting to see how PLAN intends to use this training carrier. I read a really great article by Andrew Erickson today, where he talked about how Liaoning will not be that useful in the immediate time facing US or Japan, but could be quite useful in South China Sea. When Liu Huaqing first envisioned a carrier in PLAN, he wanted a medium sized carrier that PLAN can use to dominate South China Sea rather than a super carrier to compete against USN. Of course, this was also back in the late 80s when PLAN had those skirmishes with Vietnam where it had no air cover against Vietnam’s Su-22s. Even as PLAN is still learning carrier op in these early years, Liaoning could make quite a difference in any South China Sea scenarios.

When I was going through articles on the commissioning of Liaoning, I think one of the more interesting parts is where someone from PLAN stated that this shows China can build a carrier. While he conceded the hull was built in Russia, he stated strongly that everything inside the ship and on the ship was designed and built in China. I would imagine that whatever the Russians are doing for the INS Vikramaditya is what China had to do for the former Varyag. It certainly explains why they took this many years to finally launch the ship. Thinking about that, it’s interested that China has managed to restore and modernize a larger ship faster than the Russians despite having to learn the entire structure of the ship from scratch. Reading an interviewed piece from the ship, it certainly sounded like the interior of the ship has been completely changed to the modern PLAN standards. It was stated to have a 24 hours cafeteria with two bars (one loud and one quiet). It was has a supermarket, a post office, a gym (probably also basketball court), a laundromart and a garbage treatment station. Sailors can communicate with family at home through computers and can even use their cell phones. I would imagine the condition to be similar to those pictures we’ve seen of the interiors of the No. 88 life style ship and the Type 071 LPD. PLAN has made a serious effort in the recent years to improve the living conditions of these newer ships as they strive to become blue water navy. So far, we’ve already seen the latest of Chinese sensors and close in weapon systems installed on Liaoning. We’ve also seen the living quarters of the sailors revamped and modernized to be similar to other new PLAN ships. I can only imagine that the navigation control, command area and carrier operations control rooms will also be upgraded to the latest and best PLAN could offer. Liaoning should have much more modern weapon systems on board than any previously Russia/Soviet built carriers. It should also be much more powerful than the refitted and modernized Vikramaditya. Once J-15 joins service, it should also theoretically be much more advanced and capable than any previous naval aircraft that operated off a Russia/Soviet built carrier. Now that they have the hardware that the Soviet navy never had, the much longer process of developing the software (training people and pilots for carrier ops) is about to start.

A while ago, I was asked about when I think a Chinese carrier will enter Persian Gulf. And I think this is a good place to put what I thought at that time. Eventually, a China carrier will leave the safety of the South China Sea and then the second chain of islands. It will move past Malacca straits to protect its energy routes from Africa and the Persian Gulf. I have the following thoughts for when that will happen:

First, we have to think about economics and political situation in China. If we have a serious political or economic problem in China, that would slow down all military procurement. So, let's for the sake of argument, assume that this will not be an issue; and the navy will continue to see 10% increase in its budget every year.

Secondly, China doesn't currently have any real oversea base. And I think they would need oversea base close to the Persian Gulf first before they can really enter into Persian Gulf. They already have some supply points or network of places to support their current operations in the Gulf of Aden. Good article to read is here. In order for China to enter the Persian Gulf, I'd imagine it would need an oversea base close to the Persian Gulf. The location talked about so far are Pakistan, Seychelles, Burma, Sri Lanka and any number of African countries friendly to China. This won't happen right away, but I think it will eventually happen by the end of this decade. I think that Gwadar, Pakistan and somewhere in Burma probably make the most sense. In the former case, that base could be protected by Pakistan army and air force. In the latter case, Burma would also be within range of Chinese air force (with refueling).

Third, what would be the carrier entering into the Persian Gulf? I can't imagine it will be Liaoning, which should serve in the role I mentioned up top. Aside from that, Liaoning is still using steam turbines. If we look at all of the recent PLAN deployments, there have been very few long range ones using steam turbines. Even now, none of the Sov destroyers have been to Gulf of Aden. So, that means it would have to be a domestically built carrier. If the first carrier is under construction in JN shipyard right now as I've been led to believe, the earliest it would enter service is toward the end of this decade.

After that, we have to look at the rest of the carrier group. The current generation of AAW and ASW ships (052C/D and 054A) is sufficient to escort something like Liaoning. The first domestic carriers will be expected to make longer deployments, which would require the next generation of escorts. They would also need something like 095, because the current nuclear subs are way too noisy. Even 095 is still expected to be at least one generation behind Virginia class, so they would probably need something that’s a generation better (like a 097 class). They would need larger AAW and ASW ships that have the propulsion to keep up with the carrier. Aside from the 097 class, everything else (including a new generation of AORs) should already be commissioned by the time the first domestic carrier is ready, so escorts will not be a limiting factor.

The part that will slow things down is the development of the air wing and learning of carrier operations. The first generation of air wing will probably achieve IOC by 2015. By then, the J-15 fighter jet, JJ-9 trainer and Z-8 helicopters should have had some experience on takeoff and landing on Liaoning. For PLAN to feel comfortable sending its carrier into the Persian Gulf and keep it there, it will probably want the second generation of naval air wing. It will probably comprise of a naval version of the new SAC fighter jet, Z-8/Z-15 helicopters for ASW/SAR and other missions, different variants of naval flanker playing the role of E/FA-18E/F/G/H, Y-7 AEW and next generation of naval trainer. Now, most of this is already in development, so optimistically speaking they will probably achieve IOC by 2025. And then, PLAN would probably like to operate it a couple of years before giving it an extensive deployment to Persian Gulf. So, I think it would take until the end of the next decade before PLAN can make a meaningful entrance. By then, they would have almost 2 decades of carrier operations and multiple aircraft carriers.

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