Chinese Missile Forces Pose Threat to U.S. In Future Conflict
July 31, 2014
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advanced cruise and ballistic missiles pose a significant threat in
future conflict with the United States, the chief of naval operations
(CNO) warned last week.
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the CNO, also said during a security
conference Friday that China is building a second aircraft carrier that
could be deployed in the not too distant future.
However, China’s current single carrier force is still under
development and the Chinese are incapable of conducting aircraft strike
operations from the refurbished Soviet-era carrier now called the
Liaoning, Greenert said following a recent visit to China, where he
toured the carrier.
Asked what Chinese weapons systems he is most concerned about if
the United States went to war with China, Greenert noted Beijing’s
growing arsenal of cruise and ballistic missiles.
“They have an extraordinary selection of cruise missiles, and a
ballistic missile force that they developed,” Greenert told the Aspen
If the conflict were close to China, the missile forces would pose the most serious threat, he said.
“If it’s in their backyard, I’m a little worried about their
ballistic missile [force] because of its reach,” Greenert said.
China has developed several types of advanced missile systems,
including a unique DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile that is intended
to strike U.S. aircraft carriers hundreds of miles from China’s coast.
The DF-21D has been described as a “carrier killer” for which the
U.S. Navy has few defenses. Greenert has said earlier that U.S. defenses
against the DF-21D would involve breaking the weapons’ “kill chain—the
network of sensors and communications links used to guide the missile to
The Pentagon stated in its latest annual report to Congress that
the DF-21D “gives the [People’s Liberation Army] the capability to
attack large ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific
The missile has a range of more than 930 miles and is armed with a maneuverable warhead.
Another major threat in a future conflict is China’s new guided
missile destroyer, the Type 052D that the Pentagon says has deployed the
PLA’s first multipurpose vertical launch system that is believed
“capable of launching [anti-ship cruise missiles], land-attack cruise
missiles (LACMs), surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and anti-submarine
missiles.” More than a dozen Type 052 destroyers are planned.
China’s H-6 bomber also has been upgraded to carry six land-attack cruise missiles with precision guidance capabilities.
“The development of China’s conventionally armed missiles has been
rapid, even in the context of overall Chinese military modernization,”
the Pentagon report said, noting that as recently as 10 years ago China
could not strike targets far from coasts.
“Today, however, China has more than 1,000 conventionally armed
ballistic missiles,” the report said. “U.S. bases on Okinawa are in
range of a growing number of Chinese [medium-range ballistic missiles],
and Guam could potentially be reached by air-launched cruise missiles.”
Chinese missiles also have grown more accurate and “are now better
suited to strike regional air bases, logistics facilities, and other
ground-based infrastructure, which Chinese military analysts have
concluded are vulnerabilities in modern warfare,” the report said.
The combination of ballistic, ground- and air-launched land attack
cruise missiles, and other forces threaten targets throughout the
region, the report said.
China’s first threatening cruise missiles were purchased from
Russia in the 1990s aboard Sovremenny-class guided missile warships that
are equipped with high-speed SSN-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles.
The National Air and Space Intelligence Center lists 14 types of
Chinese short-range ballistic missiles, five types of medium- and
intermediate-range ballistic missiles and two types of land-attack
Earlier this month, Greenert met in China with PLA Navy chief Adm.
Wu Shengli, and the two admirals sought to improve cooperation and
Greenert said that Wu asked that Chinese naval experts be
permitted to visit U.S. aircraft carriers as part of China’s carrier
development program, but the request was rejected.
“They want to learn a lot more about our carriers by coming aboard
our carriers with experts, and we said ‘well we’re not ready for
that,’” Greenert said.
U.S. law passed in 1999 currently prohibits the Pentagon from
sharing details of U.S. power projection capabilities with China during
military exchanges. The law was passed to prevent the Chinese from
exploiting U.S.-China military exchanges to bolster their large-scale
military build up.
Greenert described the Chinese carrier as “very Russian.”
“It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s onerous,” he said, adding that the refurbishment includes advanced Chinese military gear.
“They will build another carrier, probably relatively soon,” he
said. “It’ll look just like this one, they said. Ski ramp. About the
same tonnage, 65,000, 70,000 tons.”
While U.S. carrier operations can include the launch and recovery
of 100 aircraft routinely, China currently is limited to launching and
landing 10 jets at a time, and test pilots are involved in takeoffs and
“But they are moving at a pace that is extraordinary,” Greenert said of the carrier development.
Currently, the Chinese have operated the carrier in the South
China Sea, but without aircraft, and in the Yellow sea with
Greenert said he is not overly concerned by the Chinese carrier
development because the PLA needs more work before the warship can
conduct military operations.
Greenert defended allowing the Chinese navy to take part in the
recent international military exercises known as Rim of the Pacific. He
noted that the Russians had taken part in RIMPAC in the past and there
were few protests.
Some in Congress opposed the Chinese navy involvement in RIMPAC
because it appeared the United States was rewarding China by allowing
Beijing’s participation at a time when China is engaged in bullying most
of its maritime neighbors in Asia.
Asked about China’s use of advanced weapons that are designed to
allow a weaker power to defeat a stronger foe, Greenert defended the
Navy’s development of high tech arms. He highlighted several new Navy
weapons programs, including a laser weapon that can shoot down drones
“Number one, we’re looking at lasers,” Greenert said. “And as we
speak we have a laser gun in the Arabian Gulf on a ship that we are
testing. It’s been demonstrated. It’s shooting down a drone and, if you
will, ‘overheating’ a fast craft at this level of power.”
Other advanced systems include unmanned aerial vehicles that can
be launched from carriers, and autonomous underwater vehicles that can
conduct searches and pass the information to surface vessels.
“We’re into cyber in many ways beyond the classification that we’re talking here,” he said.
“So I too agree just more kinetic [weapons], more missiles that’s
not the way ahead,” Greenert said. “The way is the electro magnetic
spectrum to get in to spoof, to jam, to fry, if you will, microwave, and
that’s the way of the future for us as well.”
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