- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2000

China's military has a new battle management system that will boost its ability to fight wars with combined army, navy and air forces, The Washington Times has learned.

Details of the new system were contained in a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report sent to senior officials recently. The report said Beijing's newest satellite, launched in January, is a military communications satellite and a major component of the first integrated command, control, communications, computer and intelligence system (C4I).

The new system, called Qu Dian by China, gives the Chinese military new capabilities for coordinating and supporting its growing force of modern aircraft, ships, submarines and ground forces.

"This is a major force multiplier," said one official.

A Defense Intelligence Agency spokeswoman declined to comment.

Disclosure of the new battle management system comes amid rising tensions that include a series of threats by Chinese leaders against Taiwan and the United States. The threats have been timed to Taiwanese elections Saturday and efforts to influence the issue of Taiwan's status and U.S. efforts to defend the island against forcible reunification with the mainland.

China launched the satellite, reported by official Chinese media as a civilian ChinaSat-22 system, on Jan. 26 from Xichang in southwestern China.

The DIA identified the satellite as Feng Huo-1, the first of several military communications satellites for the Qu Dian C4I system, said defense officials familiar with the report.

Officials also said the military satellite was launched atop a Long March rocket booster the same system that was improved as a result of two U.S. companies improperly sharing space technology in 1996.

An initial test of a subsystem known as the Tactical Information System will be carried out by Chinese defense technicians in the next several weeks, the report said.

Officials who disclosed details of the DIA report on the condition of anonymity said the Chinese military is describing the new information system as similar to the Pentagon's Joint Tactical Information Distribution System or JTIDS a secure communications network used by U.S. and allied aircraft, ships, submarines and ground units to communicate and share intelligence in wartime.

The Pentagon describes that system as "a secure, jam-resistant, high capacity data link communications system for use in a tactical combat."

"The Chinese reference to JTIDS suggests the Tactical Information System will yield an integrated battlefield picture, centralizing data from ground, air and naval platforms for wide dissemination to subordinate units," the report, labeled "secret," stated.

"Chinese work is progressing on both the software and hardware to increase the integration and automation of command and control systems," the report said.

The new FH-1 satellite is the first space-based communication platform to provide military units with both C-band and UHF communications, according to the DIA.

The intelligence report concluded that when fully deployed in the next several years the Qu Dian system "will allow theater commanders to communicate with and share data with all forces under joint command."

The system will provide Chinese military leaders with "a high-speed and real-time view of the battlefield which would allow them to direct units under joint command more effectively," the report states.

According to the officials, the CIA offered a dissenting view of the DIA's assessment, stating in the report that "rigidity" of the Chinese military command structure will limit the effectiveness of the new military system.

Larry Wortzel, a former Pentagon China specialist now with the Heritage Foundation, said it is "dangerous" for U.S. analysts to systematically play down each improvement of Chinese military capabilities.

The new Chinese system will "improve command and control and when the system is in use and used in exercises it will help improve decision-making," Mr. Wortzel said.

"It took the PLA about four years to learn to use the computer-based war-fighting simulation system it was given by the U.S. Army in 1998, and they'll learn to use this system, too," he said.

China's official Xinhua news agency stated that the new communications satellite was built by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. and was launched on a Long March 3A booster. The agency said Feb. 6 that the satellite was in a stationary position above the equator at a point 98 degrees latitude.

The use of the Long March with a military payload shows that China uses its space launchers for both civilian and military purposes, and that improvements to the launchers would have consequences for U.S. national security.

Components of the new system are being tested amid a war of words over Taiwan. Chinese officials and official military publications have warned in recent weeks that Taiwan independence "means war."

The official People's Liberation Army newspaper, Liberation Army Daily, three weeks ago threatened the United States with "long-range strikes" nuclear missile attacks against the United States if it intervenes to defend Taiwan from a Chinese military strike.

Adm. Dennis Blair, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, told a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday that Chinese leaders believe resolution of the Taiwan dispute "may come to fighting."

As for the so-called policy of "ambiguity" about a U.S. defense of Taiwan in the event of a mainland attack, Adm. Blair made it clear the U.S. military is ready.

"As far as the military situation, I hope I made it clear the ambiguity is the political decision, not the military capabilities. The PRC cannot take and hold Taiwan, and we can defend Taiwan if ordered. And that's what will happen," he said.

The Chinese recently have deployed several hundred new M-11 short-range missiles that the DIA has said could strike all of Taiwan's military bases with little or no warning.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide