Army of the future
In the past, some defense specialists insisted a Chinese attack on Taiwan would be a “million-man swim” across the Taiwan Strait because of the country’s lack of troop-carrying ships.
“We left the million-man swim behind in about 1998, 1999,” the senior Pentagon official said. “And in fact, what people are saying now, whether or not that construct was ever useful, is that it’s a moot point, because in just amphibious lift alone, the Chinese are doubling or even quadrupling their capability on an annual basis.”
Asked about a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan, the official put it bluntly: “In the ‘07-‘08 time frame, a capability will be there that a year ago we would have said was very, very unlikely. We now assess that as being very likely to be there.”
Air Force Gen. Paul V. Hester, head of the Pacific Air Forces, said the U.S. military has been watching China’s military buildup but has found it difficult to penetrate Beijing’s “veil” of secrecy over it.
While military modernization itself is not a major worry, “what does provide you a pause for interest and concern is the amount of modernization, the kind of modernization and the size of the modernization,” he said during a recent breakfast meeting with reporters.
China is building capabilities such as aerial refueling and airborne warning and control aircraft that can be used for regional defense and long-range power projection, Gen. Hester said.
It also is developing a maneuverable re-entry vehicle, or MARV, for its nuclear warheads. The weapon is designed to counter U.S. strategic-missile defenses, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The warhead would be used on China’s new DF-31 long-range missiles and its new submarine missile, the JL-2.
Work being done on China’s weapons and reconnaissance systems will give its military the capability to reach 1,000 miles into the sea, “which gives them the visibility on the movement of not only our airplanes in the air, but also our forces at sea,” Gen. Hester said.
Beijing also has built a new tank for its large armed forces. It is known as the Type 99 and appears similar in design to Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank. The tank is outfitted with new artillery, anti-aircraft and machine guns, advanced fire-control systems and improved engines.
The country’s air power is growing through the purchase of new fighters from Russia, such as Su-30 fighter-bombers, as well as the development of its own fighter jets, such as the J-10.
Gen. Hester compared Chinese warplanes with those of the former Soviet Union, which were less capable than their U.S. counterparts, but still very deadly.
“They have great equipment. The fighters are very technologically advanced, and what we know about them gives us pause for concern against ours,” he said.
Missiles also are a worry.
“It is their surface-to-air missiles, their [advanced] SAMs and their surface-to-surface missiles, and the precision, more importantly, of those surface-to-surface missiles that provide, obviously, the ability to pinpoint targets that we might have out in the region, or our friends and allies might have,” Gen. Hester said.View Entire Story
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