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China’s navy “has also sped up the process of updating its weaponry and equipment with priority given to the development of new combat ships as well as various kinds of special purpose aircraft and relevant equipment,” the report stated.

China’s submarine forces are given “first priority” of all branches of the navy, it stated.

One significant disclosure: China is building a nuclear-submarine base on Hainan island that U.S. specialists say could be used in the future to interdict vital sea lanes in Southeast Asia, a key worry of Pentagon planners.

The Hainan base is thought to be where China will deploy some of the five new Jin-class missile submarines.

Overall, China is building new naval weapons with advanced guidance, power and other characteristics using what the Chinese call “informationalized” elements, such as long-range precision-strike weapons, which are part of ballistic and cruise missiles.

The goal of the naval buildup: transforming China into “the pre-eminent regional power in East Asia,” said William E. Tarry, director of ONI’s Naval Analysis Directorate.

“By acquiring some of the world’s most impressive naval technologies from abroad while simultaneously building advanced indigenous submarines, combatants and naval aircraft, China is positioning itself to play a growing role in regional and transregional affairs,” Mr. Tarry wrote in a preface to the report.

The report does not contain details on weapons and states, in a dig at Chinese military secrecy, “the [navy] does not openly publish information on the types and numbers of weapon systems and equipment in its inventory.”

According to the Pentagon, China in 2006 had 70 warships, including 25 destroyers, 45 frigates, 55 submarines, about 50 amphibious lift ships and about 45 coastal missile patrol craft.

Anti-aircraft trucks

U.S. forces in Iraq this week struck a major blow against terrorists by killing a group that was behind the recent string of helicopter shootdowns, according to defense officials.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) patrolling Baghdad discovered that insurgents have built low-tech mobile anti-aircraft units — trucks outfitted with heavy machine guns that are covered with tarpaulins.

UAV patrols identified four of the machine gun-equipped trucks that drove through the city and stopped when drivers or gunners heard the sound of an approaching helicopter. The gunners then would uncover the tarp and begin firing before quickly driving away.

All four of the trucks recently were tracked down and destroyed by F-16 jet strikes. Knocking the trucks out is viewed as one of the signs of progress being made against the terrorists.

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