Inside China: Admiral says China can destroy destroyers

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The Navy’s next-generation warship, the 15,000-ton Zumwalt-class destroyer, is no good and can be destroyed by Chinese fishing boats armed with explosives, according to a leading Chinese military commentator, People’s Liberation Army Rear Adm. Zhang Zhaozhong.

Adm. Zhang made the remarks April 30 during a nationwide broadcast of “Defense Review Weekly,” a program on state-run China Central TV. The admiral has been the station’s chief military commentator since 1998.

Zumwalt-class destroyers are one of the Navy’s newest, most-advanced and most-expensive vessels. They have a rich history of budgetary and technological debates.

Ultimately, the destroyers survived several Washington budget cuts. Three of them are under construction at the Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine; the lead ship, USS Elmo Zumwalt DDG-1000, named for former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., is scheduled to be completed a year from now.

The new destroyer will play a significant role in what the Navy calls its “mace weapons” that are part of the new American military strategy in the Asia-Pacific, especially China.

The strategy will focus on land-attack capabilities in littoral battles. It will use some of the most-advanced technologies and weapons innovations, including a revolutionary stealth design that reduces radar and sonar signatures to the lowest level of any destroyers in the world.

It includes the Advanced Gun System featuring a high-tech electronic rail gun that is battery powered using electromagnetic pulse, and a Peripheral Vertical Launch System that will significantly reduce the damage of a missile battery explosion.

China pays close attention to Navy weapons development as Beijing regards American naval power as the most significant and most tangible military threat to its regional and global ambitions.

For the past several years, China has engaged in fierce oceanic and littoral disputes with almost all of its neighbors with shorelines. It is a rare day that passes without some mention of the U.S. Navy and its role in the South China, East China and the Yellow seas in a potential future battle scenario with the Chinese navy.

In his remarks, Adm. Zhang acknowledged the technological prowess of the Zumwalt destroyer but stated that he believes it represents a weakness, rather than strength, because the ship “places all eggs in one basket” of making various technologies vulnerable and unwieldy to design and operate.

“I can send several dozen small fishing boats loaded with explosives, floating and wobbly in the water, inching toward the Zumwalt, place the explosives onto its hulls [and] blow many holes in the hull. It will be finished then. The Zumwalt is no good!” the admiral remarked with his signature optimism.

Widely known as China’s “Adm. Gaffe,” Adm. Zhang is a chief weapons specialist and strategist for the Chinese navy, currently serving as a professor at the Chinese military’s Defense University.

The most famous military face on Chinese national TV for the past decade, Adm. Zhang frequently entertains the nation with consistent miscalculations and wacky predictions.

He asserted that the U.S. would never attack Saddam Hussein for fear of getting mired in a Stalingrad-like “people’s war” in Baghdad. That was the day before the assault started in 2003.

He assured the Chinese nation hours before Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s demise that Libyan rebels failed to locate Gaddafi’s hiding place.

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