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Inside the Ring: China targets Global Hawk drone

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2013

China's military is planning to counter surveillance by the Pentagon's long-range Global Hawk drone, which currently is deployed on Guam and flying reconnaissance missions aimed at China.

According to a recent technical journal, China's military now has countermeasures for thwarting Global Hawk flights, saying the stealth drone is flown near China's southeast coast "continually" and thus "countermeasures against Global Hawk are considered."

Global Hawk missions are classified. But defense officials say they are worried the aircraft could become targets of China's military should its air forces try to enforce a newly established air defense identification zone over the East China Sea.

China has demanded that all aircraft entering the zone, which extends nearly 100 miles into the Pacific Ocean, file pre-flight routing plans.

The U.S. has said it does not recognize the zone, which encroaches on Japan's air zone over the Senkaku Islands.

Defense officials told Inside the Ring that one key reason for implementing the air zone was to stop U.S. military surveillance flights near China's coasts.

The report provides a detailed technical description of China's methods against Global Hawk flights, including electronic jamming of onboard spy equipment and aircraft-to-satellite signals used to remotely pilot the drones, electronic disruption of GPS signals used for navigation, and using airborne warning and control aircraft to detect the drone and guide warplanes to shoot them down.

Also, the report suggests using "smoke screens" to hide spying targets — a technique readily available in China, as dangerous levels of smog have blanketed many major cities in recent weeks.

The Chinese also are considering cyberattacks that would allow them to take over controls of Global Hawks and cause them to crash or forced to land, a technique the report suggests may have been used by Iran to down a secret RQ-170 stealth drone.

To unmask the drone's low-radar signature, the Chinese also plan to use wide-spectrum and passive radar to locate and then direct aircraft to shoot down the drones.

"Regardless of whether it is a Global Hawk or an RQ-170 stealth [drone], it is afraid of seven things: electronics jamming; camouflage deception, being dazed by smoke screens; mid-air intercepts; airborne early warning; attack platforms and mid-air ambushes," the report said. "If effective barrage jamming can be implemented by the opponent, then the operational effectiveness of the [drone] will be partially or totally lost."

The Global Hawk is the Air Force's premier long-range surveillance drone, with a range of 2,300 miles at an altitude of up to 60,000 feet. It is equipped with synthetic aperture radar, high-resolution cameras and signals intelligence equipment.

So far, an armed version has not been deployed, but the aircraft is capable of carrying up to 2,000 pounds.

The Navy version under development is called the MQ-4C Triton.

The report was published in February in the military journal "Aerospace Electronic Warfare," a publication of the Institute 8511 of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., China's main missile manufacturer.

INDIA TO JOIN RIMPAC

India's military will take part in the U.S. Pacific Command's large-scale military exercises known as Rimpac next summer, the first time the Indian military has agreed to take part in a multinational exercise.

Pacific Command spokesman Capt. Chris Sims confirmed in an email that Indian naval forces will join the 23-nation maneuvers that also for the first time are expected to include Chinese naval forces.

No specific ships and aircraft have been picked to join the maneuvers.

An Indian news outlet reported that two destroyers, a tanker and two new Boeing P-8I anti-submarine warfare aircraft are expected to take part in the exercises in June.

India has been a key element of the Obama administration's pivot to Asia, which includes bolstering military and diplomatic ties with allies in Asia in a bid to offset China's growing power. New Delhi has voiced concerns about Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea and in the Indian Ocean, where Chinese submarine patrols have been monitored.

According to diplomatic sources, China is increasing long-range submarine patrols and using the vessels to test detection capabilities of Western and Asian navies.

In the Indian Ocean, Chinese submarine patrols are increasing. Based on intelligence of Chinese submarine detections in the Indian Ocean since 2005, there were two Chinese sub sightings in 2006, seven in 2007, 12 in 2008, 10 in 2009, 12 in 2010, 11 in 2011 and 10 last year.

"More long-range, extended missions are expected with the introduction of new air independent propulsion-fitted submarines in the [Chinese navy], which provides extended underwater staying power," one official said, adding that the submarine movements need to be watched closely.

CHINESE JOINT OPS COMMAND?

News reports from China are sparking interest in U.S. military and intelligence circles, as tensions remain high with China over its recent declaration of an air defense zone in the East China Sea.

A Hong Kong magazine reported Dec. 1 that the Chinese military is preparing to initiate major reforms for the 4.5 million-member armed forces aimed at increasing effectiveness and war-fighting capabilities.

The Xinwei Yuekan magazine, quoting an official source, disclosed the reforms and stated that the Central Military Commission, which controls all armed forces, was ordered after the recent plenum of the Communist Party to "perfect" preparations for future conflicts by creating a joint operations command and a theater joint operations command structure.

China's military has been transforming over the past several decades from a primarily ground-based force to one characterized by naval, air and missile assets equipped with high-technology and asymmetric warfare capabilities.

Beijing's consideration of a joint operations command appears based on the military theory that multiservice integration is vital for modern warfare, something that has long been a specialty of the Pentagon.

In addition to setting up the joint operations commands, the Central Military Commission will expand naval and air forces and the Second Artillery Corps — the service in charge of strategic nuclear and conventional missile forces.

Other measures under consideration as part of the reforms include dissolving the military's General Armaments Department and merging its duties into the General Logistic Department. The Academy of Military Science may be combined with the National Defense University, and one of the military's seven regions is likely to be eliminated in Jinin province.

Other steps under consideration include dissolving province-level military districts and giving garrison commands authority to control borders and national defense mobilization.

"The military districts consume a large amount of funds, including a massive amount of troops and numerous generals, at a scale that is not necessary as there is no longer a threat of foreign invasion," the report stated.

Other streamlining could include reducing the large performing arts groups, and moving hospitals and military academies outside the military.

The reforms are expected to be put in place over the next four years and likely will impact most military personnel.

The report quoted navy Senior Capt. Liu Jiangping as saying the large staff structure within the Central Military Commission and the general headquarters have produced poor coordination between the military services and has made it difficult to meet wartime requirements.

The joint operations command would unify command over all the services along with new, more effective types of operational forces.

The theoretical underpinnings of the reforms were said to be an element of President Xi Jinping's "thought" calling for "combat standards to promote preparations for military struggles."

The article also quoted Maj. Gen. Yin Zhuo has saying that the military is considering a joint operations command in the future.

China's Defense Ministry, however, issued a statement Wednesday calling reports of upcoming reforms "speculation."

NEW PENTAGON FLACK

Defense officials tell Inside the Ring the leading candidate to become the new Pentagon press secretary is Rear Adm. John Kirby, who has held several senior public affairs posts. Rear Adm. Kirby would replace George Little, who retired last month.

Contact Bill Gertz at @BillGertz.

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