- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2010

China’s rapid development of ballistic and cruise missile forces is altering the balance of power in Asia and threatens U.S. forces in a conflict over Taiwan and beyond, according to a forthcoming report.

“Driven in large measure by a Taiwan scenario, China’s capacity to conduct a successful aerospace campaign to quickly gain a decisive advantage in the air is growing faster than the defenses that its neighbors, including Taiwan, Japan, perhaps India, and even U.S. forces operating in the Western Pacific, can field,” stated the report by the Project 2049 Institute, a private research institute, that highlighted “significant advances” in Chinese air and missile power.

China’s long range precision-strike weapons, such as sophisticated conventional ballistic and ground-launched cruise missiles, are “altering the strategic landscape,” the report said.

“Due to their speed, precision, and difficulties in fielding viable defenses, these systems — if deployed in sufficient numbers — have the potential to provide the PRC with a decisive military edge in the event of conflict over territorial or sovereignty claims,” the report said.

The missiles are also leading other regional militaries to develop similar weapons, the report said.

“China’s missile-based strategy has the potential to start an arms race in long range precision strike capabilities, if it hasn’t already,” Mr. Stokes said in an e-mail.

The report provides one of the first public disclosures of Chinese short-range bases, where an estimated 1,300 missiles are deployed, at Leping, Yongan, Meizhou, Ganzhou, Jinhua; and at medium-range missile bases at Laiwu, Qimen, Kurle, Chizhou, and Chuixiong.

It also identifies for the first time China’s ground-launch cruise-missile bases at Liuzhou, Guiyang and Yichun.

China for the first time showed off its new DH-10 land-attack cruise missile during the Oct. 1 military parade.

The report stated that China is moving ahead with development of a ballistic missile that is capable of hitting an aircraft carrier at sea.

China’s air forces also are deploying Russian jets, including 76 Su-30s, and older Su-27s, Chinese J-7s, J-11s and a new J-10 fourth-generation fighter. Cruise missile bombers include H-6s.

Wayne Ulman, a China analyst with the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, told a congressional China commission hearing on Thursday that China is building an even more advanced fighter than the J-10 and one that would rival the U.S. F-22 and F-35.

“We’re anticipating China to have a fifth-generation fighter … operational right around 2018,” Mr. Ulman told the U.S.-China Economic Security and Review Commission.

Fifth-generation warplanes employ anti-radar stealth features, advanced radar and advanced engine technology.

Chinese air and missile power currently is geared toward preparing to fight a conflict over Taiwan, the island off southern China where Chinese Nationalists fled during the civil war of the 1940s. However, the missiles and aircraft being deployed will give China greater power projection that could threaten the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia and India.

“Over time, the same capabilities arrayed against Taiwan could be brought to bear in pursuit of other sovereignty claims around its periphery,” the report said.

The report urges closely monitoring China’s air-power development, including improvements in the range and payload of warplanes; increases in the lethality, accuracy, and numbers of conventional ballistic and land attack cruise missiles; and expansion of China’s regional surveillance network.

“These indicators have profound strategic implications for the U.S.,” the report said. “And given the centrality of the Asia-Pacific to U.S. global interests, China’s aerospace development certainly warrants further attention.”

The report, Evolving Aerospace Trends in the Asia-Pacific Region, was written by Mark Stokes, a retired Air Force officer, and Ian Easton. It will be made public this week.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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