New Pentagon Report Out On Chinese Military Power; -Article Plus Report-

China Report – No Alarmism Allowed
 
Posted by Bill Sweetman at 8/18/2010 8:31 AM CDT
The Pentagon’s new report on China’s military power is so muted that it is no longer even called that. Although the filename includes the acronym CMPR – China Military Power Report – the title is “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China”, which reads a little as if China’s military was expanding and modernizing all by itself.

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Via Chinese national radio

The US Navy is certainly taking the ASBM threat seriously. In the last two years, the service has pulled Standard Missile 2 Block IV weapons out of mothballs and integrated them into the Aegis theater missile defense system as an interim terminal-area interceptor, and is working on a longer-term solution that could be based on the SM-6.

The DF-21D is a development of the 2000-km-range DF-21 family of road-mobile medium-range, solid propellant ballistic missiles. The previous version is the non-nuclear DF-21C, which incorporates terminal GPS guidance and is carried on an off-road vehicle rather than a semi-trailer.

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DF-21C variants with alternate warheads

The DF-21D would carry a hypersonic glide vehicle rather than a conventional warhead. It would be launched at the last-projected location of the carrier group, receive a mid-course update just before re-entry, and (after re-entry) search for the carrier using an onboard sensor, probably radar, before pitching over into a final attack trajectory.

Within its aerodynamic limits, it could also perform evasive maneuvers as it passed through the engagement zone of defensive missiles. Soviet supersonic anti-ship missiles even carried jammers.

The 750 kg (estimated) payload would not necessarily sink a carrier – but the goal might be to devise a unitary or submunition payload, combined with high-impact velocity, that could put it out of action without substantial repairs.

So far, so dangerous – but as some experts point out, the task of developing and launching an ASBM may be peanuts compared to the off-board targeting segment, which the Soviet Union struggled with for decades. Yesterday, a defense official introducing the new report

noted that “where we see them still facing roadblocks is in integrating the missile system with the C4ISR.  And they still have a ways to go before they manage to get that integrated so that they have an operational and effective system.”

The challenge is defined by the characteristics of the missile and its onboard sensor. The range and acuity of its radar (the West has made great advances in small synthetic aperture radars in recent years, and one can expect the same in China) and its flight performance will (in combination) determine how large of an area it can search during its descent.

Offboard targeting has to get the weapon into that search “basket”. China has been experimenting extensively with over-the-horizon (OTH) radars – here is an excellent summary – but the question is whether OTHR is consistently accurate enough to allow an ASBM launch – against a target that may be moving at 30 kt in any direction – without further assistance.

OTHR could be used to cue or back up a space-based radar system, but the problem in this case is consistent area coverage. In that case the CONOPS might be to track the carrier group with OTHR and time the missile launch to coincide with a satellite pass, providing a midcourse guidance update.

However, this assumes that the adversary is not messing with your radar satellites (which identify themselves every time they transmit) and this (among other things) may explain why the Chinese military blogosphere is having what one analyst calls “a conniption fit” about the USAF’s X-37B space maneuver vehicle.

It’s not an easy problem – but the obvious question is this: Why is China spending time and money on the DF-21D if they don’t have a good answer on targeting? WCSYC (we couldn’t, so you can’t) can be lethal.

China’s leaders are not as inhibited, dropping hints in recent days that first tests are imminent of the Dong Feng 21D (DF-21D) anti-ship ballistic missile system, accompanied by artwork showing its intended mission.

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