Monday, August 31, 2009

The Limit of China’s Influence?

As the conflict between the Kokang army and the Burmese Military subsides, two unexpected developments have unfolded -- The speed of the Burmese military advance and the limit of China’s influence over the course of the event.

Before the current clash began, the Burmese military seized all reinforcement routes between the Kokang army and its allies making speedy reinforcement difficult. A force of 2,000 Wa soldiers had initially come to the assistance of the Kokang, but they retreated Friday. The Karen army is now under Burmese attack and it was also unable to send reinforcements. In addition, Bai Souqian, The Kokang Army’s second in command, defected to the Burmese military with 200 troops and opened the town of Laogai to allow for Burmese occupation. After a week of fighting with hit-and-run tactics and mortar strikes from nearby hills, the 700-strong army fled when two additional Burmese divisions (7000 troops) arrived in Laogai. After reaching the safety of Yannan, they handed their weapons to the Chinese authority and purchased civilian clothing. The Kakang Army suffered minor causalities and is currently safe inside China. However, their future viability is in question.

The Chinese government issued a rare statement to the Burmese Government to "properly handle domestic problems and maintain stability in the China-Burma border region." China has taken care of the refugees but it seems they have done little beyond that: there was no active support to the Kokang Army as others have suggested. The failure of the Chinese Government in preventing this conflict and the mass exodus of ethnic Chinese puts into question China's capability of maintaining peace in this region. While China supports the Burmese Government in preventing ethnic groups from seeking independence, she failed to live up to the “quid pro quo” role of protecting Burma's minorities (here)

All in all, it was a well-planned and well-timed operation by the Burmese Military in a classic divide-and-conquer move and so far they have succeeded in their objective of routing the Kakang Army with minimal casualties and without strong China interference. They've now moved their attention to the next target, the Karen.

The real loser of this battle might be the Kokang civilians as their lively-hood has been looted by the advancing troops and their autonomy replaced by a “Kokang Region Provisional Leading Committee” under the control of the Rangoon government. Since the cease fire of 1989, the Kokang has become one of the few economic “bright spots” and a busy regional trading center (the planned route for Burma’s largest natural-gas pipeline from western Burma to China runs near the Kokang region). Returning civilians can only hope that their new Provisional Leading Committee does not kill the goose the laid their golden egg.

August 31, 2009
Myanmar Army Routs Ethnic Chinese Rebels in the North

BANGKOK — The Myanmar military has overwhelmed rebels from an ethnic Chinese minority in the northern reaches of the country, the junta’s second victory over armed opponents in three months.

The routing over the weekend of the forces of the small, Chinese-speaking Kokang ethnic group gives Myanmar’s governing generals momentum in their campaign to quell armed opposition before elections and the adoption of a new Constitution next year.

Several well-armed groups, notably the Wa and Kachin, still stand in the way of the junta’s goal of complete control over the country. But a recently announced agreement of solidarity among the rebel groups, which had the potential to slow the central government’s advance against the Kokang, may be fraying.

The Myanmar government’s strategy, analysts say, appears to be to challenge the groups one by one and to try to capitalize on the many factions within each group.

In June, the military defeated ethnic Karen insurgents along the border with Thailand, aided by a local militia of Karen Buddhists who led an attack on forces that were largely made up of Karen Christians.

To defeat the Kokang, the small ethnic group in the north, the junta allied itself with a defector and chased out troops loyal to the Kokang’s chairman, Peng Jiasheng.

A force of 2,000 Wa soldiers had initially come to the assistance of the Kokang, but they retreated Friday, according to Aung Kyaw Zaw, a former rebel based on the Chinese side of the border. This appeared to undercut a mutual-assistance agreement that the rebel groups reached several weeks ago.

Late on Sunday, Myanmar’s official media broke their silence on the fighting with a television broadcast announcing that clashes had ended and providing what appeared to be a preliminary death toll of 26 members of government security forces and 8 Kokang militiamen, The Associated Press reported. “The region has now regained peace,” the official announcement said.

Chinese state media said that two Chinese citizens had also been killed in the fighting.

News services reported from southern China that Kokang forces were continuing to flee across the border into China on Sunday on the heels of what United Nations and Chinese officials estimated were as many as 30,000 civilian refugees. Nearly half the estimated 1,500 members of the Kokang militia have crossed the border and handed their weapons to the Chinese authorities, according to Mr. Aung Kyaw Zaw.

The central government’s assaults on the Kokang, which began last week, have put other ethnic groups on alert, according to Brang Lai, a local official in the Kachin headquarters in Laiza, along the Chinese border.

“People are very concerned,” Mr. Brang Lai said in a telephone interview. On the Chinese side of Laiza, residents have put Chinese flags on their roofs in the hope that they will be able to avoid any additional fighting. Officers from the Myanmar military’s Northern Division were in Laiza over the weekend to call for calm, Mr. Brang Lai said.

Followers of Mr. Peng, the Kokang’s chairman, were spotted by reporters on the Chinese side of the border buying civilian clothes to replace their militia uniforms.

“There was no way we would win,” Ri Chenchuan, a Kokang rebel, said as he shopped for new clothes, The A.P. reported.

The Myanmar government has signed more than a dozen cease-fire agreements with ethnic groups over the past two decades, but the fighting with the Kokang raised questions about the military’s intentions.

Aung Din, executive director of the United States Campaign for Burma, an advocacy group that opposes the junta, said the generals apparently had adopted a more aggressive posture, partly influenced by the Sri Lankan government’s military victory over Tamil rebels in May.

Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, met with Myanmar’s generals in June in what was his first overseas trip after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers. The visit might have inspired Myanmar’s senior general, Than Shwe, who has spent much of his military career battling ethnic groups, Mr. Aung Din said.

“It was an encouragement to the regime to do away with the insurgency once and for all,” Mr. Aung Din said. “Their thinking has changed.”

The motives and strategies of Myanmar’s leaders have long been difficult to divine. General Than Shwe is a very secretive man and the state-run media are highly selective in their reporting. The report on Sunday evening was the first time they had mentioned the campaign against the Kokang.

The fighting appears to have strained Myanmar’s relations with China, especially since the Kokang are ethnically Chinese. The Chinese Foreign Ministry warned Myanmar on Friday to “properly handle domestic problems and maintain stability in the China-Myanmar border region.”

Analysts said that the Chinese government had asked Myanmar’s generals to refrain from initiating military campaigns before the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct. 1.

In that light, China could view Myanmar’s campaign as provocative, especially since China is a large investor in Myanmar and plays the role of the junta’s protective big brother in the United Nations and other international forums.

Mr. Aung Kyaw Zaw said he suspected that the Myanmar generals wanted to demonstrate their independence to Chinese leaders. Their message, he said, is that “if we want to fight along the border, we can fight.”

“This is a political game,” he added.

First photos of the Kokang Army since the fighting started

Kokang Army also known as Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fighting in Burma.

The recent fighting in the Kokang, the only Burmese Chinese feudal state in Burma, has become front and center in China’s foreign policy skill. It is widely known that China has a great interest in Burma’s natural resources and only last week, a South Korean-led consortium signed a 5.6 Billion contract to develop a gas field off Burma's coast (here) to feed China's growing energy appetite. Burma’s location is also important to China’s strategic interest as most of China's shipping travels through the Strait of Malacca and for some, Burma serves as a buffer zone between China and India.

The fact that Kokang was founded by the last Ming Dynasty military house draws a great deal of media attention in China; this is not just a historical footnote, as today more than 10,000 Chinese businessmen and workers earn their living in Kokang where up to 90 percent of shops are Chinese owned (here) . During the 1980s and 90s, Kokang was also the source of most of China's illegal narcotics. As a way to conduct a "War-on-Drugs" the Chinese government offered to purchase Kokang's crops as a way to disincentivize farmers from growing opium. Kokang leaders claimed its territory was "drug free" from 2003 on. Given these special relationships between China and Kokang, the events unfolding in Burma have become headline news with acute coverage by most media sources (here) with an expected nationalistic outburst from the young.

Like previous hostility between the Kokang and the Burmese army (last conflict in Oct 2008) the PLA responded by sending troops. On August 25th, 700 PLA troops were dispatched to the Sino-Burma border to prevent further escalation. The Kokang Army or the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), as it is formally known, is part of an alliance of many minority groups including Kachin Independence Army (KIA), United Wa State Army (UWSA), National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA) and the Shan State Army (SSA) “North” which fields about 45,000 to 50,000 fighters. So for China a full blown civil war would be "bad for businesses" as Khuensai Jaiyen, director of the exiled Shan Herald Agency for News, puts it. (here) So far China's effort seems to fall short as fighting began today. It will be interesting to see China's next move.

Chinese reports had said close to 10,000 people crossed into Yunnan to escape the fighting.

Ethnic group in Myanmar said to break cease-fire

(AP) – BANGKOK — Fighting reportedly broke out Thursday between an ethnic militia and government security forces in northeastern Myanmar, breaching a two-decade cease-fire.

Several minorities living in military-ruled Myanmar's border areas have continued their long struggles for autonomy despite cease-fires with the military regime that seized power in 1988.

Fighters for the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army — representing the Kokang minority — on Thursday attacked a police post along the border with China near the town of Laogai, according to the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

The Washington-based lobbying group said several police officers were killed and the rebels temporarily occupied the post.

The Kachin News Group, an online news agency that covers the Kachin minority in northern Myanmar, also reported the attack as well as several other clashes.

Reports of the fighting could not be independently confirmed.

Tensions between the Kokang and the government have risen recently after the ethnic group defied an order to allow its guerrillas to be incorporated into a border guard force under army command.

The junta plans an election next year, the first since 1990's abortive polls, the result of which were ignored by the military when the National League for Democracy party won by a landslide. The military has been anxious to assure stability ahead of the vote.

On Wednesday, Myanmar ethnic groups and Chinese media reported that thousands of people fled into China this month after tensions flared between the Kokang and government.

Some 10,000 left the Kokang area in Myanmar's northeastern Shan state between Aug. 7 and Aug. 12 after a military confrontation, The Chongqing Evening Post reported.

The trigger for the confrontation was an Aug. 8 raid on the home of Kokang leader Peng Jiashen — also known as Phon Kyar Shin — ostensibly to look for illegal drugs.

Peng's troops in the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army began mobilizing, but were forced out of Laogai on Tuesday by government soldiers and members of a breakaway Kokang faction.

According to the U.S. Campaign for Burma, Peng issued a statement Thursday calling for talks with the government and for newly deployed troops to withdraw from the area.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Boots On The Ground.

A 1000 pairs of combat boots from the PRC are now being issued to the ROC military for post Typhoon Morakot rescue work. There should not be any politically sensitive nature of PRC's "boots-on-the-ground" pun, as those boots are being donated by the Singapore military.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Great Red Fleet?

The PLAN followed the time honored Chinese tradition of “let no miles go to waste," as the second flotilla visited Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia after conducting a joint patrol with the USN on their “way home” from its pirate fighting venture in the Gulf of Aden. Perhaps this is what James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara were referring to as “Soft Power At Sea” in their works (here) and (here).

Holmes and Yoshihara have made some convincing arguments in their analyses of the PRC’s soft power approach toward ASEAN nations. However, the idea that the lack of "hard power" in Southeast Asia has forced Beijing to utilize "soft power" as a stopgap ignores Beijing’s comprehensive relations with ASEAN -- not only has there been cultural exchanges, but the creation of free trade zones, liberalized weapons trade (for example, the C802 SSM is in service with a number of ASEAN’s navies), and participation in joint military exercises. The PLA also deployed small teams to Thailand in mine cleaning operations from 2002 and 2003 (here). Having a strong navy that can fight off pirates does not hurt either. In some way, Beijing’s approach to ASEAN is similar to the index of Comprehensive National Power (CNP) which incorporates the use of both "hard" and "soft" power.

Holmes and Yoshihara quote Nye that soft power is arises from the attractiveness of a country’s “culture, political ideals, and policies," but for the Chinese government, it seems the primary attractiveness of its soft power is hard currency (i.e. $$$). The current economic downturn shows just how powerful hard currency translates into PRC influence on ASEAN nations. (here)

Case in point: the Sino-Australian relationship is at its lowest point due to many factors (e.g. Rio Tinto), however, they continue their free trade zone talks (here) and recently, signed a 40 billion USD gas deal off the west coast. (here)

"Soft Power" has an inherited limit as Holmes and Yoshihara pointed out; there will be no danger of Australia adopting a “Beijing Consensus” no matter how strong China's "soft power" will become. Besides, Beijing would rather export manufactured goods than some make-believe consensus.

“Guangzhou” warship holds exercises with foreign naval ships in return trip 2009-08-21
After wrapping up the goodwill visit to Indonesia, the “Guangzhou” warship of the Chinese PLA Navy left Manado, Indonesia at 19:00 on August 19 and started to return home. On its way back, it staged vessel formation movement exercise and communication drill with the Burke class destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS McCampbell in a sea area to the north of Manado. The two sides also conducted light signal drill at the same time.

At 15:00 on August 20, the “Guangzhou” warship staged a formation movement exercise with the missile frigate Kedah of the Malaysian Navy in the Sulawesi Sea.

By Mo Xiaoliang and Zhong Jijun

Aug 21, Editor: Dong Zhaohui

People's Armed Police. (PAP)

Outside observers often misidentify PAP as the “military”, hopefully this new law will clarify some of the misconceptions out there.

As for the Chinese military planners, they have stated the PLA should be used in national defense rather than police work, see Dennis J. Blasko and John F. Corbett's "No More Tiananmens: The People’s Armed Police and Stability in China" published by the China Strategic Review. This new law is a move toward the right direction for them.

For a detailed background on the PAP, see this CDF article.

China strengthens internal security force


BEIJING — Buffeted by rising domestic unrest and missteps in handling ethnic violence, China's leaders are asserting greater control over the country's main internal security force with a new law on how and when the troops are mobilized.

The law, set to be passed this week, will define the mission of the 660,000-member People's Armed Police, which serves mainly as a better-armed backup to the regular police. Its troops, distinguished by their red epaulets, guard public buildings and infrastructure, and even jogged alongside the Beijing Olympic torch during its contentious journey around the world last year.

Most prominently, PAP troops were used to subdue rioters in Tibetan areas last year after violence there that left at least 18 people dead. They were used again last month when indigenous Turkic Muslims, called Uighurs, clashed with migrants from China's ethnic Han majority in the far western region of Xinjiang, leaving almost 200 dead — China's worst ethnic violence in decades.

President Hu Jintao visited with PAP, police and army troops in Xinjiang on Tuesday, telling them to make "upholding social stability the most urgent task."

Details of the law have not been released, but the official Xinhua News Agency said it would designate the PAP as responsible for dealing with "riots, unrest, large-scale violent crimes, and terrorist attacks," while limiting their powers of search and seizure.

A standing committee of the National People's Congress, China's legislature, said it is expected to pass the law on Thursday.

"The PAP are taking on heavier and heavier tasks from dealing with outbreaks of violence to anti-terrorism and disaster relief. They need a better legal safeguard," Sui Mingtai, a member of the NPC's Standing Committee, was quoted as saying in remarks posted on the congress' official Web site.

The PAP was established in 1983 as a police force for internal security. Their troops are based all over China.

Since then, the force has mostly relied on intimidation and arrests to enforce its will. It seemed initially unprepared for the level of violence in the Tibet and Xinjiang rioting.

PAP troops are also frequently called out to deal with rising cases of civil unrest in the vast countryside, usually linked to land disputes and protests over forced relocations — often involving farmers who have been displaced as a result of real estate projects. Such cases have spiked as China's economy has boomed.

Amid concerns that local authorities may misuse the armed police, the law will also include new procedures for deploying PAP troops, drawn up by the State Council, China's Cabinet, and the Central Military Commission that commands the armed forces.

Xinhua said the procedures would strip local governments at the county-level of the right to deploy troops independently — addressing a key complaint of critics who say local officials often regard such troops as their own private army. In his posted comments, NPC Standing Committee member Sui said the command structure needs to be adjusted to avoid abuses by "individual leaders or departments."

Such a move could boost the PAP's reputation among ordinary Chinese by increasing accountability. Although no longer notorious for corruption and lax discipline, armed police are still held in far lower esteem than the 2.3-million member People's Liberation Army.

The law "will have positive effects on the development of the PAP because it makes clear their responsibilities, social status and power," said Xu Zhongcheng, an expert on counterterrorism and organized crime at the Shandong Police College in eastern China.

The law also dovetails neatly with President Hu's overall program of strengthening Communist Party rule and the economy through legislation while seeking to mitigate social conflicts. Although all political threats to the party are crushed, Hu has ordered officials to avoid alienating ordinary Chinese by addressing the causes of dissatisfaction and toning down clashes and confrontations.

Nicholas Bequelin, Asia researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the law should help clarify the PAP's command structure and rules of engagement, while possibly reducing abuses such as summary detention.

"There's definitely a need to bring the activities of the PAP within a more precise legal framework, given the growing role the PAP has been given in handling social unrest and riots," Bequelin said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


The divisions that are taking part on the Kuayue-2009 tactical military exercise are identified as:

116th Mech Infantry Division of 39th Group Army, Shangyang MR

162nd Motor Infantry Division of 54th Group Army, Jinnan MR

123rd Mech Infantry Division of 41st Group Army, Guangzhou MR

61st Mech Infantry Division of 21st Group Army, Lanzhou MR.

(thanks oneattheback for the tip)

As others have noted before -- all the "Taiwan units" are missing from this important exercise. However, it does not mean that they are seating on idle either, for example, members of 127th Mech Infantry Division is doing their ritual of "million-man swim" in the Yellow Sea right now.

Here is a surprisingly detailed write-up about the Kuayue 2009 from the PLAdaily.

Attractive sidelights of “Stride 2009” series exercise 2009-08-12

   The first large-scale “Stride 2009” series trans-command actual-troop test-oriented exercise ever since the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) kicked off on August 11.

  According to the preplan, from August to September, four army divisions respectively under the Shenyang Military Area Command (MAC), the Lanzhou MAC, the Jinan MAC and the Guangzhou MAC will move to the combined tactics training base out of their own theaters under the uniform deployment of the General Staff Headquarters (GSH) of the PLA to confront with the “enemy” in unfamiliar areas.

  The whole process of the exercise will be fairly and authentically recorded and judged through a set of “ground force exercise evaluation system”.

  Maneuver ways will stand test and the capability of remote strategic projection will be the big attraction

   According to the plan, more than 80% of the participating troops and large weapons, equipment and vehicles will be transported to the destination by two maneuver ways, namely, motorized march and railway transportation.

  The biggest difference between this exercise and the previous ones is that during the maneuver, besides taking transport aircraft of the PLA Air Force, the GSH of the PLA will coordinate to mobilize and requisition a number of civil airliners and cargo aircraft from relevant airline companies. This is the first time to do so in the exercise history of the PLA. In the aspect of railway transportation, all troops will be carried by passenger carriages and heavy weapons will be transported by flat bed trailers. The high-speed and nonstop “Hexie” MUs will also be used to transport light gear troops.

  The combination reflecting combat strength and the diversity of combat means

   In addition to a small number of rear personnel, the average number of each of the four infantry division participating in the military exercise is about 10,000 persons, which means that each division has mobilized more than 80% of its total force strength, and the maximum exercise participation rate is as high as 97%.

  At the same time, the exercise participation rate of artillery, engineering machinery and other large weapons and equipment is no less than 90%, and the participation rate of armored vehicles also reaches more than 50%.

  To reflect the combination of the combat strength and the diversity of combat means, the special operation units, army aviation troops, electronic warfare companies, photographic reconnaissance platoons, unmanned plane groups, and short-wave interference stations will be distributed to the exercise troops with new-type equipment to augment the overall combat strength.

  The Beidou satellite navigation and positioning system will be entrusted again with important task

   The Beidou satellite navigation and positioning system, which ever played important role in the rescue and relief operation of the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, will be entrusted with an important task during this exercise. The communication security in military operations involves the life and death of the armed forces. The Beidou satellite navigation and positioning system, which China possesses the complete intellectual property right, has to some extent solved the problem of leaking out or divulging military secrets in communication.

  A batch of independently developed new types of weapons and equipment will be used in the exercise fields to test the efficacy. For example, whether the strong sound broadcasting vehicle used by the psychological warfare unit can play the role of “destroying the arrogance of the enemy and enhancing the spirit of the fighting troops” in the exercise remains to be seen.

  The “Red Army” and the “Blue Army” will conduct simulated confrontation and the effect of the confrontation will be highlighted

  During the “Stride 2009” series exercise, after the participating troops enter the training base, the “Red Army” and the “Blue Army” will use laser to simulate fighting equipment to stage a confrontation.

  In recent years, the PLA has increased the momentum of research and development on simulated fighting weapons, and regarded them as the important exercise equipment for the base confrontation exercise. According to relevant sources, in the next few years, the equipping scope and variety of simulated fighting weapons will be enlarged, in a bid to enhance the difficulty of the confrontation exercise. The “ground force exercise evaluation system” independently developed by the PLA can enable the directing group of the exercise to make timely, objective and accurate evaluation on the disposal means, damage effects and other exercise effects. It also makes the simulated confrontation with more practical significance.

  Comprehensively assessing POL supply, medical support, war indemnity and frontline support

  Almost all war-related issues are the assessment items of the “Stride 2009” series exercise.

   All the ways and means that each troop unit will use to solve such issues as refuel of automobiles, supply of 10,000-odd people’s consumption of goods and materials, gathering of personnel and vehicles left behind, treatment of the sick and wounded, compensation of damaged crops of the farmers, will be put on record and the record will be used as a basis for final comment.

  During the maneuver process, the participating troops will rely on the military-civilian gas stations to set up POL and goods supply depots. The military hospital near the exercise area will be responsible for the medical support for the officers and men participating in the exercise temporarily. At the same time, the hospital subordinated to each division will provide accompanied medical support. The individual first-aid items and battlefield first aid kit and others will also be distributed to the soldiers and troops ahead of time.

(BEIJING, Aug 11, PLA Daily)    Editor: Dong Zhaohui

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Z-9G Attack Helicopter in Air-to-Air Configuration

Recently open source internet images have been seen of the Z-9G mounting the TY-90 lightweight air-to-air missile in two 4-missile racks.

The TY-90 ("TY" stands for TianYan, or ) is a short range air-to-air variant of the Chinese QW-2 shoulder-fired IR-seeking missile. Manufacturer's specifications on display at an arms expo indicate that the TY-90 possesses an all-aspect cooled Indium Antimonide IR seeker that is optimized for anti-helicopter engagements in a low-contrast nap-of-the-earth (NOE) environment.

TY-90 fired from an Mi-17 test platform in 2006

With both left and right-side pylons dedicated to the air-to-air missiles, this Z-9G packs a lot of anti-helicopter punch. While some western helicopters can carry a few air-to-air missiles as a defensive measure, this all air-to-air loadout indicates an offensive “helo-hunting” mission for the Z-9G. As the PLA can hardly expect air supremacy in likely conflicts it may face, the potential exists that PLA helos may face off against other helicopters. This would be particularly true in a cross-strait amphibious scenario.

While many helicopters have the ability to fire short-range IR-seeking missiles, few have the missiles fully integrated into the optics and fire control system. In helicopters where the missile seeker operates independently, the pilot must align the entire helicopter at the target, wait for good “tone” to indicate the missile is tracking something, and then fire. In more advanced systems the missile’s seeker is slaved to the electro-optical sensor of the helicopter; that is, the missile seeker will look for a target where the helicopter gunner wants it to. This latter configuration makes for a very effective anti-air system, where the helicopter gunner knows if the missile is locked on to an opposing aircraft instead of clutter, knows the “quality” of that lock-on, and can send the missile on its way without waiting for the pilot to apply fine corrections to helicopter heading.

There are indications that the TY-90 system enjoys this sort of integration. In 2006 when the TY-90 was first seen during operational tests, the Mi-17 test platform was fitted with the entire sensor assembly of the emerging WZ-10 Attack Helicopter. This unusual fitment likely indicates that the missile and sensor assembly were somehow integrated.

Mi-17 testbed with WZ-10 sensor package

Of particular note is that the Z-9G recently seen with the TY-90 loadout belongs to the PLA’s 4th LH Regiment. Alluding to the possibility of an amphibious role, in December of last year the 4th LH Regiment participated in a difficult nighttime over-ocean exercise ( 2008-12-04 19:19:45).

The 4th LH Regiment is busy now hosting preparations for the 60th Anniversary Parade. Their base at Qishanzhuang has been in-use for the past six-months as a practice ground for units driving in the parade. You can view the units in their parade arrays here:

+39° 48' 36.90", +116° 42' 32.12" (39.810250, 116.708922)

Friday, August 14, 2009

MT-LBu in PLA service.

While no one reported it, there are indications that a number of the Russian MT-LBu (Multi-Purpose Fully-Amphibious Armored Carrier) are now in service with the PLA. Initially, the MT-LBu was developed to host the 122mm 2S1 Gvozidka self-propelled artillery system. Over time, it has become known as the “tractor” because it has the same chassis as so many specialized variants that are in service within 15 nations (16 if China is included).
Besides Russia, Hungary and Bulgaria also manufactured a variant of the MT-LBu, but since photos of the PLA’s MT-LBu are equipped with an R-330B VHF jammer and the MT-LBu is also spotted with the imported Tor M1 SAM unit, Russia seems to be the logical source.

PLA’s R-330B VHF jammer equipped MT-LBu (The Chinese characters read "ECM Regiment")

PLA's MT-LBu and Tor M1 SAM

Spec of MT-LBu with R-330B from Russia’s official arms exporter, Rosoboronexport.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The H-6 Tankers by Mike Little

CDF is proud to host this 2002 analysis by Mike Little, a USAF veteran with over 4000 hours flying KC-135 tankers. Of particular interest is his detailed analysis of how far into the second island chain an effective J-8 CAP could be mounted using the H-6 tankers.

Mike recently provided us with some updates to this article which we have published here:

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Images Of The Ski Jump Test Facility at Xian Aircraft Company’s Yuanling Airport

Displacedjim made the following observation:

Open Source photos have finally appeared of the Chinese ski jump test facility, and it looks like they have at least one FLANKER test article. The one ground-level picture had appeared a few months back, but when I asked xinhui and others for the location, the only answer I could get was the Shenyang test facility. That was not correct. Now for the first time that I have seen, someone has gotten a hold of recent overhead imagery of the Xian-Yanliang test facility, which is where this ramp was built within the last couple years.

Building it there seems an unusual choice, given its altitude of over 1500ft above sea level. Maybe they have good weather for testing there, with frequent sustained high winds that might better simulate wind over the deck during air operations?

Here are some totally unrelated photos that were taken last week.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

On again, off again. (Ukraine military hovercraft to equip Chinese navy)

Back in 2006, the rumor of a possible Zubr Hovercraft sale to China had caused a firestorm in the PLA watching community; speculations were abound on how the induction of such a heavy hovercraft would upset the region's balance of power. (here) However, nothing was materialized.

The same firestorm will string up again with the following news release.

While the Zubr class boasts an impressive pay load and speed, it is handicapped by limited range. (300 n miles at 55 Knots)

Ukraine military hovercraft to equip Chinese navy
Posted on : 2009-08-07 | Author : DPA
News Category : Business

Kiev - China's navy is to purchase four Ukrainian military hovercraft in a 315-million-dollar deal potentially shifting the South China Sea naval balance, the Interfax news agency reported. A shipbuilding firm in Ukraine's Black Sea port Feodosia will construct two Zubr (translation - Bison) class craft, and a second pair of vessels will be built in China under the supervision of Ukrainian technicians.

A Ukrainian government publication listing state contracts confirmed the order without giving its value. Officials at the Morye shipyard in Feodosia declined comment.

The Zubr hovercraft is designed to carry three tanks, 10 armoured personnel carriers, or as many as 500 troops at speeds exceeding 63 knots.

The vessel can due to its larger size operate in rougher seas than smaller hovercraft.

The Russian, Ukrainian, and Greek navies currently operate the Zubr, with a total ten hovercraft produced since 1988.

China's navy currently lacks heavy capacity hovercraft of the Zubr type. The most modern Chinese naval hovercraft in operation, the Jingsah II, has a maximum capacity of 70 troops.

The Zubr hovercraft's capacity to deliver substantial combat forces by water at speeds doubling conventional landing ships would, once in Chinese inventory, complicate defence planning for South China Sea nations particularly Taiwan, according to the report.

Feodosia's Morye shipyard as co-developer of the Zubr hovercraft with St. Peterburg's Almaz naval design bureau technically is banned from selling Zubr's military technologies to a third party, without Almaz management agreement.

China in 2006 was in talks with Almaz on the purchase of six Zubr hovercraft without result.

Management at Ukraine's Morye shipyard, actual production of site of all Zubr-class hovercraft, began talks with Chinese naval representatives in 2008, a naval source told Interfax.

Print Source :,ukraine-military-hovercraft-to-equip-chinese-navy.html
© 2009 All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Stupid PLA PR

Anti-Radiation food for Missile Forces, yum.

How is that going to work anyway?

Friday, August 07, 2009

CDF is back

Forum upgrade has been completed and CDF is now back online with a new URL (make sure you change your bookmark).

See you all there.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

China Goes to Sea: Maritime Transformation in Comparative Historical Perspective

In 1988 the CCTV broadcast He Shang (River Elegy) used the theme of China’s early development centering on the Yellow River to criticize “the mentality of a servile, static, and defensive people who always meekly hug to mother earth to eke out a miserable living, rather than boldly venturing forth on the dangerous deep blue sea in search of a freer more exalted existence.” He Shang asked, “How can the ‘Yellow’ culture of the earth be transformed into the ‘Blue’ culture of the ocean?” Those are the words that helped start my read on “China Goes to Sea: Maritime Transformation in Comparative Historical Perspective” by By Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and Carnes Lord. It is the third in the series “Studies in Chinese Maritimes Development” following “China’s Future Nuclear Submarine Force” and “China Energy Strategy: The Impact on Beijing’s Maritime Policies.”

“China Goes to Sea” is in many respects a unique study. It does not only examine the Chinese “maritime transformation” (moving away from a continental/land power to a maritime/trade power), it also analyzes other maritime transformations and how they relate to the Chinese narrative. The first half of the book covered transformation attempts by other continental powers such as Persia, Sparta, Rome. and the Ottoman. The central chapters examined the experience of later continental powers such as the French, Imperial Russian, Imperial Germany, and the Soviet Union.

As I expected, authors of this study spent a great deal of attention on the hard-power aspect of the transformation in the realm of military projections and doctrine. However hard-power rarely exists by itself, other areas such as politics, economics, geography, human factors, and culture were examined in detail. There is also a chapter on Shipbuilding prowess -- a foundation for a strong navy.

Throughout the book, there was an undertone suggesting that "Openness" and "Trade" were essential elements for a successful maritime power (don’t forget a growing fishing fleet!) China has become the World’s number 3 in both trade volume and shipbuilding prowess. However, as Erickson and Goldstein notes: “He Shang (River Elegy) was later viewed by Chinese officials as having helped to inspire the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations, however, and was subsequently banned.” For that, China still has a way to go in the “Openness” area.

China goes to Sea is an impressive study with a sophisticated and comparative approach, a worthy addition to any library. It is an informative read that will please history-buffs and political-wonks alike.

Monday, August 03, 2009

7th Type054A FFG

7th Type054A FFG under construction spotted at Guangzhou's Huangpu Shipyard

Or in Chinese internet lingo; 7th New Youth sister, GZ HP, ZTCD.