Deployment of Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM) on Chinese warships will bring new dimensions to diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific.
Images have surfaced of a naval variant of the DH-10 LACM on a China Navy test vessel. The missile canisters spotted appear to be virtually identical to the land-based variant. This sort of arrangement is reminiscent to the deployment of the BGM-109 Tomahawk on United States Navy surface combatants by way of the MK-143 Armored Box Launcher. The MK-143 enabled vessels such as the Iowa Class Battleships and Spruance Class Destroyers to launch the BGM-109.
The images suggest that the DH-10 would be installed in the same way as the YJ-62 or YJ-83 anti-ship missiles. This is advantageous for the current generation of China Navy surface combatants, giving designs such as the 052C land attack capability with minimal structural modification. However, the downside is that the arrangement would sacrifice anti-ship capabilities by substituting the YJ-62 or YJ-83 systems with DH-10 launchers. It also means that only a maximum of eight missiles can be carried and that is assuming the launch canisters can be stacked on top of one another.
In spite of its disadvantages and simplicity compared to the deployment of vertically launched LACMs by other navies, the adoption of a naval variant of the DH-10 is a considerable capability leap for Beijing. This development would enable China to complete its “cruise missile triad”, complementing the already in-service land-based system and the air-launched variant, the CJ-10. Missiles launched from land-based platforms are restricted to striking targets around China’s periphery, not so dissimilar to the range limitations faced by the Second Artillery Force’s inventory of conventional ballistic missiles. Missiles launched from the air force’s H-6 bombers provide more operational flexibility and reach for China’s cruise missiles, similar to the way in which the United States Air Force deploys cruise missiles from its bomber fleet. However, without aerial refueling capability and heavy fighter protection, the H-6 is an aircraft restricted to limited regional operations. The bomber’s obsolete design, slow speed and its vulnerability to interception are weighing heavily against its potential strategic roles.
The China Navy, on the other hand, is the only branch of the Chinese military capable of projecting limited power far beyond China’s shores. While it is debatable whether the China Navy would seek the same sort of global reach as the United States Navy, the possession of ship-launched LACMs would essentially enable Chinese warships to conduct long range precision attacks against land targets around the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The implications are strategic locations that were traditionally distance away from China mainland could now be potentially brought within the firing range of DH-10 armed vessels.
The fact that DH-10 is mounted on a test vessel that has yet sail suggests that it is still very early its development cycle. If the rumored Type 052D destroyer, the successor of the 052C that is reportedly under construction is mounted with DH-10, then a universal vertical launch system for Chinese armed forces is a reality.
It would also be interesting to monitor the future development of an undersea DH-10 systems as arming Beijing’s fleet of conventional and nuclear attack submarines with submarine-launched DH-10 missiles will have far reaching implications.
A new PAR radar is also spotted.
The older Type 348 Radar AESA radar, found on China Navy's Type052C DDG.
Michael S. Chase and Andrew S. Erickson, “The Conventional Missile Capabilities of China’s Second Artillery Force: Cornerstone of Deterrence and Warfighting,” Asian Security, 8.2 (Summer 2012): 115-37.
Abstract: Since its establishment in the early 1990s, the conventional missile component of the People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery Force (SAF) has emerged as a centerpiece of China’s accelerating military modernization program. The conventional missile force has grown in size and sophistication, and China has developed a doctrine for its employment. Chinese military publications emphasize that it plays an increasingly important role in deterrence and warfighting. In particular, Chinese sources underscore its role in achieving information dominance, air superiority, and sea control as well as countering third-party intervention. China’s development of advanced conventional missile capabilities highlights the growing vulnerability of fixed bases and surface ships. Moreover, organizational tendencies, could fuel dangerous escalation. In response to these challenges, the United States must adapt its traditional approach to military operations and deterrence in the Asia-Pacific.
The transformation of the Second Artillery Force (SAF) – the part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) responsible for most of China’s conventional and nuclear ballistic missiles and land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) – is one of the most important elements of Chinese military modernization. China has progressed rapidly from having a limited and vulnerable nuclear ballistic missile capability to having one of the most impressive nuclear and conventional ballistic missile and land-attack cruise missile programs of any nation. This transformation is underscored by the 2010 unclassified report on Chinese military power issued by the US Department of Defense (DoD), which states that “China has the most active land-based ballistic and cruise missile program in the world.” …
The remainder of this article consists of five parts. The first reviews the development of China’s conventional missile force. The second surveys its emerging doctrine for deterrence and strike operations. The third examines the conventional missile capabilities China is developing and deploying to enable the SAF to implement these force employment concepts. The fourth provides an overview of recent developments in SAF training. The fifth assesses the challenges that China’s growing conventional missile force capabilities may pose to the United States and its allies and friends in the Western Pacific and offers recommendations for US planners and policymakers. …
Honestly more pictures and updates than internet editorials on strategic implications, please.
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