Surface Forces: Chinese Navy Heads for the High Seas

November 10, 2007: The Chinese navy is going through a lot of changes. It is getting stronger, and developing new capabilities. Current strengths include ballistic missiles that may be able to hit moving U.S. surface ships. There are also anti-ship versions of cruise missiles, several different models of ship based anti-ship missiles and several types of land and ship based anti-aircraft missiles. There are more ships (30 destroyers, 57 frigates, 55 diesel-electric submarines and six nuclear subs) in service, and an ambitious building program. Ships are getting more time at sea, which means the crews are becoming more experienced.

But there are a lot of negatives. Chinese ships are not trained or equipped to operate effectively far from China. Just invading Taiwan, which is two hundred kilometers from the Chinese coast, is seen as a major undertaking. The navy also has little experience in joint operations (cooperating closely with the army and air force.) There are also serious weaknesses in C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance). Long range surveillance and targeting is a major problem. Against modern equipment, the navy would have a problem with anti-air warfare (AAW), antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and naval mines. Finally, the navy has a shabby logistics system.

The government is putting more money into areas where the navy is already strong, than into those where the fleet is weak. At the moment, and immediate future (next 5-10 years), this could cause serious problems in wartime.

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