Chinese Upgrade Conventional Missile Capability

News Brief – June 11, 2012

Although not quite yet an adversary, China is beginning to emerge as more than just a rival to the West’s pre-eminence in commerce. 
With tensions mounting over Taiwan and the U.S. shifting its focus to the Asia Pacific region, China has announced it intends to use its upgraded conventional missile capability to protect its interests.
While continuing to develop its nuclear missiles, China has given increased impetus recently to improve its conventional missile’s ability.
Prior to the 1990 Gulf War China’s military planners had focused almost exclusively on nuclear missiles. However, the Gulf War reportedly brought home to China’s military leaders the importance of conventional missiles in modern war.    
As a result China along with Iran and Pakistan have since developed a wide range of conventional missiles.
In a rare interview featured in India’s Economic Times, the Commander of China’s Second Artillery Force, which includes both conventional and nuclear missiles, emphasised the growing importance of conventional missiles in modern war.
According to Tan Weihong:

“Conventional missiles are a trump card in modern warfare. So we must be ready at any time. We must be able to deliver a quick response to attacks, hit the targets with high accuracy, and destroy them totally. Of the 114 missiles [our brigade] has launched so far, all have accurately hit the target.”

In any coming conflict the Persian Gulf is likely to be an area of heightened activity. Not only because it is effectively a vital artery for much of the world’s oil trade but because of Iranian threats to close it.   
To counter such threats the U.S. has announced a variety of countermeasures.
First of all, U.S. ships will use long-range air defense missiles, like a SM-2ER, to take out incoming missiles. If that fails, shorter-range missiles like the ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile) would be used.
For those missiles still incoming the ship’s main deck guns will fire anti-air rounds with fused airburst shells.
Finally, missiles surviving that will be met with close-in weapons systems like the Mk-15 Pahalanx or the RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile).
While all these weapons are firing, the ship’s electronic warfare systems will be trying to blind or deceive the incoming missile. Creating a false target for them to home in on by firing off chaff (for radar guided weapons) and flares (for infrared guided weapons).
The odds of surviving such a maleastrom of ordnance might seem slim but China’s military planners have an answer to that too.
Instead of firing just one or two missiles a volley of missiles would be unleashed simulaneously. The idea being that multiple fusillades would be fired so as to stretch the ship’s defences to the limit.
The same thinking is behind Iranian naval swarm tactics, where numerous smaller, faster boats would be launched against bigger more heavily armed U.S. ships. With the intention being that the more numerous attackers would eventually overwhelm larger U.S. warships.
Whether these tactics actually work remains to be seen but we may well know in the coming months.

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