For readers with a more than passing interest in Asia
Pacific military affairs, Chinese Aerospace Power, Emerging Maritime Roles is
the book for you. Edited by China
defence experts Andrew Erickson and Lyle Goldstein, the book is a series of
essays and papers about China's capabilities and possible intentions in regard
to the use of air and space assets in a war off its coast. It also spells out
the implications of this for the US air force and US navy.
The book is divided into five sections:
1) Chinese Aerospace Development, Emerging Maritime Roles
2) Chinese ISR and counter-ISR
3) Contrasting strategies: protecting bastions or projecting
4) Maritime strike: air-launched cruise missiles
5) Maritime strike: ballistic missiles
6) Maritime implications of Chinese Aerospace Power
What's not to like?
For those who think China would be a pushover for the USA,
the book provides sobering reading. In the event of a conflict, China is
gearing up to fight intense, high-technology conflicts close to its shores. The
crux of China's strategy would be to reduce enemy air bases in the region with
ballistic and cruise missiles.
In regard to American warships, the much touted DF-21D anti-ship
ballistic missile would not necessarily be used to sink ships, but possibly
shower them with sub munitions. A rain of bomblets falling upon an aircraft
carrier's deck would create havoc and certainly result in a mission kill. One
of the writers in the book says the test of such a system - presumably against
a fast moving ship far out at sea - would be a public relations coup similar to
China's test of an anti-satellite missile in 2007.
Even if the DF-21D does not prove as effective as
advertised, firing off volleys of ballistic missiles toward the general
vicinity of American carrier battle groups would force AEGIS escorts to expend
valuable anti-ballistic missiles. Eventually the magazine capacity of
these warships would be exhausted, again
resulting in a mission kill for the carrier group.
Chinese Aerospace Power also discusses areas of weakness.
China appears to have a long way to go before it can mount successful joint
forces attacks, say involving ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise
missiles striking an enemy base simultaneously.
For long range strikes, there is also some question about the speed of
its sensor-to-shooter abilities: i.e. it may identify a target, but does it
have the command and control structure to shoot quickly enough? China also has
a long, long way to go in key areas such as long range anti-submarine warfare,
airborne early warning & control, and air-to-air refuelling.
Nonetheless, this a timely and well written book that puts
issues around China's airpower in useful perspective.