Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Wingnuts talk up China military threat

Wingnuts are abuzz about the military threat posed by China. Apparently, having every operational combat brigade of the U.S. Army tied down in a tar pit in Iraq and Afghanistan isn't enough for them. Now we're supposed to... uhm, do what? Cringe in terror while Dear Leader "protects" us from a Chinese military that poses absolutely no (zero) threat to the United States? Fire off NUKES at the Chinese? Are these mofo's in Washington D.C. freakin' INSANE?!

China's current defensive posture is, well, defensive -- none of their current weapons other than their few dozen ICBM's are much use for offensive purposes. The Song class diesel-electric boats, for example, while quite stealthy in electric mode (U.S. forces have been embarrassed more than once by one popping in the middle of their exercises after sneaking there undetected), does not have a particularly long range and as far as we know do not have the ability to be refueled at sea, meaning that they are primarily of use for coastal defense. China does not possess any heavy bombers with intercontinental range and as far as we know has no plans to acquire any. The majority of their air force is comprised largely of short-ranged MiG-21 fighters and indigenenous variants thereof which are useless for offensive operations at any significant distance beyond their border. Their Navy is comprised of coastal defense destroyers and submarines and has no ability to sustain operations beyond a few hundred miles of China's coast, lacking tankers and support ships necessary for such purpose. Their Army is large but possesses no useful tanks (just obsolete clones of old Stalin-era Soviet tanks) and thus lacks the primary offensive weapon of modern armies, Chinese investment at the moment is going into producing anti-tank weapons capable of defending against invading M1 tanks, not into a new generation of tanks. Etc.

In the long term, China's military aspirations are something to worry about. As they develop their industrial skills by selling cheap junk to Americans, they also develop the ability to design and build modern weapons. Short term... no. China's current military posture would be hard-pressed to defend the Chinese mainland against any modern adversary, and would successfully do so only because China possesses the advantage of scale (i.e., they have so many of these short-ranged obsolete weapons and so much population base to draw upon, that any attacking military would run out of bullets and anti-aircraft missiles before killing them all).

Even their long-term goal of invading and forcibly re-uniting Taiwan is at least a decade away. Taiwan is defended by modern F-16 fighter jets, the best fighter jet in the world, as well as their own indigeneously-produced fighter jet which is roughly equivalent to the F-18 and Mirage 2000 fighter jets which are somewhat less capable but still quite well able to take out anything China has. China's MiG-21 jets cannot reach Taiwan with any useful military payload, and they have only a handful of Su-30 fighter jets purchased from Russia that are anywhere near modern enough to take on a F-16 (and I would still lay my bet on the F-16). Any invasion fleet of Chinese trawlers would swiftly end up at the bottom of the sea without any U.S. intervention at all.

In short, China's threat to America or to anybody else for at least the next decade is economic, not military. For the moment their biggest military threat is their ability to provide massive amounts of cheap weaponry to asymmetrical warfare organizations in countries such as Iraq and Lebanon and to potential adversary states such as Iran, rather than any direct military threat presented by their own military forces.

-- Badtux the Military Penguin

PS - even their new ability to take out satellites is defensive in purpose. Taking out the GPS satellites would also take out American GPS-guided "smart weapons" and significantly reduce the effectiveness of weapons such as Tomahawk cruise missiles (which are significantly less accurate in terrain-following mode -- e.g., during the 1st Gulf War, before being modified to use GPS, roughly half the Tomahawks fired from naval vessels in the Red Sea ended up actually crashing into our allies Saudi Arabia and Jordan rather than making it across the Arabian Peninsula into Iraq!).

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Posted by: BadTux / 4/06/2007 08:51:00 AM  


I keep expecting one day to wake up and we will have nuked every county where they didn't speak English.
# posted by Lab Kat : 6/4/07 2:08 PM  

The Chinese have too many people and north of them is a nearly empty Siberia.

It is avionics and missiles that determine the result in air-to-air combat.

For some reason, the Chinese have a hell of a time writing software. They can build computers, but they don't seem to be able to program them effectively.

Russia-China is still the tension in the region, and Japan is still considered a major threat to China.

The Japanese hints at re-arming have more to do with the recent increase than anything we are doing.
# posted by Bryan : 7/4/07 9:28 AM  

Siberia is nearly empty for a reason, and China's population pressures are going to be at an end within a generation due to the one-child policy. Russia and China have been pretty kissy-poo lately. The Russians are selling Su-30 fighter jets to China for cold hard cash, and our pals (?) in Israel are putting modern avionics into the fighter jets.

The problem with the Su-19 (and Su-21) is not that it is useless for air defense. The problem is that it has a very short range due to the aweful 1950's-era jet engine that powers it. Lack of linger time is a significant issue that can detirmine the result in air to air combat. See, for example, the Falklands war, where superior Mirage fighters at the end of their operational range were largely ineffective due to lack of linger time, and indeed much inferior Harrier fighter jets shot a few of them down just by sitting back beyond where the Mirages could reach and firing pot shots at them. Now, granted the Mirages did manage to sink a few surface vessels that got too close, but this is an example of how lack of linger time significantly restricts the combat utility of an airframe. Like Argentina, China lacks air refueling capabilities. The Su-30 jets are the only jets they have that could be air-refueled, and the Russians haven't sold them the gear to do so (not that it matters for air defense, the Su-30 jet's range is pretty good, it compensates for crappy Russian jet engines by being big and carrying lotsa fuel, sorta like a Russian version of the F4 Phantom).

You are correct that Japan is a major concern for China. They still remember the Rape of Nanking, even if it has been written out of Japanese textbooks. That said, Japan currently doesn't have enough of a military to account for China's current military buildup, and given the nature of Japan's gerentocracy is unlikely to have such in the near future -- Japan is staggering under the weight of social services spending for its ballooning population of retirees. I think it is clear that China's real goal is to deter folks other than Japan, and at the moment there is only one superpower worth deterring...

# posted by BadTux : 7/4/07 10:38 AM  

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