Sunday, December 28, 2014

China readies sea-based nuclear deterrent against U.S.


China is set to reinforce its nuclear second-strike capability by mounting on some of its submarines long-range ballistic missiles, which could target the U.S. 

So far, China could strike the U.S. only with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. But with western advancements in surveillance that could track their location and movements, these weapons had become vulnerable to a U.S. first strike, gravely undermining Beijing’s nuclear deterrence. 

However, China is on the verge of a course correction, says a report submitted in November to Congress by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. The commission has concluded that the Chinese are set to acquire a reliable, hard-to-destroy sea-based deterrent. A cluster of 12 JL-2 missiles, with a strike range of around 7,350 km, are being mounted on its JIN class of submarines. 

China has three JIN-class nuclear-powered submarines, which began entering service in 2007. Despite their fairly high noise level, their lethality has now multiplied, following the integration of the new missiles, giving China a credible second-strike capability. 

Alaska within reach

The JL-2 missiles will have an array of strike options, depending on whether the submarine chooses to fire its weapons close to Chinese shores or from areas deeper in the sea. 

Alaska will fall within their ambit if the missiles are fired from waters near China. Hawaii can be targeted if these weapons are launched from waters south of Japan. Western continental U.S. and all the 50 U.S. states are endangered if waters west or east of Hawaii are chosen as the launch pads.
The impending addition of a third dimension of deterrence by China is a vast improvement over the past. The Chinese deterrent had so far depended on the liquid-fuelled DF-5A missiles, which can be fired from fixed silos. 

However, China’s nuclear armoury was beefed up in 2007, when the mobile, solid-fuelled D-31A missiles were inducted into its arsenal. But both these weapons have their limitations.
The DF-5A is vulnerable in its pre-launch phase because it takes a lot of time to fuel its liquid engines, giving ample scope for detection and consequent destruction. The induction of the D-31A was a significant improvement over its predecessor, but with breakthroughs in surveillance, including the arrival of RQ-4 Global Hawk drones, hiding them has become more difficult, notwithstanding their mobility. 

China’s anxieties are fuelled by the presence of 3,60,000 personnel in the theatre under the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). Besides, PACOM has positioned 200 ships, which include five aircraft carrier strike groups, concentrating enormous capacity to project power in the region, with China and North Korea as the prime concerns. Nearly 60 per cent of U.S. forces will deploy under the PACOM’s wings, as the “Asia Pivot” unfolds. 

In their response to the amassing of forces on its periphery, China is locking in weapons that can strike U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups. 

In 2010, China became the first country to develop an anti-ship ballistic missile. The DF-21D’s range of 1,500 km and enhanced lethality imparted by its manoeuvrable warhead makes it ideal for attacking U.S. aircraft carriers east of Taiwan. 

The Chinese have also invested heavily in the CJ-10 land attack cruise missiles, capable of striking U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan. 

But the Americans can still block the sea lanes radiating towards the Strait of Malacca, which are China’s economic and energy lifelines. Consequently, the Chinese, under President Xi Jinping, are relentlessly pursuing the development of the Silk Road Economic Belt — a land corridor that would establish trade linkages with Europe — to lessen dependence on the more vulnerable sea routes. 

Many Chinese scholars are of the view that the acquisition of a sea-based deterrent has finally insulated China from a U.S. nuclear strike. Despite going up the nuclear ladder, analysts point out, the Chinese doctrinal orientation remains essentially defensive, and its accelerated weaponisation is largely a response to Washington’s “Asia Pivot” strategy — a move that Beijing resents and interprets as an expression of Washington’s China-containment policy.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About GTG India

GTG India

GTG India