Friday, June 10, 2005

Rumsfeld's Remarks & Gertz's Gibberish

If you have glanced at any newspaper, blog, or nightly news program in the last couple days, you have undoubtedly seen the news about Secretary Rumsfeld's comments on China while he was in Singapore. The best coverage is this article in this week's Economist entitled "Casus Belli." The article posits that Rumsfeld concerns
may be the cause for the last-minute delay in the release of an annual Pentagon report on Chinese military capabilities.
As it is unlikely that this is a stunt aimed at driving up the readership of the upcoming report, I will be interested to read the new report to see what new it has to say. I'll hold off on analysis until I read the report. (The full text of Rumsfeld's address can be found here.)

Adding fuel to the fire is this article by Bill Gertz of the everything-China-does-is-a-threat school (his book China Threat earned him that title).
A highly classified intelligence report produced for the new director of national intelligence concludes that U.S. spy agencies failed to recognize several key military developments in China in the past decade, The Washington Times has learned,
writes Gertz. He lists six key "failures" and comments that:
the word 'surprise' is used more than a dozen times to describe U.S. failures to anticipate or discover Chinese arms development.
While I won't criticize a report written by highly respected China analysts the likes of Robert Suettinger and John Culver without having read the paper itself, I will say that the WaTimes article's description of the "failures" without giving a time frame or specific weapon systems makes it hard to refute or verify. It is worthwhile to examine each "failure" individually.
The First "Failure"
China's development of a new long-range cruise missile.
This brings a couple questions to mind:
Was this a failure to anticipate or a failure to discover? Did we not know it existed or not know it was deployed or not guess accurately the week in which it would be first shown to the public or what?
Which long-range cruise missile are we talking about? This article for example, mentions two relatively new additions to China's long range cruise missile forces (one "based on the Russian Kh-65SE air-launched cruise missile" and the other "a derivative of the Chinese C-802 ASCM"). Is it one of those or some other missile that we don't even know about?
The Second "Failure"
The deployment of a new warship equipped with a stolen Chinese version of the U.S. Aegis battle management technology.
Always be wary of anyone describing something as the "Chinese version of" anything! Taiwanese are fond of calling betel nuts "Chinese chewing gum." I don't think, however, the average American fan of Bubblicious would like the nutty carcinogenic stimulant. Likewise, just by calling something Aegis-esque doesn't mean that it has been shown to have similar capabilities with the American system. (For those unfamiliar with the Aegis Combat System, see explanations by Wikipedia and FAS.) A little internet searching leads me to believe he is speaking of the Lanzhou Class Destroyer (Type 052C). An article at China Defence Today likewise attributes to it: "four-array multifunction phased array radar (PAR) similar to the U.S. AN/SPY-1 Aegis." Without more explanation of in what regard it is similar to the Aegis Combat System, it is hard to evaluate the system (and how afraid the US Navy should be). It has the same mission, does that qualify it as "similar"? Is it as capable as the Aegis? Can it simultaneously find and track one hundred moving targets and seamlessly interact with the weapon systems to destroy them? The closest the article comes to an answer is claiming that the Lanzhou's PAR has a "similar arrangement" to Aegis. Back to the Gertz article, did we fail to recognize the development of this system or its deployment? (Note: This system has only been deployed on one ship, the DDG170 Lanzhou, with one more due for commissioning this year, the DDG171.) Basically, the latest Arleigh Burke destroyers are operating on version, known in navy talk as Baseline, 7.1; how about the Chinese system?
The Third "Failure"
Deployment of a new attack submarine known as the Yuan class that was missed by U.S. intelligence until photos of the submarine appeared on the Internet.
This one seems particulary embarassing. The original story was broken by the WaTimes according to Janes and Stratfor. Here is a little more information from the Stratfor article:
China also has produced a new type of attack submarine that U.S. defense and intelligence officials say their agencies had not realized was under construction. The submarine appears to be a hybrid of Chinese and Russian technology. It was spotted for the first time several weeks ago and has been designated by the Pentagon as the first Yuan class of submarine. A photograph of the completed submarine in the water at China's Wuhan shipyard was posted on a Chinese Internet site this week and -- according to the Washington Times -- was confirmed by a defense official as the new Yuan class.
That is quite an embarrassment. More information on the Yuan class submarine can be found here.
The Fourth "Failure"
Development of precision-guided munitions, including new air-to-ground missiles and new, more accurate warheads.

That is believable and I have no information to offer to either confirm or deny. My guess is that it just means their missiles are getting better (which shouldn't surprise anyone), but don't fool yourself into thinking that the Chinese definition of "precision" and America's are the same.
The Fifth "Failure"
China's development of surface-to-surface missiles for targeting U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups.
This is an extremely interesting topic and I will refrain from addressing it in this post so as to address it in more detail in a later post.
The Sixth & Final "Failure"
The importation of advanced weaponry, including Russian submarines, warships and fighter-bombers.
I find this one particularly hard to believe. Is there a specific weapon system that we didn't know Russia was selling them? We know there is a Russian yardsale on military weaponry and China is buying like mad. That condition hasn't changed for more than a decade. If he wanted to discuss how the Israeli sale of Harpy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) caught us by surprise (news was first broken by Gertz in 2002 and finally confirmed in 2004) or before that the Israeli attempt to sell AWACS, then I would find him completely justified but to make it out like Russian sales of "submarines, warships, and fighter-bombers" on the whole was a surprise is beyond absurd.
Update: For more information about the Israeli attempt to sell China AWACS, see this post.