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May 8, 2014
Notes from the Pentagon

China's missile cruiser a major step to naval war buildup
China is developing an advanced guided missile cruiser that represents a major step forward in Beijing’s large-scale naval warfare buildup.

Images of a land-based mock-up of the new warship were disclosed recently on the Chinese Internet.

The ship has been identified as the first cruiser called Type 055.

In general, cruisers are bigger than destroyers, but smaller than battleships.

The new cruiser is expected to feature an advanced long-range radar and is expected to be part of China’s offensive missile-shooting ships and its new missile defense system, according to naval analysts.

A congressional naval warfare analyst said China’s first cruiser is a significant naval warfare advancement for the Chinese.

“Until now, we have known only about Chinese frigates and destroyers. A cruiser would go beyond that and would be another marker of the scope of China’s naval modernization effort,” the analyst told Inside the Ring. “No other country in the world today — not even the United States — is currently planning a new cruiser.”

The Navy’s current 30-year shipbuilding plan does not include any cruisers, although Zumwalt-class destroyers, weighing more than 15,000 tons, blur the line between destroyer and cruiser.

China’s new cruiser is believed to be in the 10,000-ton range, putting it roughly on par with Aegis destroyers that weigh about 9,500 tons.

“A Chinese ship of roughly 10,000 tons would not be significantly larger than ships in our fleet that we call destroyers,” the analyst said.

Rick Fisher, a Chinese military affairs analyst, also said the new Chinese cruiser is a major development.

Photos show a mock-up of the new Type 055 cruiser being built in Wuhan.

“From the model in Wuhan we can estimate that it will have a balanced offensive and defensive armament suite suited for the role of protecting aircraft carriers and other capital ships as part of new large and wide-ranging naval battle groups,” said Mr. Fisher, who is with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

“This, in turn, means that China is quickly adding to its largely East-Asia focused military buildup, the future mission to project power well beyond Asia.”

In addition to the Type 055 and a new attack submarine called the Type 039C submarine, China is building a strategic power projection aircraft called the Y-20 heavy military transport along with new medium weight mechanized armor vehicles.

“This is a discordant thought for U.S. military planners who are currently focused on fulfilling ‘Air Sea Battle’ strategies to counter China’s increasingly capable ‘anti-access’ threats in East Asia,” Mr. Fisher said.

“The Obama administration is seemingly oblivious to how Russia and China are building real future threats to U.S. security as it blindly pursues ideologically inspired goals of ‘nuclear disarmament’ and forces repeated cuts in U.S. military capability in order to fund its domestic agenda,” Mr. Fisher said.

The commander of the Air Force in the Pacific said this week that Russia has significantly increased naval and aerial spying in the region following Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

“What Russia’s doing in Ukraine and Crimea has a direct effect on what’s happening in the Asia Pacific,” said Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle.

Russian long-range strategic bombers have stepped up missions near the coast of California and have circled the U.S. territory of Guam. The flights near Guam were intercepted by U.S. F-15 jets.

Gen. Carlisle, speaking Monday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Russian strategic bomber flights around Japan and the Korean peninsula also have “increased drastically” in recent months.

“And there has been a lot more in the way of ship activity as well,” he said.

“It’s to demonstrate their capabilities and it’s to gather intel, obviously” on U.S. and allied military exercises in the region that are a major element of the U.S. pivot to Asia, the four-star general said.

The increase in Russian military activity appears related to Moscow’s activities in Ukraine, he said.

Gen. Carlisle also said China has been engaged in “assertive and aggressive” activities related to disputed maritime claims in the East China, South China and Yellow seas.

China’s unilateral imposition of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea was done with no consultation, does not follow international law and norms, and included an “undefined threat,” he said.

“Basically, [the threat] says, ‘You follow our rules, and you do what we tell you to do within that ADIZ, and we have the right to take special defensive measures,’” Gen. Carlisle said.

Mike Green, a former White House National Security Council Asia policymaker, said the increased Russian activity is “evocative of the Cold War.”

Gen. Carlisle was targeted by Chinese state-run media in August, when military commentators accused the general of engaging in “Cold War thinking” and seeking to “encircle” China with advanced military aircraft.

Pro-Russia militants this week destroyed a military radar in eastern Ukraine in what U.S. officials say is an ominous sign that Moscow continues preparations for military action, while covertly destabilizing the region internally.

Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency reported

that some 20 trained militants armed with automatic rifles attacked a radar installation in the Luhansk region.

The attackers overpowered Ukrainian guards, seized weapons and set fire to the radar.

Along its border with Ukraine, Russia has deployed 40,000 to 80,000 troops that appear to be staging for a military intervention, according to the Pentagon.

A Pentagon official said Moscow’s destabilization strategy appears to be to threaten Kiev by massing troops on the border while Russian military intelligence and special operations commandos organize militants to conduct operations inside Ukraine.

Eastern Ukraine has been wracked by violence in recent weeks, as pro-Russian elements have attacked Ukrainian government buildings in at least 20 towns and cities.

Militants also shot down three Ukrainian military helicopters in the past week.

NATO commander Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said Russian special operations in Ukraine are succeeding and warned that Moscow could achieve a takeover of the country without direct military force.

Speaking in Toronto, Gen. Breedlove said that until a week ago military analysts believed Moscow was planning to use its military to create a land bridge from Russia to Crimea that would allow the resupply of forces in the peninsula.

“Today, I would tell you I don’t think that’s the most likely course of action I think now that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin may be able to accomplish his objectives in eastern Ukraine and never go across the border with his forces,” he said. “Now I think probably the most likely course of action is that he will continue doing what he’s doing — discrediting the government, creating unrest, trying to set the stage for a separatist movement.”

The subversion will make it easier for Moscow to gain military and economic control over eastern Ukraine, said Gen. Breedlove, whose remarks were reported by Reuters.

  • Contact Bill Gertz at @BillGertz.

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