China is fast expanding its military arsenals by acquiring state-of-the-art ammunitions and hardware military equipment. On August 15, 2015, Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer published their findings in Popular Science, which highlighted the new, mysterious missile launcher purportedly built by China. With this latest acquisition, China can successfully propel long-range missiles to hit Japan and the United States. This is big news because it reveals China’s unrelenting arms’ race with the United States as it positions itself to become a military superpower.
China’s new missile launching all-terrain TEL vehicle
While there is no adequate information about this mysterious missile launcher, it is estimated to be of the dimension 12 X 12, all-terrain TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher) vehicle useful for launching cruise missiles of all length and speed. For those who have little or no military knowledge of what a TEL does, here is a primer: A TEL vehicle offers a survivable and mobile platform for surface-to-air ballistic and cruise missiles and permits them to move quickly across the space for immediate launches. Some typical examples of TEL vehicles include but are not restricted to DH-10 launcher, all-terrain 8 X 8 TEL for the CJ-10 land attack cruise missile (LACM) and so on. So, with 12 X 12 TEL vehicle, China is possibly changing the game of missile launching, a situation that will surely put the United States military strategists on the edge of their seats!
Structurally, unlike the traditional 8 X 8 TEL vehicle, China’s new missile launcher has an extended section above the first and second axles, which provide ample spaces for additional personnel, flight corrections and equipment for precise launching. There is also a bigger communication system that will connect the launching exercise to a database through high bandwidth of connectivity. As a matter of fact, this new mysterious missile launcher will be more precise, destructive and sophisticated in operation!
Another strange thing about China’s new groundbreaking TEL vehicle is that it has two giant mystery missiles. Compared to CJ-10 TEL vehicle which can perfectly carry 3 CJ-10 missile canisters, this new TEL only carries two. This may suggest that those two missiles must be surely bigger and heavier than those conveyed by CJ-10. In other words, the two mysterious missiles will be more destructive and produce permanent impacts on China’s enemies, whichever country that could be! The canisters for the two new missiles seem to be about 9-10 meters long while CJ-10’s LACM canisters are just 7 meters long.
There are speculations that the new, mysterious China’s TEL truck may be for 540-km range YJ-18 anti-ship missiles, a possible imitation of Russia’s Klub Rocket/Cruise Missile technology. The Russian Klub missiles have been known to cruise with a turbofan engine that can be discarded at a subsonic speed for most of its flights but utilize a rocket engine to reach supersonic speed of Mach 3 in its final 50 kilometer’s flight. Hence, Klub missiles are 9-meter long (with booster), a confirmation to believe that China’s new YJ-18 could be designed mainly for anti-ship missiles.
Taking a critical look at the China’s new TEL vehicle’s huge diameter, the vehicle could be useful for another military purpose: It could propel long-range surface-to-air and anti-ballistic HQ-26 missile, an ultra-long-range missiles (4,000 km +) cruise missile or any other large supersonic cruise missiles.
No doubt after decades of rapid economic progresses that had transformed it from a pariah nation into the second largest economy in the entire world, China’s leaders are turning their eyes on another valuable trophy—becoming a military superpower!
China’s quest to attain a military superpower status
It is reasonable to state that judging by its recently acquired wealth and ever increasing influence in the global political and economic circles, China’s quest to attain a military superpower status may be partially justified, knowing fully well that it needs a competent military deterrence to protect its business and political interests all over the world.
China has been a permanent member of United Nations’ Security Council since 1945, and it has not engaged in any large-scale military offensive or aggression after World War II. In recent years, Chinese soldiers have only been visible in participating in humanitarian missions after debilitating disasters, helping in the cleaning-up and stabilization efforts in far-flung places like Haiti, Nepal after devastating earthquakes and rescuing victims of Haiyan Typhoon in the Philippines. Chinese soldiers were the first to assist Malaysia in the search for its missing MH370 airplane that is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean. With these good-natured gestures, China has confirmed its soft-power approach as far as its military exercises are concerned. But that may change very soon.
China has been locked in territorial disputes with its main neighbors for years. It contests with Japan over a group of islands called Senkaku Islands in Japan but referred to as Diaoyu Islands in China; China is challenging countries like Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei over some islands in the South China Sea; China has always laid claims to the Luzon Strait, which has been the cause of intense maritime boundary conflict with Vietnam and the Philippines. China is contesting with Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan for the maritime boundary along the Vietnamese Coast. The leaders in these Asian countries are losing their sleep as China’s military buildup increases from year to year. And to make the issue worse, China recent military exercises or manoeuvers have added to the gravity of the tension felt in the region.
China has made some strategic moves lately to unilaterally turn the disputed islands into its sovereign land. In 2013, China arbitrarily created an air defense identification zone and required that any aircraft flying over the East China Sea identifies themselves or risk being shot down. Defying China threat, the United States sent in two B-52 bombers into that airspace and forced China to backtrack on its previous threat. Recent desperate efforts by the Chinese authorities to set up structures on the contested islands has been perceived by its neighbor as an island-building attempt, something they see as an affront to their sovereignty.
In 2013, there was a slight standoff between Indian and Chinese soldiers over the disputed border area in the Himalayas which the two countries have been claiming as part of their territories. What was surprising about this peaceful confrontation was that it occurred when Chinese President Xi Jinping was holding a summit with his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Chinese soldiers were reportedly the first to spur the disagreement by constructing a road through the disputed border area. This incident compelled Indian Prime Minister to promise to send as many as 90,000 Indian soldiers to the border to secure the place. It should be recalled that China and India fought over the same border area in 1962 in what was termed “border war”.
Neighbors raise issues over construction in South China Sea
China’s neighbors have been going rogue about the disputed islands, too. A Philippine company named Philex Petroleum Corp vows to drill some oil wells in the South China Sea in 2016 despite the tension surrounding the islands, a move that will surely spark immediate diplomatic or even military retaliation from China. In May 2014, a violent anti-China protest broke out in Vietnam against land-grabbing propensity displayed by Chinese leader, an unfortunate occasion that led to the death of one Chinese worker in Vietnam. There have been similar open and vociferous demonstrations in other countries against China’s unyielding resolve to build an island on the contested territories.
To make the matter worse, China constructed an airstrip covering between 200 and 300 meters for military purposes on the Spratly Island it fought over with Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and the Philippines. This strategic move is seen by those countries as a way for China to flex its military muscle and terrorize its neighbor in the region. In July 2015, China held one-of-its-kind military show-off or display with over 100 naval ships and dozens of aircraft that fired live ammunition across the disputed islands. Chinese leaders, in quick denial, have referred to the exercise as a routine military drill, like the one that was recently conducted near Myanmar border with ground-to-air rockets and ballistic missiles, but its worrying neighbors think otherwise. Leaders in countries like the Philippines and Malaysia see that as nothing but an act of terrorism.