China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. NavyCapabilities — Background and Issues for Congress
Concern has grown in Congress and elsewhere since the 1990s about China’smilitary modernization. Several of the U.S. Navy’s most expensive acquisitionprograms, as well as Navy initiatives for homeporting ships and for training sailors,are for developing or maintaining capabilities that could be useful or critical incountering improved Chinese maritime military capabilities in coming years. Theissue for Congress addressed in this report is: How should China’s militarymodernization be factored into decisions about U.S. Navy programs?Several elements of China’s military modernization have potential implicationsfor future required U.S. Navy capabilities. These include theater-range ballisticmissiles (TBMs), land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs), anti-ship cruise missiles(ASCMs), surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), land-based aircraft, naval mines,submarines, surface combatants, amphibious ships, nuclear weapons, and possiblyhigh-power microwave (HPM) devices. China’s naval limitations or weaknessesinclude capabilities for operating in waters more distant from China, joint operations,C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance,and reconnaissance), long-range surveillance and targeting systems, anti-air warfare(AAW), antisubmarine warfare (ASW), mine countermeasures (MCM), andshipbuilding dependence on foreign suppliers.Observers believe a near-term focus of China’s military modernization is to fielda force that can succeed in a short-duration conflict with Taiwan and act as an anti-access force to deter U.S. intervention or delay the arrival of U.S. forces, particularlynaval and air forces, in such a conflict. Some analysts speculate that China mayattain (or believe that it has attained) a capable maritime anti-access force, orelements of it, by about 2010. Other observers believe this will happen later.Potential broader or longer-term goals of China’s naval modernization includeasserting China’s regional military leadership and protecting China’s maritimeterritorial, economic, and energy interests.China’s naval modernization has potential implications for required U.S. Navycapabilities in terms of preparing for a conflict in the Taiwan Strait area, maintainingU.S. Navy presence and military influence in the Western Pacific, and counteringChinese ballistic missile submarines. Preparing for a conflict in the Taiwan Straitarea could place a premium on the following: on-station or early-arriving Navyforces, capabilities for defeating China’s maritime anti-access forces, and capabilitiesfor operating in an environment that could be characterized by information warfareand possibly electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and the use of nuclear weapons.China’s naval modernization raises potential issues for Congress concerning therole of China in Department of Defense and Navy planning; the size of the Navy; thePacific Fleet’s share of the Navy; forward homeporting in the Western Pacific; thenumber of aircraft carriers, submarines, and ASW platforms; Navy missile defense,air-warfare, AAW, ASW, and mine warfare programs; Navy computer network security; and EMP hardening. This report will be updated as events warrant.