Sun, Nov 19, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan faces a more precise foe

By Richard Fisher

China's "JDAM Revolution" was on display at the recent Oct. 31 to Nov. 5 Zhuhai Airshow, as two Chinese companies, CASIC and Louyang, revealed their own families of satellite-guided bombs. Louyang's LS-6 is fitted with folding wings, which enable a range of up to 60km when launched at altitude and high speed, but outside the range of Taiwan's HAWK anti-aircraft missiles. The LS-6 can also strike within 30m of its target. CASIC revealed its 700kg FT-1 and the smaller FT-3.

Brochures and photos released during Zhuhai show the PLA Air Force is preparing to outfit its Shenyang J-8II fighters and JH-7 fighter-bombers with Louyang's precision guided bombs. In addition, Louyang revealed its LT-2 laser-guided bomb, which benefits from Russian technology. According to reports, these weapons have been in development for years and should now be in production.

Zhuhai also saw the PLA making progress in gathering an important "network" of sensors, satellites, unmanned aircraft and linkages to support its new precision guided weapons. It was announced that China would proceed with its own 30 satellite navigation constellation, sometimes called Compass, which would build on an expanded five-satellite Beidou network of navigation satellites.

This decision is a blow to Europe's Galileo navsat program, which had hoped to benefit from extensive Chinese involvement. Zhuhai also saw the PLA reveal that its Russian technology based HJ-1C radar satellites may fly in a "twin" formation, allowing production of a constant 360o 1m digital image of targeted areas.

Videos at Zhuhai showed at least one unmanned aircraft similar in size to the US Predator revealed in 2004 has reached the prototype stage. Previous Zhuhai shows have also demonstrated the PLA interest in data links, and digital command and control systems now pervade the PLA.

All of this would allow the PLA Air Force to turn its thousands of tactical fighters and ancient Xian H-6 bombers, which have just re-entered production, into repeat precision strike systems. For a sustained campaign against Taiwan, they will become the weapon of choice for attacking key political, command and tactical targets.

Their accuracy even allows the Chinese leadership to consider combining a political "purge" of Taiwan with an initial bombing campaign; voter registration lists will allow precision targeting of families with Taiwan Independence sympathies.

While the PLA is preparing for that invasion, Taiwan's polarized politics prevents necessary defense preparations and gives the impression that Taiwan lacks the determination to survive.

Richard Fisher is a vice president at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Alexandria, Virginia.

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