SOURCE: SHUBHAM DEEP / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
The unprecedented growth of Chinese defence capabilities vis a vis their rivals is definitely a proud moment for China. The mass capabilities to manufacture aircrafts of various roles with such tight timelines from scratch which matches or even surpasses global standards according to their belief. Such hype is created and projection of power is shown which makes one think about the mightiness of the Chinese forces.
But one needs to understand as a nation what security threat it has and maintain its force structure to cater the emerging challenges. For China, challenges are created more by themselves and based on their own perception of challenges that could be faced by them they plan their strategies. The disputes with majority of the neighbors of China forces it to show numerical superiorityto keep their enemies at bay. So, they show quantity if not quality. We all can agree that the manufacturing capacity of China is huge. They can almost build anything they want and build it cheaper.
We will look at different aspects of all the three branches of the Chinese forces one by one and try to understand their strengths and weaknesses if any byaccepting their capabilities and also pointing to the vulnerabilities.
PLAAF Airforce operates a variety of fighter aircrafts in their inventory. But with the growing capacity it is now more focused on Twin engine fighters like JH-7, J-16, J-11, J-20, Su-27, Su-30, Su-35 with greater thrust engines and also single engine fighters like J-7, J-8, J-10. We won’t be getting much to the details of every aircraft but to cut things short it’s their J-10 and its variant which would replace majority of the obsolete fleet. Maintaininglogistics and availability rate of fighter aircrafts won’t be a problem for China with the scale of manufacturing capacity they have but the real problem they would face would be likely in the quality of the sensors and systems of the aircraft and also the vast area of terrains that these aircrafts would be put into operation. For example, against India the higher altitude of the Himalayas makes sure their aircrafts are inferior in terms of range and weapons carrying capacity.
To tackle this challenge, they rely on MALE and HALE armed drones. Again, quantity posturing vis a vis quality is questionable since no one knows the exact capabilities of these systems. Surely, they are showing the superiority in their numbers but definitely it cannot be denied that when these systems will be actually put into war then it won’t be surprising to see the lack of performance they show. But the major drawback is seen is their transport fleet of aircrafts which is really not so numerically impressive for a country like China. This weakness for the time being will definitely decrease the level of response from the Chinese side in areas of faster troop movements and supplies up to an extent. To counter this China has its road and rail network which is so robust that ensures faster movements of troops and supplies but also at the same time they can be targeted too and we should not undermine the missile capability that India possesses.
Lastly the air defence systems that China has mostly are of Russian origin and their copies. The capability of HQ-9 was tested during the recent accidental firing of Brahmos missile which not to be surprised failed to intercept it. Majorly the air defence systems comprises of S-300 and S-400 and which might have one of the reasons why the Indian air force was keen to acquire the S-400 and Rafale desperately. Spectra EW suite threat library once updated would definitely be able to jam these systems.
Recent clashes with India have shown the vulnerabilities of China too and they are well aware of it and working endlessly to show it as their strength. China has constructed a lot of airfields in close proximity to Indian borders and will increase the quantity of aircrafts going forward because for China number matters as it makes them look superior.
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