Bloomberg News

China Gains in Missile, Cyber Capabilities Cited by U.S.

May 18, 2012

China last year continued “sustained investments” in advanced cruise and anti-ship missile technologies that “appear designed” to blunt U.S. military access to the region, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on military developments in the Asian nation.

The report released today also said “authoritative writings and China’s persistent cyber intrusions indicate the likelihood that Beijing is using cyber-network operations as a tool to collect strategic intelligence.”

The Defense Department report includes “new information on areas of the People’s Liberation Army investments, including China’s aircraft carrier program, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and aircraft development, as well as discussion” of the country’s pursuit of the ability to conduct missions further from its shores, the Pentagon said in a press release.

The Pentagon’s acting deputy assistant secretary for East Asian affairs, David Helvey, told reporters today that China’s new DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, which is designed to attack and disable U.S. aircraft carriers, now has achieved “limited operational capability.”

On the cyber front, China “is investing in not only capabilities to better defend their networks, but also they’re looking at ways to use cyber for offensive operations,” Helvey said, speaking at the Pentagon.

“There is the potential for these types of operations to be very disruptive” to both the U.S. and other countries, he said.

Cyberspace Operations

“It’s one of the things about military operations in cyberspace -- there can be cascading effects that are hard to predict,” Helvey said.

The increased emphasis on defensive and offensive cyber operations is a major part China’s “long-term, comprehensive military modernization,” he said.

China’s modernization is, “to an increasing extent, focusing on investments that will enable China’s armed forces to conduct a wide range of missions, including those that are far from” the mainland, Helvey told reporters.

“It’s designed to improve the capacity of the People’s Liberation Army to fight and win” local wars and “high-intensity regional military operations of a short duration,” he said.

The increased military modernization is occurring alongside China’s “new and expanding economic and diplomatic interests” worldwide, he said.

Anti-Ship Missile

The Pentagon report also highlights the continued development of China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile.

“It’s got a limited operational capability,” Helvey said. “They continue to work on that and develop that and deploy that.”

The missile is intended to give China “the capability to attack large ships, particularly aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific,” the report said. The report cites estimates that the missile’s range exceeds 1,500 kilometers (932 miles).

China’s military is “probably preparing to deploy” the anti-ship ballistic missile, the Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, said Feb. 16.

“China deployed a number of conventionally armed, medium-range ballistic missiles and is probably preparing to deploy the medium-range DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile,” Burgess said.

Pentagon officials said in August China has developed a “workable design” of the DF-21D.

Defending Against Missiles

The missiles are designed for launch to a general location, where the guidance systems take over and spot carriers for attack with warheads intended to destroy the aircraft on decks, airplane-launching gear and control towers.

U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert told defense reporters in March the service is evaluating how to defeat the missile during all phases of flight, using such methods as jamming missile sensors, reducing the amount of electronic emissions from U.S. vessels, and intercepting the missile.

“Some call that links of a chain,” Greenert said. “You want to break as many links as possible.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at

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