Friday, April 08, 2005

Keeping an eye on the long game: Part X

Good to see Eagle1 is keeping an eye on "The Long Game" as well.

Everyone go over to your handy handy map of the Taiwan Strait. Depending on where you are coming from and where you want to go, you have about 60-120nm to travel. (Lets face it, besides the Spratly Islands, is there anywhere the Chinese might want to take troops by sea? And the Spratly Islands are a haul.)

To get to where you want, read Taiwan, you have to get men and material there fast, in quantity, and in once piece. The longer you are at sea, the longer you are vulnerable. The PLAN has been working on their amphibious operations at a faster pace as of late.

And what are they doing? Well, making APD (fast troop transports) out of old destroyers and frigates.
China will soon have at least eight APDs.....The 1,800 ton Jianghu’s have a top speed of about 46 kilometers an hour. This enables APDs to move quickly, especially during darkness, to reach their destination. Shorter travel time makes the APDs less vulnerable to attack (and easier to defend, especially if you have to keep fighters overhead.) Taiwan is 300 kilometers from the Chinese coast. Each APD could carry several hundred troops, or a few hundred tons of cargo.
Wait, won't they need Marines to kick the door in?
China took the “armored regiment” of the 164th infantry division and converted it to the Second Marine Brigade. This brigade is organized using the new format, with one company of each infantry battalion having armored vehicles, in this case amphibious light tanks (Type 63A). The infantry companies have amphibious armored personnel carriers. The brigade artillery battalion has self-propelled 122mm howitzers. The First Brigade is larger, and has five combat battalions (two armored, with amphibious tanks, and three infantry.) The armor battalions have two tank and one infantry companies. In addition to the two brigades, there are two marine recon battalions and two frogman platoons (think “SEALs Lite”). These are usually attached to the First Marine Brigade. There may be a skeleton Marine Brigade in Shanghai, to be used to rebuild a Marine Brigade if one of the other two is destroyed in combat. The total size of the Chinese Marine Corps is over 10,000 troops.
That's not much, huh. Wait, don't they already have some amphibious capability?
...there is sufficient lift for 250 infantry and mechanized (tank and mechanized infantry) battalions. That’s about twenty divisions.
There's your occupying force. But you need to strike with fast, modern (well, not so modern - remember Narvik) concepts of speed and surprise? Right?
China appears to be building small amphibious ships in as many as five different shipyards (Lunshan, Huangpu, Jiangnan, Shanghai and Zhonghua). These are ships that could make the run across 300 kilometers of open water, at least in good weather, carrying a tank or two, some trucks, or a company of infantry. Larger amphibious ships, like their new LSD (landing ship dock) are building at a more leisurely pace. In any event, the LSD and LST type ships are also useful for longer range amphibious operations. But the smaller craft have only one target; Taiwan.
They also have a good plan to keep Taiwan busy as they slog across the strait.

In case you think APDs are too slow and to few to get the shock troops there, the Chinese are working on more capable units:
PLA Navy is now building two new types of LSM medium tank and troop landing ships, a total of about 12 since 2002, added to 20 or so ships of the same class. These ships can carry an average of about 10 tanks and 250 troops. The PLA may now be considering building new 15,000 to 20,000 ton LDH class amphibious ships that will use new hovercraft tank and troop conveyers similar to the U.S. LCAC, and large helicopters, allowing assaults from greater distance and against more difficult shore terrain.

That's why we call it "The Long Game." Not now, not in 5 years; but you're getting close.
On March 4th the Chinese government announced that its defense spending would increase by 12.6 percent in 2005. Save for 2003, all of the last 15 years has seen Chinese defense spending grow by double-digit percentages.....In 2004 the Pentagon noted that for 2003, overall Chinese military spending ranged between $50 and $70 billion.[1] If we take the Pentagon’s estimate as a baseline, then for 2004, which saw an "official" Chinese increase of 11.6 percent, spending might have risen from $55.8 to $78.1 billion, Similarly modifying the announced Chinese 2005 budget increase of by 12.6 percent yield actual expenditures between $62.8 and $87.9 billion. Other estimates have long held that Chinese military spending has reached or exceeded $100 billion. By comparison, Japan spends $45 billion on defense, and India about $19 billion.
Get out your Wizz Wheel and lets do some math. Let's say that we need to cover 100nm. If we are doing 30kts, that's 3hr 20min. Yikes, that could be hard to keep your Kung Pao Chicken MRE down. If you can cover half that distance in your hovercraft at 50kts avg, that is 2 hr 40 minutes to the beach. Go in a 150kt helo, and you're there before the bill and fortune cookie.

Remember, the Chinese have a long term view on things. They know with the way the economy is going, they will soon reach critical mass. Taiwan is, they will remind you, in their backyard, not ours. Mmmmm. Wonder what the Japanese think of this?

And what do you say comrade?


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