Tags: Red | Eyes | the | Sky

Red Eyes in the Sky

Thursday, 08 September 2005 12:00 AM

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting a massive military space program intended to support combat operations far from the motherland. The PLA has recently put two back-to-back military reconnaissance satellites into orbit, demonstrating a rapid-paced and advanced program.

On the same day, August 29, the PLA orbited FSW-22, another three-ton film recovery satellite. The Long March 2D rocket was launched from the same pad site at the Jiuquan space flight center in the Gobi Desert. The FSW-22 spy satellite is expected to make a parachute return to Chinese territory in late September.

The FSW recovery capsule weighs 1,650 pounds and carries the satellite cameras and exposed film. By orbiting two FSW spacecraft back to back, the Chinese army can examine several weeks of continuous photographic coverage of target areas in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

In 2003, the new series of FSW satellites code-named Jian Bing came into service, starting with FSW-18. There have been five launches in this series, including the latest FSW-22, which have been identified as two spacecraft subgroups.

The satellites are launched in pairs, a low-orbit mission followed soon after by a high-orbit mission. It's not clear whether the vehicles are two different spacecraft designs, but the longer life for the lower-orbit mission suggests that it is a different design altogether.

The Chinese military is expected to share the space images with its allies, including North Korea. In fact, North Korea needs the images in order to re-target long-range SCUD and No Dong missiles recently re-deployed against U.S. forces in South Korea.

Pyongyang will also be very interested in the firing positions of new long-range South Korean missiles recently moved to the DMZ that divides the two nations. The South Korean Tactical Missile System Block 1A missiles have a range of 186 miles.

U.S. officials expressed concerns over the growing Chinese military capability illustrated by the recent back-to-back space flights. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill voiced his concerns during a recent interview with Aviation Week and Space Technology.

The Bush administration is concerned about "what we felt to be an out-sizing of Chinese military capabilities and, more problematic, the lack of transparency," stated Hill.

Washington also expressed a deeper concern over growing tensions between Japan and China. The deterioration of relations between Tokyo and Beijing hit a low last year when a Chinese nuclear submarine deliberately violated Japanese territorial waters, a rash move that can be considered an act of war.

"Japan is a maritime power that has to be concerned about the Chinese Navy's force projection capabilities (and threats) to sea lines of communication and the issue of raw materials from Southeast Asia," said Hill.

"Its a very thin web, especially in Northeast Asia," noted Hill.

According to U.S. officials, Japan no longer feels it has to endure Chinese aggression without response. The growing Chinese navy fleet, including a large submarine force, is pressing Tokyo to increase its own defense budget.

There are additional rumors that China is preparing to build its first aircraft carrier. The PLAN (People's Liberation Army Navy) purchase of the 56,000-ton Varyag in early 2002 from Russia gave the Chinese valuable information on the design and construction of an aircraft carrier. It was rumored that China has decided to construct her first carrier around 2010, but this has not been confirmed.

However, the close military ties between Moscow and Beijing are continuing with the reported purchase of a massive military airlift fleet from Russia. The Russian news service Novosti reported that China and Russia are in talks on a possible deal to sell as many as 30 IL-76 Candid transport planes and an unknown number of IL-78 Midas tankers to the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

"The Russian-Chinese commission for military and technical cooperation will discuss China's purchase of some 30 IL-76 planes from Russia and the possibility of buying IL-78 planes at a September session," states the Russian report.

Novosti confirmed that prices would be set at a meeting between Russian and Chinese officials prior to issuing the final contract. Novosti also suggested that these aircraft were involved in the recent Peace Mission 2005 Russian-Chinese military exercises, and China was very interested in acquiring the heavy-lift transport aircraft.


Charles Smith will be on:

The Jerry Hughes Show on Friday, 9/9/05, at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Show information at http://www.cilamerica.com.

The George Putnam Show on Friday, 9/9/05, at 1 p.m. West Coast time (4 p.m. East Coast time) on KCAA 1050 AM in Southern California; WPYT 560 AM in Pittsburgh; WLTH 1370 AM in Gary, Ind., and Chicago; and CRN Radio Network, WWW.CRNI.NET.


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The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting a massive military space program intended to support combat operations far from the motherland.The PLA has recently put two back-to-back military reconnaissance satellites into orbit, demonstrating a rapid-paced and...
Thursday, 08 September 2005 12:00 AM
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