Staff, The Economic Times
11 January 2016
China's newly-formed Rocket Force, a revamped unit of its strategic missile force, may include nuclear submarines and bombers, making it the first independent unit in the world with integrated land, sea and air nuclear forces, the Chinese military said.
After incorporating the navy's strategic nuclear submarine and the air force's strategic bomber, the PLA Rocket Force will be the first independent service with land, sea and air nuclear forces in the world that is much more integrated than those of the US, Russia, Britain and France, an article in the military's official publication 'China Military Online' quoted an expert as saying.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) kicked off the new year with a major revamp of its 2.3 million-strong military, elevating the status of strategic missile force to be placed along with army, navy and air force.
It also formed a new Strategic Support Force (SSF) to provide proper electronic and cyber intelligence backup for precision missiles strikes during war.
President Xi Jinping renamed the Second Artillery Corp (SAC) which was formed in 1966 as the PLA Rocket Force (PRF) and announced the formation of the SSF at a special ceremony.
With a variety of short, medium and long range nuclear and conventional missiles, China's missile force is regarded as one of the biggest missile forces in the world.
What drew special attention is that the Second Artillery Corp which used to be an independent arm, was upgraded as the Rocket Force, an independent service, reminiscent of the Strategic Missile Force in the former Soviet Union and Russia that keeps the western world on edge, the article said.
"China is always faced with the blockade and containment of superpowers. The country on the other side of the ocean has a powerful navy and air force and boasts the world's top air and sea supremacy and strongest conventional long-range precision strike and delivery capability, which China's navy and air force won't be able to comprehensively compete with in the short term," the article said quoting Song Zhongping, ex-instructor at PLA Second Artillery Engineering University.
In 1987, the US and the former Soviet Union signed an agreement to cut their ground-to-ground missiles with a range from 500 kms to 5,500 kms, according to which America's Pershing II and land-based Tomahawk and Soviet Union's SS-4, SS-12, SS-20 and SS-23 missiles were all destroyed, it said.
"Today, the US has no tactical ballistic missile or land-based cruise missile, and Russia's two types of short-range tactical missiles both belong to the army.
"As China hasn't signed any agreement of this kind, it has established the world's most complete ballistic
missile strike system, including both nuclear and conventional missiles and covering all ranges, with the high-precision medium-range ballistic missile standing out in the world," it said.
The most typical example is the DF-26 exhibited during China's V-Day parade on September 3 last year, which can carry both nuclear and conventional warheads and is able to reach Guam thanks to its 4000 kms range and destroy aircraft carriers cruising at sea, it said.
With the rise of China's national strength and global standing, China needs a missile troop that better meets the requirement of the "Dream of a Strong Military" and is able to serve as a strategic deterrent force to escort the realisation of the "Chinese Dream," it said.
Song said the PRF may include two arms in the future, one in charge of nuclear force and the other of conventional weapons, along with other support troops. The nuclear force will cover land, sea and air.
Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely the US, Russia, China, France and Britain, Britain and France have no land-based strategic nuclear missile because of their small territory, so they have to completely rely on their nuclear submarines, and Britain doesn't even have air-based nuclear weapons, it said.
While the US has 400 LGM-30 Minuteman land-based ICBMs, they belong to the air force. Only Russia has a specific service of land-based nuclear forces, which is the Strategic Missile Force.
Compared with the Russian counterpart, PRF isn't called "strategic", leaving much room for imagination, it said.
"The end of the SAC is the beginning of the PRF which not only has strategic nuclear missiles, but also a number of advanced conventional tactical missiles including medium and long-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles," Song said.
He said that the two kinds of missiles have clear-cut duties, the former responsible for national strategic nuclear deterrence and won't be used until the last moment, while the latter can be used as a high-precision "trump card" weapon for high-tech local warfare to carry out first round of strikes.
"In the long term, the PLA Rocket Force may transfer short-range ballistic missiles to the army to extend its range of strike," Song said.