China has made substantial advances in some areas of its ground and naval forces, including upgrades to tanks and armor, laser systems and anti-submarine warfare.
Jane’s Defense Weekly, a respected Britain-based military journal, said the People’s Liberation Army is set to deploy a new main battle tank, or MBT, that, when fielded, will become the most powerful of its kind in the world.
The magazine said the tank will feature a huge 152 mm main gun with an automatic loader that, when coupled with a new advanced aiming system, will enable the tank to fire on the move with high first-hit-first-kill capability.
The U.S. military’s M1A2 Abrams MBT, which is generally considered one of the world’s best tanks, features only a 120 mm M256 smoothbore gun, developed by Rheinmetall GmbH of Germany. It, too, can fire while in motion and has a high first-shot capability.
U.S. Army M1A1 Abrams tank
The M1A2 Abrams is an upgrade of the M1A1.
Russia, meanwhile, is upgrading its MBT to the T-95 version, which is so secret public photos have yet to be released, according to an analysis by the American Foreign Policy Center.
Jane’s said China’s new MBT is outfitted with advanced armor and an active protection system would also be fitted on the tank for increased survivability.
At least one source indicated to the magazine Russia has supplied some of the technology for the Chinese project in exchange for foreign currency to fund its own tank programs.
Chinese Type 98 Main Battle Tank
Another of the newest MBTs currently in mass production in China is the Type 98, a slightly more advanced derivative of the Type 96. But the Type 98, according to published assessments, is fitted with a 125 mm smoothbore main gun.
The latter two MBTs also are fitted with a JD-3 integrated laser rangefinder/warning/self-defense device – also called a “dazzler” – which uses a high-powered laser to directly attack the enemy weapon’s optics and gunner.
AFPC said China is believed to be the first country to use such active laser defense devices on its tanks.
Meanwhile, China is also making advances in its naval warfare capabilities. The Chinese Guangming Daily reported last month the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) East Sea Fleet successfully conducted a live-fire anti-submarine search-and-destroy exercise.
The paper said those exercises, involving eight battle formations of missile destroyers and missile frigates, were the first such live-fire exercises in the PLAN’s history.
China has been working to develop a “blue water” navy that is capable of conducting and sustaining combat operations far from its own shores. Currently, the PLAN deploys mostly a “brown water” coastal defense force that is not able to venture far from its shore-based supply lines.
Also, the PLAN lacks sufficient military sealift capabilities to conduct amphibious and invasion operations, say experts. That’s a plus for neighboring Taiwan, which has been watching the mainland’s military modernization with interest and some alarm. China is expected to address this deficiency in the future.