Photo: Peng Chen / Flickr
Americans have heard about China’s military expansion for years at this point.Some say it’s a minor threat, others claim Chinese expansion is to everyone’s benefit, and still others think it spells doom for American world dominance.
Here’s a look at many of the weapons that China’s betting on to establish its new military might.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) makes up the whole of China’s military machine. The Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force, and Second Artillery Corps all fall under the PLA.
The PLA is the world’s largest military, with more than 2.25 million active personnel. Currently, Chinese forces are only deployed fighting piracy, so — while not battle-hardened — this army is fresh, well equipped, and in excellent health.
The Type 99 is a third-generation Main Battle Tank (MBT) tank, like the American M1 Abrams.
The U.S. rolled out its MBT in 1980 and pays about $8.6 million for each one while the Type 99 sells for less than a third that price and went into production in 2001.
It's packing a 125mm cannon, three machine guns, and also hosts an array of countermeasures to disable an enemy tank's night vision and targeting systems.
The HQ-19 is likely a complete version of the Russian S-400 Surface to Air Missile system.
Not only can the HQ's radar track 100 airborne targets, engage up to a dozen as far out as 250 miles, it is also effective for attacks on low-orbit satellites.
The system has three missile variations for targeting at different ranges and they can all be fitted into the same truck mounted canisters.
One thing prompting the recent American scramble to upgrade or replace the Patriot system is the fact that the S-400 is -- allegedly, arguably, possibly, etc -- a lot better.
This self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery (SPAAA) has four 25 mm cannons, and four infrared homing missiles effective to almost 11,500 feet.
The vehicle weighs 22 tons, is 20 ft long, has a crew of three and cannon can be brought to bear on ground targets making short work of light armoured fighting vehicles.
A simple PGZ-95 battery consists of six units led by a command vehicle and three resupply trucks.
The PGZ 95 is manufactured by Chinese defence powerhouse Norinco, and is another example of the homegrown Chinese engineering making China a genuine military power.
More importantly, China is developing three to four aircraft carries. Plans had been acquired with the initial sale of th Varyag, and China hopes to have at least three carriers soon.
Why three? Well, both India and Japan will have three aircraft carries each soon.
China's getting a new Littoral ship, constructing a whole new class of corvette-type frigates.
The new ships have the latest in technology and will bring unprecedented flexibility to the Chinese fleet, if analysts are to be believed.
This is one of the few new ship designs to be construed domestically in China.
According to sources, despite a relative absence of specs, the ship has 'enhanced capabilities that are offered only piecemeal on other ships.'
Stealthy wave piercing hulls define the Type 22, but it's rumoured they're unstable in rough seas.
That problem is minimized when the craft picks up speed, delivering its two missile launchers to coastal waters at speeds up to 44 mph.
These ships are part of a three pronged response to U.S. forces that also includes diesel electric submarines and precise ballistic missiles.
This is the trio likely to be deployed if a skirmish forms in the waters off Taiwan.
The Type 052 destroyer was developed and built by China's Jiangnan Shipyard.
It's a domestically developed destroyer which is the first in the People's Liberation Army Navy's to have a long-range air defence capability.
There are two in service at the moment, another two completed, and three currently under construction. An eight ship is planned for construction.
The ships are 154 meters long and can travel at 30 knots. They're equipped with a 360 degree radar system which is used in conjunction with a vertically launched missile system. Kits have been developed to deploy drones from the ships, and they're packing helicopters.
China pays up to $800 million per ship and holds a crew of 250.
China possesses twelve Kilo submarines, all purchased from the Soviet Union or Russia. They're diesel powered and can hit 300m of depth.
The subs are armed with 18 torpedoes, 24 mines, and can be upgraded to have submarine-based surface to air missile launching capabilities.
These home-made submarines show that China's getting great at making new tech — and keeping it a secret
These subs were built by Wuchang Shipbuilding and successor craft to the Type 039 submarines.
Their diesel powered and are 75 meters in length. Seven have been completed. They can travel at least 20 knots and are armed with six torpedo tubes. They're equipped with Russian sonar systems.
The ships are slated to replace the Romeo and Ming class subs that currently function as the backbone of the Chinese submarine fleet. At least one of the seven built are in service with the People's Liberation Army Navy.
The Harbin Z-9 is China's version of the Eurocopter, built under licence.
China's Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation initially built the craft with parts from the European Aerospatiale in the early eighties.
By the nineties, Harbin was manufacturing the helicopter with 70% of the parts manufactured domestically.
These two helicopters constitute the latest in Chinese armed helicopter technology.
The Harbin Z-19 is a militarized version of the Harbin Z-9. It's updated and upgraded, and was introduced in 2011. It's currently in the prototype phase of development.
It's equipped with armour plating and requires two to pilot, can fly 152 mph, and will be armed to to teeth once it enters service.
The Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation Wuzhuang Zhisengji-10 (CAIC WZ-10) is a domestically developed and manufactured attack helicopter introduced in 2010. Public imagery is rare, but this helicopter is stacked.
It's got a maximum speed of 300 km/h, a service ceiling of 6,100 m, 4 hard points, a grenade launcher or machine gun, and the ability to hold dozens of missiles. China's the only country with it.
In 2006, the People's Liberation Army unveiled the Tianyan-2 unmanned helicopter, a huge win for the Chinese in the race for drone superiority.
The UAV is designed for use in 'high density' environments (cities), is a capable bomber, and was developed by the Armed Police Engineering Institute.
This is one of the very first unmanned air combat vehicles successfully developed by the Chinese, but likely adapted from the Japanese Yamaha RMAX unmanned helicopters.
The People's Liberation Army Air Force uses a modified version of the Russian-made Su-30, the Su-30MKK variant. These were introduced in December of 2000, and so far 134 have been built.
The Su-30MKK variant is, in fact, manufactured in China by the Chinese Shenyang Aircraft Company
The MKK has a crew of two and a wingspan of nearly 50 feet. They're equipped with both air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, as well as unguided rockets and laser-guided bombs.
In 1988, Deng Xiaoping authorised half a billion yuan towards development of a domestic Chinese fighter aircraft. The result of that investment is the J-10, manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation.
The fighters were formally introduced in 2005, as of October 2011 at least 210 had been produced. They've been sold to Pakistan, but hey are a huge part of the People's Liberation Army's Air Force.
The planes are 50 ft long and can reach a speed of Mach 2.2. They have a combat range of 1600 kilometers. They're equipped with one 23mm twin barrel cannon, 90mm rocket pods, missiles, bombs, and eleven hard points. They're comparable to an F-15 or an F-18.
The Shenyang J-11 is the Chinese Multirole air superiority fighter. As of February, 164 have been constructed.
The J-11 was developed from the Sukhoi Su-27, and that remains a significant point of contention between the nations. Russia cancelled a huge order of Su-27 that were going to China because they believed that the J-11 had been largely reverse engineered from the Su-27.
The J-11 has a single pilot. it can fly up to Mach 2.25. It's got a 30 mm cannon, missiles, unguided rockets, and cluster bombs.
While all of those other aircraft have ended up in the field, this one is the future of Chinese tactical aviation.
The J-20 is a purported stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
It's also designed and manufactured by Chinese aircraft magnate Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group.
It first flew in January 2011. The Deputy Commander of the People's Liberation Army Air Force foresees the J-20 to come out in 2017 or 2019. That's similar to the F-35 roll out for the United States.
The Hongqi 9 is the latest generation of medium to long-range radar homing surface to air missiles.
The HQ-9 may incorporate guidance systems on par with the U.S. Patriot missile system. They can fly at Mach 4.2, they have an operational range of 125 mph.
It's said to be comparable to the S-300P system and the MIM-104 Patriot missile system.
The Hongqi-2 (HQ-2J) is a modified and upgraded Hongqi 2 system, which is itself a modified and upgraded Soviet S-75 Dvina Surface-to-Air missile. The HQ-2 was the lynchpin of Chinese air security for decades.
The S-75 -- called the SA-2 Guideline by NATO -- was the missile system that shot down both Francis Gary Powers' and Rudolf Anderson's U2s, as well as John McCain's bomber over Hanoi, Vietnam.
Needless to say, it's a missile with well-proven history.
The Ju Lang-2 intercontinental missile is the second generation of Chinese submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
It's a closely held secret, and details are sketchy. If it lives up to what public military intelligence says it is, it's a huge get for China, especially with their new sub fleet.
The missile is believed to have a range of 8,000 km, and can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.
It's a two stage missile, and a later version could travel up to 14,000km (8,700 miles). There have been eleven known tests of the ICBM, and the ability to launch from a submarine expands the range in a massive way.
The Dongfeng missile is a series of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Initially, these were acquired from the Soviet Union, but China quickly began a domestic program to immense success. It's worth remembering that China is a nuclear nation.
The Dongfeng 4 (DF-4) was developed in the late sixties, and has a range which extends roughly to Moscow and Guam. The DF-4 was also the basis for China's first space vehicle, the Long March 1. 20 remain in service, to be replaced by the DF-31.
The Dongfeng 5 (DF-5) entered service in 1981, and can carry a 3 megaton nuclear warhead up to 12,000 km. The two to three dozen DF-5s in service are China's primary ICBM force.
The Dongfeng 31(DF-31) is China's brand new road mobile solid fuel ICBM. It can carry a 1 kiloton warhead 8,000 kilometers. The improved DF-31A has a range of 11,000 km. The DF-31 also served as the basis for the JL-2. 30 are in service.
The Dongfeng 41 (DF-41) is a speculative next-generation ICBM that analysts believe is in development by China. It may be able to carry up to 10 warheads up to 14,000 km.
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