DSR: "Time to prepare for a Transformed PLA Navy"

August 08, 2018

In this context the PLA Navy offers different challenges, and mere reconnaissance, surveillance and detection of Chinese warships and submarines by the Indian Navy could be termed as ‘business as usual’. The Indian Navy needs a new strategy which is both transformative and tailored to respond to newer war fighting tools unleashed by fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). At least three new capabilities of the PLA Navy are discussed below and merit the attention of the Indian naval planners.

First, the Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG) which can augment ship defence against incoming missiles, high speed projectiles and unmanned vehicles/drones. The Chinese Type 072III-class landing ship Haiyang Shan is now fitted with an EMRG. Media reports note that by 2020-2025, the second batch of the Type 055 destroyers will likely feature 32 mega joule EMRG capable of launching a ten-kilogram projectile over 100 nautical miles distance in less than 90 seconds giving these ships a new combat capability. Each shot fired from the Railgun costs between US $25,000- $50,000 each, which is cheaper that the cost of launching a U.S. Navy's Tomahawk cruise missile that can cost as much as US $1.4 million.

Second, is laser weapons; early this year, there were reports about military lasers being flashed at US’ aircraft in Djibouti. The US Air Force reported that its C-130s were flashed by high-powered Chinese military lasers while operating in the country. The crew had suffered minor eye injuries but the Chinese quickly denied such an attack and clarified that “China always strictly abides by international law and the law of the country of residency and is committed to maintaining regional security and stability,” The US once again complained that its planes were targeted by the Chinese lasers while operating in the Pacific Ocean and there were 20 incidents recorded since September 2017. Apparently, in the Pacific Ocean, laser attacks originated “from a range of different sources, both ashore and from fishing vessels.”

The Chinese are reported to have developed/developing different types of laser weapons including high-energy strategic weapons system and low-power laser guns such as the BBQ-905 Laser Dazzler Weapon, WJG-2002 Laser Gun, PY132A Blinding Laser Weapon and the PY131A Blinding Laser Weapon. These are essentially meant for ‘dazzling or blinding the enemy from a short range, or to damage the enemy's night-vision devices.’

Third, China is a leader of the commercial drone industry and also has some advantages in other unmanned systems. It has invested in a number of swarm drone technologies and these potentially offer asymmetric capabilities against the United States or when the PLA Navy task forces operate far from shores in areas such as the Indian Ocean. The drones offer a cheaper and disproportionate advantages during an unsuspected weakness when confronted with a powerful opponent which is in a position to exploit the home advantage.

FOR Complete Article, See, Dr Vijay Sakhuja, Time to prepare for a Transformed PLA Navy, Defence & Strategic Review, Vol 12 (3), Jul - Aug 2018.


Vijay Sakhuja (President @sspconline) Defence & Strategic Review (July-August 2018)