The US-led coordinated strikes on Syria last week, in response to the Assad regime’s suspected use of chemical weapons, has given the Chinese military more impetus to develop its own precision airborne strike systems.
The Pentagon once again showcased its highly sophisticated weapons capabilities when targeted missile strikes allegedly crippled Assad’s chemical weapon facilities in the Syrian capital of Damascus and elsewhere.
People’s Liberation Army strategists and weapons experts followed the operation closely, taking note of the allied forces’ preparedness and potency in launching offensives.
US Joint Staff Director General Kenneth McKenzie said earlier this week that together with France and the United Kingdom, the joint raid deployed 105 missiles on Syrian targets and all the aircraft used returned safely to their bases.
The Beijing-based Global Times has admitted that the US “leads the world in precision strikes with battlefield experience and a comprehensive arsenal.”
Precision strikes rely on military expertise in global reconnaissance and early warnings, directing and navigating attacks as well as data links and command systems.
The tabloid also noted that the PLA has been quietly honing its precision attack capabilities over the years, building on China’s strides in technology such as with global navigation and positioning systems. For instance, more BeiDou satellites will be put into orbit this year to beef up coverage and precision to rival the military version of the US’s Global Positioning System.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Monday that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force had “activated” new intermediate, long-range missiles tailor-made for precision strikes against targets both onshore and offshore.
These missiles could contain nuclear warheads, but the report did not give details about the missile’s specifications.
Some analysts believe the missiles could be a new variant of the DF-26 class, with a hit radius of 3,000-4,000 kilometers that brings the US military installations on the outpost of Guam within its range.
Information on the DF-26 since its media debut at a 2015 parade show that the versatile and conventional anti-ship ballistic missiles, nicknamed Guam Express, can look for and lock onto moving targets on land and at sea, such as an aircraft carrier, while cruising at a top speed of up to 18 times the speed of sound after re-entry into the atmosphere.
As shown on the CCTV program, a PLA Rocket Force brigade is equipped with 18 such missiles.
Chinese commentators say they believe that the timing of the DF-26’s entry into full deployment versus the Pentagon’s ongoing raid on Syria can be a hint of the covert rivalry between Beijing and Washington as China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ma Zhaoxu, joined his Russian counterpart in condemning Washington’s “encroachment of Syria’s sovereignty and UN’s principles.”