Tag Archives: PLAAF

Rebutting John Mearsheimer: China’s Military Is NOT Inferior To That Of The US


Satellite photos of the entrances to China’s secret, underground submarine bases in Sanya (Hainan Island) and Jianggezhuang (near Qingdao). Photo credit: Federation of American Scientists and Google Earth.

In a recent article for the “National Interest” magazine, UChicago professor John Mearsheimer, who is best known for advocating that the US dump Israel as an ally, falsely claims that “China’s military is inferior to that of the US, and not by a small margin.”

Mearsheimer gives no reason whatsoever for why he makes such an outlandish claim; he does so probably because of longstanding (and badly outdated) assumptions about China’s military still prevailing in Washington. Be that as it may, Mearsheimer is dead wrong. Period.

For the PLA (the Chinese military) is not inferior to the US military in ANYTHING.

Not in training – Chinese troops train as hard as their American counterparts, and women in the PLA get no special treatment or lower standards – UNLIKE the US military, where women have to complete tasks that even the weakest man could accomplish. And unlike the US military, the PLA is not plagued by LGBT celebration, feminism, political correctness, or a plague of pregnancies, sexual assaults, alcoholism, and drugs.

What’s more, PLA officers do not have a standard of life significantly better than that of enlisted PLA troops, and in messes, officers and enlisted personnel eat together. Not separately. Nor is China and its PLA plagued by an obesity epidemic – again, unlike the US, where First Lady Michelle Obama’s modest efforts to combat obesity are regularly dismissed as Nanny Statism.

China’s military is also better trained – and funding for its training has never been interrupted by a stupid budgetary mechanism like sequestration. The PLA has never had to ground its aircraft for a lack of funding to fly them. PLA pilots fly and train regularly, honing their skills in their versions of Red Flag/Blue Flag exercises.

In budgetary terms, those who downplay China’s military power often claim that China has a much smaller military budget than the US.

At the first glance, this seems true: Beijing’s official military budget, unveiled a few days ago, is $132 bn, and even though China hides a lot of its military spending off the books, outside its official budget, China’s military budget is estimated to be, at most, $240 bn per annum – less than half of the $580 bn requested by the DOD for the next fiscal year.

But in China, one dollar can buy much more than in the US. China’s military budget should be multiplied by a factor of at least three to account for these differences. Multiply $240 bn by 3, and you get $720 bn. Heck, multiply $240 bn by just 2, and you get $480 bn – just slightly less than the DOD’s requested base budget  for the next fiscal year ($495 bn).

Moreover, China’s military budgets are devoted mostly to equipment, training, and military operations, whereas personnel and base costs are borne largely by provincial governments, not by the central government.

China’s military is also better led than the US military, which is run by careerists eager to please their political masters, such as General Martin Dempsey and Admiral Cecil Haney. By contrast, the PLA, while nominally subordinate to the Communist Party of China, is actually THE most powerful and most cohesive faction within the Party, and is led by professional, experienced officers such as Gen. Fang Fenghui (Chief of the General Staff Department), Adm. Wu Shengli (Commander of the PLA Navy), and Gen. Ma Xiaotian (a veteran fighter pilot and Commander of the PLA Air Force).

The CPC is split into several factions that constantly battle each other for influence, and no civilian faction has a decisive edge over the others, so CPC civilians routinely ask PLA generals and admirals to support them. The generals are happy to oblige – but at a price in terms of giving them greater budgets and policymaking influence.

Hence we have seen hawkish PLA generals and senior colonels gain more influence and make increasingly inflammatory statements, and PLA budgets increase by double digits every year of the last 25 years – even now as China’s economy slows down.

Which brings me to military equipment.



China has, for the last decade and a half, been rapidly shedding obsolete Soviet-licensed and domestic equipment and rapidly acquiring domestic, Russian, and reverse-engineered weapons in large quantities – so much so that now most of its naval and air equipment is very much modern and capable, and even more modern and lethal weapons are on the way. Let’s look at some of the categories of military equipment and compare what the US and Chinese militaries have:

Fighters: The first and absolute condition of victory in any war is attaining air superiority; as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the famous Desert Fox, said, fighting on the ground while your enemy controls the air is pointless. The entire US military depends on air superiority, and without it, will collapse like a deck of cards.

And collapse it will, for it has inexplicably neglected its fighter fleet for the last 25 years, while China has steadily modernized its own. It now has over 200 modern, highly capable J-11 Sinoflanker fighters (pictured above) and over 200 F-16-clone J-10 fighters. In addition, it has 76 modern Su-27 and 76 also modern (and quite lethal) Su-30MKK aircraft. On top of that, it has almost 400 old, but very agile and lethal J-7 MiG fighters (which can win dogfights easily by simply refusing to be level-flying targets) and 200 J-8 high-speed, high-altitude interceptors. The PLAAF is now also beginning to receive the new J-16, another modern, high performance Chinese Flanker variant.

On the other hand, the US has fewer than 400, mostly obsolete and aging, F-15 fighters, around 1,200 non-competitive short-ranged F-16s (also largely obsolete), and around 180 modern and highly stealthy F-22 Raptors. I’m omitting the Hornets and Super Hornets of the Navy, for they aren’t even fighters but ground attack jets and wouldn’t stand a chance against PLAAF aircraft.

How exactly are PLAAF fighters superior? Owing to their combination of high speed, a high ceiling, superb radar aperture, and a large load of long-range missiles with diverse seekers, as well as high maneuverability, ease of turning and climbing, and powerful guns (30mm caliber on all Flankers).

In the future, the PLAAF will be decisively superior to the USAF. Later this decade, it will receive two very stealthy fifth-generation fighters, the J-20 and the J-31. These aircraft will render every other fighter on the planet, except the Raptor and the Russian PAK-FA, totally obsolete when they enter service.

The US, by contrast, is developing the hyper-expensive, and already obsolete, F-35 “Joint Strike Fighter”, which is not stealthy (except in the nose and only in some radar bands), poorly armed, very slow and low-flying, and too heavy and sluggish to prevail in air combat. (Nor was it ever designed, or even intended, to attain air superiority; the F-22 Raptor, of which the USAF wanted to procure 650, is supposed to accomplish that.) The defective F-35s that the DOD has ordered would, in case of any encounter with Chinese fighters, be gunned down like pigeons in a pest eradication programme.

Bases: In any war with the US in the Asia-Pacific, China would be playing on its home court; the US would be fighting a long way from the homeland. Utilizing its geographic advantage to the max, China has literally hundreds of airbases and airfields available in the mainland and in Burma. Many of these are semi-hardened, fully-hardened, or super-hardened. Many of them are located underground or built into the sides of mountains or hills. This renders these bases (i.e. the aircraft, hangars, fuel and ammunition depots, and command centers) completely immune to any US attack except with a deep earth penetrator like the GBU-57 MOP or the B83 nuclear bomb (which the Obama admin wants to retire).

All of these underground bases have entrances wide enough for J-7, J-8, J-10, Su-27, Su-30, and J-15 fighters to enter. Some of them can also accomodate the J-11, J-16, and the future J-20 and J-31. And some underground Chinese airbases can even shelter H-6 strategic bombers!

OTOH, the US has no hardened or even semi-hardened bases in the entire Pacific region. All US runways, hangars, depots, and command centers in the regions could easily be destroyed by even the weakest Chinese bombs or missiles. What’s more, the  majority of US bases there are within the reach of China’s short-range ballistic missiles, and the rest can be easily reached by its medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles such as the DF-21, DF-25, DF-26, CJ/DH-10, and the Hongniao family. The newest Chinese missile, the DF-26C, has a range of at least 2200 miles (3520 kms).

Which brings me to the next category of weapons.

Land attack missiles: China, has noted above, has a huge, diverse, and highly accurate arsenal of missiles of all classes, which can be launched from ground launchers, siloes, aircraft, or ships. The longest-ranged of these, the ground-launched DH-10, has a range of 4,000 kms, the DF-26C a range of 3,520 kms, and the air-launched HN-3 a range of 3,000 kms while the air-launched CJ-10A can eke out 2,000 kms. The exact range of the DF-25 is unknown. China has huge inventories of these missiles.

By contrast, the US has no short-, medium-, or intermediate range ballistic missiles and no ground-launched cruise missiles whatsoever. The US is, in fact, prohibited from developing (let alone fielding) any ground-launched missiles of any range between 550 and 5,500 km by the INF Treaty with Russia. As one Russian official has said, it is unjust that only the US and Russia are banned from fielding such weapons, while everyone else is allowed to have them.

America’s air- and submarine-launched cruise missiles are unimpressive, to say the least. The much-touted JASSM-ER can eke out only 1,000 kms, and the sub-launched Tomahawk boasts a range of just 1,700 kms. Both of them are subsonic and thus easy for enemy air defenses to intercept.

Below you’ll find a map of the range of China’s air-launched cruise missiles. You can see it extends well beyond Guam and the Second Island Chain.


Air Defense Systems: China has a very dense network of highly-capable, long-ranged S-300 and HQ-9 air defense systems, and has even more capable S-400 systems on order. These can easily detect and shoot down any nonstealthy aircraft, including the EA-6B and the EA-18G, which, in order to attempt to jam these systems, would have to be close enough for their jammers to work – and that means TOO CLOSE to these systems, and well within their engagement envelope.

By contrast, US and allied air defense systems in the WestPac are scant and consist solely of obsolete, 1980s-vintage Patriot systems (whose range is only 28 kms) and their Japanese clones. These could be easily penetrated by any PLA aircraft or missiles.

Submarines: In addition to its growing, and increasingly quiet, fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, in which Type 093 and Type 095 class SSNs are replacing the old Type 091 Han class, the PLA Navy operates a large fleet of ultra-quiet Kilo-, Song, Yuan-, and Qin-class conventional submarines with air-independent propulsion (as in German, Swedish, and Australian submarines), making them almost undetectable.

OTOH, the US Navy has no conventional submarines and relies entirely on its noisy and obsolete Ohio class SSBNs for nuclear deterrence and also on its noisy and obsolete Los Angeles class attack submarines for sea control. The USN has only a handful of Seawolf and Virginia class submarines – and these are still noisier than conventional subs.

Mines: China has at least 100,000 naval mines – cheap, simple weapons which can cripple and sink even large warships. Yet, the US Navy is utterly unprepared for these weapons. It has only 13 minesweepers, all of which are operated by the US Naval Reserve because mine warfare is not considered a “sexy” mission by the USN, which prefers to obsess with hyper-expensive and highly vulnerable aircraft carriers – which, in today’s threat environment, are huge liabilities rather than assets.

By contrast, the much smaller UK Royal Navy has 15 minesweepers, all of which are operated by the regular RN.

Anti-ship missiles: China operates a wide range of (mostly supersonic, sea-skimming) anti-ship cruise missiles, most notably the SS-N-22 Sunburn, the SS-NX-30 Sizzler, and the Yingji family. One Sunburn missile would suffice to sink an aircraft carrier.

Also, China has fielded DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles with a range between 2,000 and 3,000 kms, and again, a single one would suffice to sink a flattop.

By contrast, the only anti-ship missile operated by the US military today is the under-ranged, slow, subsonic Harpoon. The USN is currently developing a replacement.

Nuclear weapons: The US currently has an edge over China in this area, with more total nuclear warheads (5,113) and deployed warheads (1,950) than China (which has up to 3,000 nuclear weapons, of which at least around 1,000 are deployed). However, China’s nuclear arsenal is rapidly growing, while the US is cutting its nuclear arsenal unilaterally. Also, China is rapidly modernizing its arsenal and making it survivable, while the US is not.

Anti-satellite weapons: This is as simple as “China has them, the US does not.” China has anti-satellite lasers as well as dozens of anti-satellite ballistic missiles, and also weapons that can jam US satellites without destroying them. China has repeatedly tested such weapons.

Small combat vessels: Chinese corvettes and missile boats, some of which are based on Australian catamarans, are better armed and better defended than the LCS, which, according to DOD weapon testers, are “not expected to survive in a combat environment.” Enough said.

Combat rifles: The US military’s standard assault rifles are the M16 and its shorter, lighter variant, the M4. Both of them are famous for their propensity to jam and malfunction. Their legendary malfunctions have cost many soldiers and Marines their lives. By contrast, China’s standard assault rifle is the simple, cheap, rugged, and supremely reliable AK-47, which will fire even if it gets dirty or even if you bury it in sand or mud. Moreover, it’s so much easier to operate that even children can use it. Furthermore, the AK-47’s 7.62 mm round can penetrate cinderblocks, bricks, and wood, while the M16’s and the M4’s smaller, weaker 5.56 mm round cannot. The Washington Times newspaper has even recently run a lengthy article detailing these rifles’ serious flaws.

I could go on and on, but the above comparisons already illustrate the point sufficiently. It is, in fact, the US military that is decisively inferior to that of China by the vast majority of criteria – from training, esprit de corps, good order, and discipline, to leadership, to the vast majority of weapon categories.

In a confrontation with the PLA, the US military would be like a virgin during her first night. Easy.

The American people need to stop listening to those who want to lull them into a false sense of security and start demanding that Congress a) fund the US military sufficiently, and b) spend the money in the most efficient way possible, with the least amount possible going to bloated personnel benefits programs and unneeded bases, and the maximum amount going to new weaponry and to training the troops.

Dismissing the Chinese fighter threat is dangerous and wrong

In January 2011, China first flew its first stealthy fighter, the J-20. Days before, Air Power Australia experts Dr Carlo Kopp and Peter Goonconducted a holistic technical analysis of it, followed by a more thorough techno-industrial-military-strategy analysis which assessed not only the J-20′s capabilities, but also its usefulness and potential missions in light of these capabilities. They concluded (emphasis added):

The Chengdu J-XX [J-20] thus represents a techno-strategic coup by China, and if deployed in large numbers in a mature configuration, a genuine strategic coup against the United States and its Pacific Rim allies. The development of the Chengdu J-XX [J-20] represents an excellent case study of a well thought out “symmetrical techno-strategic response” to the United States’ deployment of stealthy combat aircraft, which no differently to the United States’ play in the late Cold War and post Cold War period, elicits a disproportionate response in materiel investment to effectively counter.

The only US design with the kinematic performance, stealth performance and sensor capability to be able to confront the J-20 [J-XX] with viable combat lethality and survivability is the F-22A Raptor, or rather, evolved and enhanced variants of the existing configuration of this aircraft.

The US Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is outclassed in every respect, and would be as ineffective against a mature J-XX [J-20] as it is against the F-22A Raptor.

All variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be equally so outclassed, assuming this failed project even progresses to any kind of actual production.

All US Air Force, US Navy and allied legacy fighters are outclassed in much the same manner, and are ineffective kinematically and in sensor capability against this class of threat system.

From the perspectives of both technological strategy and military grand strategy, the J-XX [J-20] is the final nail in the coffin of the utterly failed “Gates recapitalisation plan” for United States and allied tactical fighter fleets. Apologists for the “Gates fighter recapitalisation plan” will no doubt concoct a plethora of reasons as to why the J-XX [J-20] should be ignored, as they did exactly one year ago when the Russians unveiled the T-50 PAK-FA stealth fighter.

Those last words were prophetic.

Shortly after the J-20 first flew, a large group of pseudo-experts – some supporters of deep defense cuts with an agenda to deny and downplay threats to America, others being delusional megalomaniacs who don’t believe America could ever lose its military edge to other countries – began an unyielding spin campaign (which continues to this day) of downplaying the J-20′s capabilities, utility, impact, and prospects for production, and thus downplaying it as a threat to US air superiority.

But in doing so, they displayed their ignorance of defense issues, including the facts about the J-20. So, using Kopp’s and Goon’s work as the primary source, I’ll state the facts here (in a condensed version compared to the lengthy analysis Kopp and Goon have written) and refute some of the false claims made by deniers to downplay the J-20.

What are the J-20′s characteristics?

Little is known for sure about the J-20 in open literature, but it is known that the J-20 is a 70 ft long, twin engined Mach 2 class capable aircraft with long wings, large weapon bays, and quite likely, a large fuel load and much room for capability growth. Moreover, as images and videos of it revealed, its designers followed all the cardinal rules of stealth design (including stealth shaping) – and, as experts like to say, stealthiness depends on “shaping, shaping, shaping, and materials”. There are no surfaces that allow an easy radar wave return, not even its canards, which improve its aerodynamic performance and make it even more efficient in supersonic flight than it would be without canards. It’s clear that the J-20 was designed in accordance with the stealth shaping rules employed by the Raptor’s designers.

What are its capabilities?

Based on what is known for sure and on the known capabilities and utilities of similar aircraft, the J-20 will be capable of a wide number of roles, including medium range bombing, long range interception, air superiority, escort of other aircraft, AWACS/tanker killing, long range recon, electronic attack, and anti-satellite attack. In other words, missions of which the F-15 and the F-22 are also capable (except EW, which they can’t do).

Basically, a fighter/attack jet with the fuel load, efficient engines and design, range, and payload as large as the J-20′s gives you the capability to strike a lot of targets out to the Second Island Chain and conduct the full range of the above-listed missions by virtue of that range and payload as well as the J-20′s stealthiness, albeit some of them, such as recon, would require a specialized variant.

What are the deniers’ claims?

The deniers claim, inter alia, that:

  1. The J-20 lacks engines sufficient to power this plane; Russian AL-31F engines, even their 117S variant, are insufficient, and the Chinese are not capable of producing sufficiently powerful engines themselves.
  2. The J-20′s canards are inconsistent with being stealthy (i.e. with a very low radar signature).
  3. The J-20 will be primarily a bomber, not a fighter.
  4. The J-20 is unlikely to enter service in the stated 2017-2019 timeframe because the F-22 took over 15 years to develop and field, and so will the F-35.
  5. It’s unlikely that more than a few hundred J-20s and more than a few hundred Sukhoi T-50 PAKFAs will be produced, while the US will, by the 2030s, have 2,600 F-22s and F-35s.
  6. The J-20 has traditional, round engine nozzles and no thrust vectoring places.
  7. The J-20 is 70 feet long, “big for a fighter”, claims defense issues ignoramus David Axe.
  8. Chinese fighters are low-grade copies of Russian fighters.

I’ll refute each of these false claims in turn:

  1. The J-20′s engines are sufficient to power this plane. How do we know? Because it already has flown multiple times and hasn’t crashed. It’s as simple as that. Moreover, the Russian AL-31F 117S engines (originally designed for, and used on, Su-35 fighters) that were probably supplied for it are sufficient to power it fully – just not to extract its full potential, as Kopp and Goon have stated. A single AL-41F117S engine provides 142 kN (31,900 lb) of thrust; since the J-20 is a twin-engine fighter, you can double that to 284 kN. But if you think that’s not enough thrust, fear not. Vladimir Putin, who seems to be hell-bent on harming the US in every we he can and to harbor irrational hatred toward America (he blames all of Russia’s problems on the US), will be quite happy to supply NPO Saturn (formerly Lyulka) AL-31F and AL-41F engines to the Chinese, who are now testing their own supersonic, thrust-vector-control WS-10G engine, and have pre-G variants of the WS-10 already in service on their J-10, J-11, and J-15 fighters*. By the time the J-20 enters service (2017-2019), the WS-10G will almost certainly be ready for use. A single WS-10G engine produces 155 kN (35,000 lb) of thrust; double that for a twin-engine fighter. (WS stands for Woshan, which simply means a “turbofan engine” in Chinese.)
  2. The J-20′s canards are not inconsistent with stealth performance, and neither is any part of the J-20′s planform. Moreover, the canards are only a stopgap measure used on J-20 prototypes and are unlikely to be used on final design aircraft.
  3. The J-20 will be every bit as much a fighter as it will be a bomber.  Its large size does not inhibit it in any way from being a capable fighter, and its large weapon and fuel loads will actually come in handy in A2A combat. They will also be useful for the interceptor role. The F-22 is a large fighter like the J-20, and larger than the F-35 – yet it’s the one optimised for air superiority, while the F-35 is optimised for ground attack.
  4. The long development time of the F-22 and the F-35 is the result of DOD bureaucracy, tons of overregulation, 40 committees setting (and changing) requirements, and, in the F-35′s case, misdesign and inefficiency of the US defense industry. The idea that China’s highly efficient defense industry is unable to quickly develop and produce next-gen weapons just because the US defense industry is so inefficient is absurd. Even Bill Sweetman admits that: “I would submit that the simplistic approach—comparing this aircraft to the YF-22 or X-35 and therefore projecting an (Initial Operating Capability) well beyond 2020—is philosophically wrong, dangerous and stupid.” Even David Axe admits that (and thus contradicts himself): “China has proved capable of producing new weapons quickly and in large numbers. Beijing’s Type 022 missile boat, designed for coordinated attacks on US aircraft carriers, first appeared in 2004. Just three years later, the Chinese navy possessed a whole flotilla of 40 Type 022s.”
  5. Any idea that the Chinese or the Russians, once they field their 5th generation stealth fighters, will suicidally stop producing them at a few hundred aircraft is absurd, ridiculous, foolish, and naive. The Russians, in fact, plan to produce hundreds of them, and India plans to produce further hundreds. China’s production figures are unknown, but Kopp and Goon – two credible analysts – say China will likely produce “hundreds”. Indeed, striking so many bases and shooting down so many aircraft in the Western Pacific will force China to produce many hundreds. Furthermore, the Air Force Association projects that the J-20 will be produced “in quantities rivalling F-35 production estimates.” China, India, and Russia can clearly afford to do so, because 1) in those countries, $1 can buy much more than in America; and 2) these 5th generation fighters will be relatively cheap, costing well below $100 mn per copy. Furthermore, both fighters will be exported and be available to anyone able to pay for them. Vietnam is likely to be the first non-Indian export customer. Meanwhile, what is America doing? It has killed the F-22 at just 187 aircraft. The F-35 has been delayed many times and won’t achieve IOC until the late 2010s – maybe 2016, maybe 2017, maybe 2018, maybe 2019, maybe never. The entire program may not survive the next few years (and will certainly be killed if sequestration goes through). Orders for it have been cut and may be cut further even if the program survives. Furthermore, America’s Pacific allies may withdraw from the F-35 program (if it isn’t killed), and they plan to procure no more than ~150 of them. (Only two are F-35 customers: Australia and Japan.) So it’s quite likely that when the PAKFA and the J-20 achieve IOC, America’s only 5th generation fighters will be its F-22s. Any projection of 2,600 fighters by the 2030s is wildly speculative and will likely be proven wrong.
  6. This is technically true, but only of the prototypes. It’s important to remember that the aircraft examples of the J-20 we’ve seen so far are prototypes, and that final design aircraft will likely have all of these problems solved. We should not delude ourselves that the Chinese won’t do that and don’t know about these issues.
  7. The J-20 is not too big for a fighter, although it is certainly large – about the size of an F-111. However, its size likely won’t prevent it from being a successful fighter; otherwise, the F-22 couldn’t be, as it is significantly larger than the F-35. The J-20′s size will likely be a strength, not a weakness: it will allow for a large fuel and weapon load, necessary for long range interception and air dominance missions, similar to an F-15, which has an unrefueled combat radius of 1,967 kms. The J-20 can serve as a long range interceptor, air superiority fighter, and theater strike aircraft without modifications, and its large size makes it “a natural candidate for lateral evolution” into the reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and ASAT missile-launching aircraft roles, as AirPowerAustralia rightly says.
  8. This is utterly false. Modern Chinese fighters are high-quality aircraft and are, in most respects, superior to the F-15, not to mention, of course, the F-16, the F/A-18 Bug, and the Super Bug. Once again, defense cutters are deluding the American people into a false sense of security. When the J-20 enters service, it will render every Western fighter except the F-22 and the F-35 irrelevant, impotent, and useless.

In sum, the deniers’ claims – like their other claims about the capabilities and weapons of America’s adversaries, also designed to downplay and deny threats to America – are a mixture of lies, speculations, rosy projections, delusions of grandeur and invincibility, and delusions of unchangeable inferiority of adversaries. During the Cold War, many people harbored similar views about the Soviets, claiming they were inferior people who couldn’t produce any high-quality weapons, even though they often designed and produced weapons superior to their American counterparts. Today, many people harbor similar views about the Chinese and the Russians, even though Chinese and Russian defense industries have already absorbed the most modern Western technology (freely available in this globalized economy) and have already produced high-quality weapons superior to their American counterparts.

David Axe mocks those of us who warn about the J-20 thus:

“(…) the Cope India incident marked the birth of a theme—that America could no longer reliably win battles in the sky.

It’s a theme that’s never fully faded. In the summer of 2009, Gates ordered the US Air Force to stop purchasing F-22s after the 187th copy, and instead channel funding into the planned fleet of 2,400 F-35s. This switch made the United States ‘less safe,’ in the words of Michael Goldfarb, a writer for the conservative Weekly Standard. ‘This is also a very good day for the ChiComs,’ Goldfarb wrote of the F-22’s termination, using a slang term for ‘Chinese Communist.’

Six months later, the T-50 flew for the first time. Once the plane is fully deployed in squadron strength, ‘the United States will no longer have the capability to rapidly impose air superiority, or possibly even achieve air superiority,’ Kopp and Goon wrote. Goldfarb, for his part, again declared the ‘end of air supremacy’ for the United States.

Yet a year later, the T-50 has flown only a few times and there are apparently no serious plans in place for mass production.”

Aside from the fact that there are plans for T-50 mass production in both Russia and India, with about 1000 aircraft to be ordered by those two countries alone, the fact is that the threat deniers have repeatedly been proven wrong, and they will likely be proven wrong again when the J-20 enters service; and the J-20 IS a gamechanger. The J-20 will, for the reasons stated here and here, be decisively superior to the F-35 and to all legacy aircraft, including the F-15, the F-16, the Bug, and the Super Bug.  So will the T-50. Thus, unless the US resumes the production of F-22s on a large scale, it WILL lose air superiority someday. So yes, killing the F-22 made the US less safe, and the day it happened was a good day for China and Russia. It’s no coincidence that the Kremlin’s propaganda network in the US, RussiaToday, hailed that decision and downplayed the J-20: the Russians gladly welcome everything that weakens America’s defense.

When you kill the weapon systems needed to win wars, that DOES weaken America’s defense, jeopardize US national security, and create the risk of losing wars – or, in fighters’ case, losing air superiority, which is the sine qua non of any successful war.

The fact is that Kopp, Goon, and Goldfarb were and are absolutely right, and the threat deniers are absolutely wrong. Instead of continuing to blather nonsense and further spout their ignorant garbage, they should stop pontificating on issues they know nothing about and admit they were wrong about the J-20 and the PAKFA.

The REAL size of China’s nuclear arsenal

How big is China’s nuclear arsenal?

This is a hotly-disputed issue today.

Liberal advocates of Western disarmament, such as Daryl Kimball, Tom Collina, Jeffrey Lewis and Hans Kristensen (a lifelong Danish pacifist who now lives in the US) and their organizations claim that China has only 240 warheads. US intelligence agencies still hold on to their obsolete estimate of 300-400 warheads (first made in 1984).

But there is a large and growing body of evidence that they’re dead wrong by a huge margin.

In addition to the study released earlier this year by Georgetown University’s Professor Philip Karber and his team of analysts, and a growing body of evidence that China has far more missiles of all classes than is usually estimated, retired Russian general Viktor Yesin, a former SMF Chief of Staff, estimated in his study several months ago that China has 1,800 nuclear warheads (with enough fissile material for another 1,800), of which 900 are deployed and ready for use anytime, and he gave specific estimates of how many warheads are attributed to how many delivery systems.

In total, he says, China has 50 tons of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium, half of it already used in warheads. General Yesin has recently completed a follow-on study that confirms his previous findings.

He says China has over 200 strategic warheads capable of reaching US soil, and almost 750 tactical (theater) warheads, deployed anytime, or about 950 warheads in total. He has now also given precise estimates of how many are deployed on what missiles, and what their yield (force) is. Yesin estimates China’s DF-11 and DF-15 SRBMs have warheads with a 5-20 kT yield, while DF-21 Medium Range Ballistic Missiles and DH-10 Land Attack Cruise Missiles have 350 kT warheads; JL-2 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles have 500 kT warheads, and its ICBMs have warheads of varied yields: 300 kT, 500 kT, and 2 MT.

China’s 440 strategic and theater bombers, Yesin says, carry B-4 and B-5 nuclear bombs.

Yesin also confirms that China has developed multiple independently retargetable vehicles (MIRVs) and is fielding MIRVable missiles. This is actually an understatement – China has had MIRVable DF-4 IRBMs since the 1970s, and MIRVable DF-5 ICBMs since 1981. What Yesin means are the DF-31A and DF-41A ICBMs, both now in service. He confirms that MIRVs have been deployed for DF-5s, DF-31As, DF-41As, and JL-2s.

Overall, he writes: “China’s nuclear arsenal is appreciably higher than many experts think. In all likelihood, the [People’s Republic of China] is already the third nuclear power today, after the U.S. and Russia, and it undoubtedly has technical and economic capabilities that will permit it to rapidly increase its nuclear might if necessary.”

Yesin understates the number of warheads deployed on China’s ICBMs (48) and MRBMs (99), though. The Washington Free Beacon quotes him thus:

“For missiles, the retired general said that “all told, 207 missile launchers are deployed within the Strategic Missile Forces—48 with ICBMs, 99 with [medium-range ballistic missiles] MRBMs, and 60 with [short-range] SRMs.” Total strategic warheads—those capable of reaching the United States—include 208 nuclear warheads, Yesin said.”

This is an understatement: China has 30-36 DF-5, at least 30 DF-31A, and an unknown number of DF-41 ICBMs, all of them MIRVable. Assuming that there are 72 warheads for DF-5s, 90 for DF-31As, and 10 for a single DF-41, that makes 172 warheads for ICBMs alone. China also has 80 DF-21, 20 DF-3, and 20 DF-4 MRBMs. Even if all of them are single-warhead missiles, that still means 120 MRBM warheads.

In total, this means 292 ICBM/MRBM warheads, not merely 147.

Based on open sources, China’s delivery system inventories and their warhead delivery capacities are as follows:

Warhead delivery system Inventory Maximum warheads deliverable per system Maximum warhead delivery capacity
DF-5 ICBM 36 At least 2 72
H-6, Q-5, and JH-7 aircraft 440 1 440
DF-31 30 3-4 90
DF-41 1? 10 10?
DF-3 20 1 20
DF-4 20 3 60
DF-21 80 1 80
JL-1 12 1 12
JL-2 120 4 480
DH-10 nuclear armed LACM ? ? ?
DF-11/15 nuclear armed SRBM 1,600 ? ?
Total 1,119 Various 1,264

As you can see, China has at least 1,119 intercontinental and medium range nuclear delivery systems capable of delivering, collectively, 1,264 warheads. And that’s assuming, conservatively, that no LACMs or SRBMs are nuclear-armed, and that China has only 1 DF-41 ICBM on duty. If China has more, or if at least some of its LACMs and SRBMs are nuclear-armed, China’s warhead delivery capacity is even greater.

For his part, Professor Karber says:

“The Russian specialists quoted in the report have credibility because of Moscow’s past and current role in China’s nuclear program. Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces also has good intelligence on China’s nuclear arsenal because it targeted China for three decades. This close proximity and long track record means that Russian ‘realism’ about Chinese nuclear force potential cannot be blithely ignored or discounted as ‘paranoia. Their warning against American ‘idealism’ [on China’s nuclear arms] needs to be taken seriously.”

The US -China Economic and Security Review Commission is now slowly (albeit too slowly) beginning to wake up, acknowledging that China may have more warheads than just 300, and saying that it may have as many as 500. It still, however, wrongly believes that 240 is the most likely size of China’s arsenal, despite a large and growing body of evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, it understates the threat from China’s sea-based nuclear arsenal, claiming that:

“China has had a symbolic ballistic missile submarine capability for decades but is only now on the cusp of establishing its first credible, ‘near-continuous at-sea strategic deterrent.’”

This is a huge understatement: China is not “only now on the cusp of establishing its first credible, near-continous at sea strategic deterrent” – it has already established a fully continous naval nuclear deterrent. It has 1 Xia class SSBN (with 12 single-warhead JL-1 missiles) and 5 Jin class SSBNs (with 12-24 multiple warhead JL-2 missiles each). Furthermore, while JL-1 has only a 2,400 km range, the JL-2’s range is 8,000 km, allowing the Jins to target the entire US West Coast from a position just slightly east of 150E longitude. (See the map below.) Six SSBNs, assuming 61 days of patrol per sub, give China a fully continous deterrence capability for 366 days/year.

 The Xia class boat is due to be replaced soon by a sixth Jin class boat. The Jins’ long-range missiles, as stated earlier, allow them to target the entire West Coast from places just east of Japan (and Houston from a position slightly east of Hawaii). That capability was not reached by the Soviet Union’s subs until the 1980s. So China has already accomplished what the USSR needed four decades to achieve.

Nonetheless, the Commission does warn against any further uni- or bilateral (with Russia) cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal, rightly admonishing the Obama government to:

“treat with caution any proposal to unilaterally, or in the context of a bilateral agreement with Russia, reduce the U.S.’s operational nuclear forces absent clearer information being made available to the public about China’s nuclear stockpile and force posture.”

Yet, disarmament advocacy groups and their spokesmen, such as those mentioned above, unrepentantly continue to falsely claim that China has only 240 warheads, and only 50 capable of reaching the US, and hasn’t expanded its arsenal since the 1980s; they furthermore deny that China will have 75 ICBMs capable of reaching the US by 2015 (when China already has more than that as of AD 2012). So why do they continue to minimize and downplay the Chinese threat?

Because they overtly advocate America’s unilateral disarmament, including deep unilateral cuts as a first step. They don’t care about the consequences; in fact, they believe (and falsely claim) that this would make the US more secure, even though disarmament and arms reduction have never made anyone who indulges in them more secure, only less.

They don’t care about Russia’s, China’s, and North Korea’s nuclear buildups and have no problems with that, or with these countries’ development of new strategic weapons such as Russia’s next generation bomber, the PAK DA, new RS-24 (SS-29) ICBM, or planned new heavy ICBM, the “Son of Satan”, planned for 2018. Meanwhile, they demand that the US cancel any plans to develop a next generation bomber or ICBM, dramatically cut its existing nuclear stockpile plus ICBM and ballistic missile submarine fleets, and cut orders for future SSBNs. They claim that if America makes these deep unilateral cuts, Russia will be nice enough to reciprocate, or at least stop the expansion or modernization of its own arsenal.

Similarly, during the Cold War, they had no problem with the Soviet Union developing new strategic weapons and producing them in large numbers – they objected only to America’s development and procurement of such weapons.

All they want is America’s total nuclear disarmament.

But in order to get the public to support such policy, they first have to mislead the public into thinking that this can be done safely, i.e. to lull the public into a false sense of security.

Thus, they shamelessly lie to mislead the public into thinking that the deep cuts they advocate can be done safely, because China supposedly has only 240 warheads. They claim this means that the US can safely cut its nuclear arsenal to the low hundreds.

And, predictably, they reacted furiously to facts-based, objective studies of China’s nuclear arsenal by Professor Karber and General Yesin, because these studies and the facts contained therein constitute a huge threat to their agenda of unilaterally disarming the US. (My own study, published on November 5th, hasn’t gotten much attention yet, but if it does, it will likely be attacked just as savagely. Which won’t change the fact that every statement made therein is true.)

These studies show that China’s nuclear arsenal is highly likely to be far larger than what these liberal pro-disarmament groups falsely claim, and by informing the public and presenting evidence to back these claims up – fissile material stockpile estimates, the length of secret tunnels for missiles, estimated numbers of missiles that China has – utterly refute the myth that China has only a few hundred warheads.

And US intelligence agencies? They continue to cling to their obsolete 1984 estimate of China’s arsenal for two reasons. Firstly, like other bureaucracies, they’re embarassed to admit being wrong. And secondly, they (like the rest of the US government) are run by pro-China officials who delude themselves that Beijing can be a great partner and thus don’t want to do anything to counter China, or even to tell the truth about its reali military capabilities.

But China is a foe of the US, and intellectual disarmament always precedes actual disarmament.

America cannot afford this.