China advancing laser weapons program Technology equals or surpasses U.S. capability.
According to Mark Stokes, a military author specializing in Chinese weapons development, Beijing's efforts to harness laser weapons technology began in the 1960s, under a program called Project 640-3, sanctioned by Chairman Mao Zedong. The Chinese, he said, renamed the project the "863 Program" in 1979, after a Chinese researcher named Sun Wanlin convinced the Central Military Commission "to maintain the pace and even raise the priority of laser development" in 1979.
Today, Beijing's effort to develop laser technology encompasses over "10,000 personnel -- including 3,000 engineers in 300 scientific research organizations -- with nearly 40 percent of China's laser research and development (R & D) devoted to military applications," Stokes wrote in an analytical paper provided to WorldNetDaily.
China's "DEW (Directed Energy Weapons) research (is) part of a larger class of weapons known to the Chinese as 'new concept weapons' (xin gainian wuqi), which include high power lasers, high power microwaves, railguns, coil guns, (and) particle beam weapons," Stokes said. "The two most important organizations involved in R&D of DEW are the China Academy of Sciences and the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND)."
To underscore Beijing's fixation with laser weaponry, the Hong Kong Standard reported Nov. 15 that the Chinese have developed a laser-based anti-missile, anti-satellite system.
"China's system shoots a laser beam that destroys the [guidance systems] and causes the projectile to fall harmlessly to the ground," the paper said.
The report also noted that Beijing had "conducted tests of its new technology since August 1999," and said the system was "similar to the laser defense system technology being developed by the U.S. Air Force."
Rick Fischer, a congressional Chinese military hardware expert, told WorldNetDaily that recent photographs of Chinese main battle tanks taken during military parades held in celebration of China's 50th anniversary of Communism in October showed "what was described as a photoelectric device that may have been a ground-based laser equivalent" of the same ASAT system.
Fischer said the U.S. is currently developing a similar weapon, whereby "a ground-based laser would be capable of producing a 'dazzle'" strong enough to knock an incoming missile off course."
However, he cautioned, "the Chinese may have beat us to the punch," though he said attempts to classify the new battle tank equipment as "definitely laser technology" were inconclusive.
As early as 1997, the Army reported successfully test-firing a ground-based laser called MIRCL at an orbiting Air Force MSTI-3 research satellite as it passed over the Army's White Sands, New Mexico, test facility. According to one published report, "Two bursts from the chemical laser struck a sensor array on the MSTI-3 craft." The U.S. firms Boeing and TRW are also developing an airborne laser defense system, fitted to a cargo model of the 747 airliner, that would be capable of targeting incoming ICBMs and other medium-range missiles, either destroying them or rendering them incapacitated.
U.S. officials downplayed the results of the Army's laser tests, saying only that they were "a research experiment, not a step towards a space weapon."
But since the Hong Kong newspaper account, officials and experts in the United States have begun to re-examine the issue of Chinese military laser technology, which now may be even more advanced than developments first revealed by the Cox Committee.
According to the Cox report, Beijing had already managed to obtain sensitive laser technology enabling them to test miniature nuclear weapons and to assist the Chinese navy in locating hard-to-find U.S. nuclear submarines.
Unclassified documents provided to WorldNetDaily also provide detailed technical information on new Chinese beam director designs for high-powered laser weapons -- specifically those designed for eventual "anti-satellite missions," anti-missile applications and for blinding combatants in the field. Stokes said the Chinese were especially interested in the development of "free electron laser" weapons, "because they have a number of advantages, including their adjustable wavelength and bandwidth and their potential range of 5,000 kilometers."
According to documents, Li Hui, Director of the Beijing Institute of Remote Sensing Equipment, a developer of optical precision and photoelectronic guidance systems for surface-to-air missiles, "has cited laser technology as the only effective means to counter cruise missiles."
Hui has "encouraged the acceleration of laser weapons development," the documents said, while stressing that an "anti-cruise missile laser weapon" already developed by China "utilizes...the most mature high-energy laser technology, the deuterium-fluoride (DF) chemical laser."
"Li Hui's statement advocating ground-based laser weapons for use against missiles is not the first by a Chinese weapons developer," the documents said. "The 1028th Research Institute (RI) of the Ministry of Information Industry, a major Chinese developer of integrated air defense systems, has analyzed the use of lasers in future warfare. Such uses include active jamming of electro-optics, blinding combatants and damaging sensors, causing laser-guided weapons to deviate from their true targets, and target destruction."
The 1028th's analysis, the papers said, "concluded with the statement, 'The appearance of laser weapons will have a significant impact on modern warfare. On today's electronic battlefield, it is natural for defensive systems to use low-energy laser weapons to damage enemy electronic equipment. When high-energy lasers that can directly destroy tanks, planes and ships develop and mature, they will be formidable offensive weapons.'"
Stokes' research supports the Cox Committee's conclusions about Chinese intentions to build a variety of high-tech laser weapons. Though he said "there is no proof or strong indication that development" of such weapons "is in a more advanced stage in China than in the U.S.," he notes that China's People's Liberation Army "is placing greater emphasis on lasers and their potential military applications."
"The Academy of Military Science, the PLA's leading think-tank on future warfare," Stokes said, "believes lasers will be an integral aspect of 21st century war."
/news/archives.asp?ARCHIVE_ID=16Charles Smith, a WorldNetDaily staff writer and founder of Softwar,Jan. 26 that new Chinese laser systems not only are rapidly advancing, but they incorporate microchip technology obtained through export from the U.S. wrote
"The Clinton administration allowed the export of advanced radiation-hardened microchip technology, vital electronic components for military satellites and nuclear weapons, to Russia and China," Smith wrote. The technology allowed China to build air-defense laser systems powerful enough to deliver an "estimated...10,000 watts of output power on a target up to 500 miles away." Smith said the Chinese are preparing to deploy "an even more powerful ground-based laser by the year 2000."
The Pentagon declined to comment on current Chinese laser weapons development, but most experts who spoke with WorldNetDaily believe the Chinese have obtained advanced laser technology from multiple sources. They also believe Beijing is involved in an ongoing plan to "acquire" new laser weapons technologies either by producing them domestically, buying them or through espionage.
William Triplett II, co-author of the Chinese espionage bestseller, "Year of the Rat," and a new book detailing Chinese military prowess called "Red Dragon Rising," said he believed Beijing may have stolen some U.S. ASAT and laser technology, but indicated that in the end that may prove to be a small part of their developmental process.
"Right now the Chinese are in the cat-bird seat," he said. "They have holes in their capabilities, but they have access to cutting-edge military technology from both Russia and the U.S. What they couldn't get from us they have bought from Moscow."
Triplett said that while China's use of laser technology was "advanced," Beijing's ASAT and anti-missile laser weaponry was "not yet equal" to U.S. capabilities.
"The degree to which espionage" was involved with Chinese acquisition of laser technology "is really not clear," said Fischer. "We can assume with a high degree of certainty that Beijing is seeking Russian laser technology, but they themselves have devoted enormous resources" to the research and development of laser weaponry, he said.
Stokes added, "Chinese analysts see directed energy weapons as important for China's air defense and counterspace efforts. DEW efforts also reflect a diversification of China's nuclear weapons industry."
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