Over the last two decades, the Republic of China has invested heavily in strengthening its military ability in Space. As of 2019, China stands second only to the U.S. in Space mastery.
The bloodbath of World War II came as a startling realization for most countries – that technology would play a crucial role in future warfare. It was allied forces’ technological advancement that won them the war and brought the then strongest military in the world on its knees.
Fortunately, Germans had no clue that their “Enigma machine codes” were cracked by Allied forces with the help of Alan Turing. That brought Nazi-suffering for most of Europe to an end.
Today, China has a strong military ability. It has the world’s 3rd strongest army. However, the Chinese learned their lesson, several years after the World War, that too in a hard way.
The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis
In 1995-96, during the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, U.S. President Clinton showcased the biggest display of American military might since the Vietnam War. He sent additional ships into the region along with two aircraft carrier battle groups. The amphibious assault ship USS Belleau Wood was also deployed.
This underlying crisis forced the Chinese leadership to acknowledge its inability to tackle the U.S. warships in the region. China’s military has advanced itself several times since then. It has become a strong global force. However, much of its growth is backed by the mastery in space.
China’s Spy Satellites
When President Clinton sent ships during the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, the Chinese army could do nothing to spy on the U.S. naval carrier that travels 800 km in a day. The Chinese government then resolved to develop such technological weapons that can not only detect but attack powerful U.S. military assets.
China currently has 75+ military satellites operated by the strategic support force of China’s People’s Liberation Army. It invests 10-15 billion USD per annum on “Signals Intelligence” with 200,000 personnel in SIGNIT. Following the trails set by the USA and Russia, China is also heavily reliant on the Space domain.
Yoagan-30 leading China’s SIGNIT military
The most significant part of China’s mastery of space is the Yoagan-30 series. Built by the Chinese Academy of Science, Yoagan-30 operates in a group of three satellites working in relatively close proximity. It helps them to correctly and accurately pinpoint signal emissions.
China intends to deploy six batches (18 satellites in six triplets) of the Yoagan-30 series in the space to enhance its military abilities. The fifth batch of the series was launched on 26th July 2019. The Yoagan-30 series is placed 600 km above the earth in a 35° orbit. The sixth triplet planned to be launched at the end of October 2019 will allow PLA to have almost ‘continuous coverage’ on key areas of the globe. This will enhance China’s military ability in Space.
Once the sixth batch of triplets is launched, PLA can pass over on an area 19-times per day in vertical imaging mode and also 54-times per day in off-vertical SIGNIT mode.
Other Satellites operated by China
Apart from Yoagan-30, China also has Yoagan-15, Yoagan-19, Yoagan-22, and Yoagan-27 in a polar sun-synchronous orbit featuring 1200 km above the earth. The additional height increases the coverage ability of the satellites though it deduces spatial resolution.
Apart from Yoagan, China also has Gaofen-4; a one-of-a-kind optical satellite. It was launched in December 2015 and is the only high-resolution imaging satellite operated by China in the geostationary orbit. With a resolution of more than 50m and coverage of 7000 km² area, it is good enough to find the wake of an aircraft carrier.
Gaofen-4 has a field of view of 400 km and it can revisit a place extremely frequently. There is an infrared sensor with 400m resolution installed on the satellite which allows it to capture images even during the night. Professor David Stupples, director of Electronic warfare systems research at the University of London, cites China’s SIGNIT capabilities very high. They might only be second to that of the U.S.
China’s SIGNIT capabilities are very good. They might only be second to that of the U.S.David Stupples