Delta 4 Heavy ULA launch

WASHINGTON: The most expensive conventional weapons program in history just scored a major win, with the F-35 program’s estimated acquisition costs plunging $11.5 billion. This is no program estimate that critics might savage. This comes from the Government Accountability Office’s definitive annual Assessment of Selected Weapons Report. The GAO did not mince words in identifying… Keep reading →

The US Army's "Advanced Hypersonic Weapon."

CAPITOL HILL: Prompt Global Strike is a program to build a weapon that can destroy targets anywhere on earth within an hour of getting targeting data and permission to launch. Sandia Lab and the Army may have found the answer: the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon. So far, some aspects of PGS have attracted controversy. When the Pentagon wanted… Keep reading →

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence

WASHINGTON: Positing the future of intelligence — even for one year – poses unique challenges. First, there’s so much those of on the outside don’t know. Then there’s the simple truth that our enemies and competitors drive so much of intelligence. Since we can’t know with certainty what will happen, it’s difficult to predict what the intelligence… Keep reading →


  The makers and operators of America’s spy satellites have lofted at least 13 assets on their way to orbit with the early morning launch today of NROL-39, atop the always impressive Atlas V rocket. The main payload may be a highly advanced space radar, according to several educated guesses (which is about the best… Keep reading →


The latest victim of the federal government shutdown is a crucial player in the space and intelligence world, the Aerospace Corporation, which has had to cut back the work of 60 percent of its 3,500 employees. “The Aerospace Corporation started implementing a partial work shutdown on Oct. 3, after the Air Force’s Space and Missile… Keep reading →

Heritage Flight Conference

As sequestration forces the Pentagon to consider truly transformative cuts to the U.S. military, the knives are coming out even more readily than usual in a town known for fierce infighting. Today’s budget environment has created an open season on traditional concepts of roles and missions. Service leaders have become far more vocal in warning… Keep reading →


Dear Reader, with Congress close to irrelevant (and out of town anyway), the Defense Department bracing for the coming end of the world (slight exaggeration) and so many of DC’s denizens out of town and recharging for the September onslaught, this August probably will be particularly quiet. So we are experimenting with that terribly au… Keep reading →


Tomorrow is the forty-fourth anniversary of the day a human first walked on another celestial body, our Moon. So it’s only fitting and proper that we do this — offer our readers a spectacular shot of a heavy rocket, the Atlas V, carrying an enormous military communications satellite into orbit. The Navy satellite built by Lockheed… Keep reading →


As the Department of Defense continues to wrestle with the high costs and often slow pace of military technology and acquisition programs, it would do well to take a closer look at that other bastion of high-tech government programs: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA’s low-cost missions from yesteryear just might hold the secret… Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Even the grim, dark and powerful Soviet Union came to share fairly detailed information about the size and potency of its military to ensure nobody made a wrong step by over- or underestimating its military prowess. The current rising power, China, so far, has largely refused to share much information about either how its forces are organized or what weapons it fields.

So when official Chinese media were joined by Western media in reporting that the Peoples Liberation Army had issued a White Paper, “Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces,” offering greater transparency, I checked with a range of experts on the PLA to see if that was, in fact, the case.

“There is really nothing that stands out as a remarkably new emphasis or form of ‘transparency.’ The identification of all PLA Army units as mobile forces with their military region affiliation is a better explanation of order of battle,” said Larry Wortzel, one of Washington’s most respected China military analysts and also a member of the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in an email.

For contrast, here’s what the Peoples Liberation Daily says about the White Paper:

“…China’s military is transforming from ‘responding to questions’ to ‘explaining proactively’, which shows the country is more transparent and willing to take on responsibilities. The national defense white paper shows Chinese army’s transparency and openness. Along with the accelerating pace of going out, Chinese army has taken the initiative to show its image to the world. It is obvious to see the country’s sincerity and hard working in military transparent.”

OK. And Dean Cheng, China analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation (where Wortzel used to work), offered the Chinese a tiny nod.

“To give the Chinese credit, I don’t think we’ve ever had a nice, neat summary by them of which units (or at least their designations) are in the Nanjing or Lanzhou Military Region. It’s a (baby) step towards transparency. It’s also at an extremely meta-level: armies, fleets,” Cheng says in his email.

But the real problem both the Chinese and Western countries face is that, as the Chinese paper said: “Western countries have suspected Chinese army for a long time, guessing whether Chinese army is defensive or offensive.”

The Chinese says simply that this latest paper, “has answered the suspicion directly. ‘China will never seek hegemony or behave in a hegemonic manner, nor will it engage in military expansion,’ the white paper says.”

As is clear from Wortzel and Cheng’s observations, that may not entirely be the case.

Cheng also detailed how this paper differs from earlier Chinese offerings:

  • “Space and cyber are only mentioned twice (as far as I can tell), both in passing. However, some mention of informationization (which is broader than cyber). Information dominance (specifically mentioned) would include counter-space and cyber activities.
  • “Military support to national development is now listed AFTER protecting territorial sovereignty. This is a shift from the previous order when discussing ‘new historic missions” of the PLA.
  • “Heavy emphasis (or at least prominent reference) to maritime security, including securing SLOCs (Sea Lines of Communication), defense of territorial waters, etc.”
In what appears to be a wrinkle in keeping with the greater emphasis on protecting territorial waters protection and SLOCs, the White Paper then takes a right turn, blaming somebody for destabilizing the region.

“‘Some countries are strengthening their Asia-Pacific military alliances, expanding military presence in the region, and frequently making the situation there tenser,’ the 40-page report on the ‘Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces’ said, without naming any particular state,” the People’s Liberation Daily says. Keep reading →

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