Center for Strategic Assessment and forecasts

Autonomous non-profit organization

Home / Defence and security / New in the military / Articles
The views of the military-political leadership of the people's Republic of China to conduct the robotization of the armed forces
Material posted: Publication date: 22-06-2020

According to the views of the military-political guidance (CPG) people's Republic of China, a special role in enhancing the combat capabilities of the formations of the national armed forces play a bulk of supplies to the troops promising robotic systems (RTC). The individual focus of his work is the formulation of concepts that would set forth the role of high-tech weapons system in the armed struggle.

Practical steps in this sphere was the adoption by the State Council of the PRC the following documents: "Report on the development of scientific and technical disciplines in the field of armaments" (2017), "White paper on national defense" (2019).

Military experts of China stressed that possible military conflicts, the effectiveness of the RTC in carrying out a number of combat missions may be significantly higher than that of conventional weapon systems that can have a significant impact on the development of forms and methods of using the armed forces. According to their estimates, in the future, the establishment and activation of national RTK will be implemented in the first place, to enhance the security of members of the armed forces of China, operating in a combat situation, in conditions that endanger personnel, demining of the area, conduct reconnaissance, defeat the manpower and military equipment of the probable enemy.

The conceptual basis of Chinese regulations on the use of RTK represent the views of the commanders of the PLA for the implementation of the effective prevention of the access of American troops (forces) in the area of military conflict, the use of which the Pentagon plans within the so-called third compensation strategy. The American strategy involves the use of technological advantages, resulting from the equipping of the U.S. armed forces robotic systems and facilities, the development of advanced automated control systems for troops.

The efforts of the Chinese side, should significantly reduce existing U.S. technological advantages through the development and creation of RTC, its characteristics are not inferior or superior to their us counterparts.

The military-political leadership of China in 2014 announced the beginning of large-scale programmes for the development of advanced technologies, primarily the creation of artificial intelligence, which should allow to achieve significant results in matters of robotization of the armed forces and the battlefield. The expected breakthrough in the creation of advanced RTK will be the "third industrial revolution" that will lead to the production of a sufficient number of robots for military purposes.

According to military experts of China, the program of robotization of the armed forces is the period from 2014 to 2022 and meeting the needs of the PLA in the RTC of various types must be accompanied by a 15 percent annual increase in expenditures for these purposes from 570 million. USA in 2013 to 2 billion in 2022.

The specialists of the Chinese Institute for strategic and defence studies believe that the development of new technologies will expand the capabilities of unmanned systems and robotic systems: their use for assessment of the operational environment, the improvement of algorithm of interaction in the field of man-machine complex and the massive use of RTK, as well as during humanitarian operations, deployment, secure data transmission systems and warfare in cyberspace.

The results of the analysis of the views of the military command of the PLA to the robotization of the battlefield allow you to identify the main requirements of the concept on the use of RTK, including:

  • planning political and military authorities shall in their activities take into account that robotic systems are part of future military operations, characterized by the application of the WTO intellectual fire weapons, large-scale involvement of the so-called Stelt technologies and automated platforms;
  • development of guidance on the application of robotic systems in future operations should be based on the experience of using UAVS, ground-based RTK in the fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Robotic systems used in the army, are considered by Chinese military experts as an effective weapon system operations in the future. They are represented by ground vehicles (RTNC) and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Special attention of the Chinese leadership is focusing on the problems of creating Autonomous systems capable of independently carrying out the process of detection and identification purposes, the decision on the choice of weapons for its destruction. At the same time, analyzing the achievements in this region of the United States, France and Israel, as well as national capabilities, the Chinese military experts have concluded that the design and creation of fully Autonomous weapons systems is possible only in the long term. The unresolved question is to determine the volume of tasks, operation and the role of Autonomous robotic systems on the battlefield.

Currently, according to the concept of robotization of the battlefield nomenclature of robotic systems there are two types of robots: T-robots (robots tethered), control functions (of varying degrees) which control shall remain with operator, and F-robots (free robots) and Autonomous or operating with minimal human intervention.

Assuming that the use of robots with great freedom of action will increase the combat capability of units of SV during the preparation and conduct of operations, replace humans in solving problems in critical conditions, will partially replace military personnel in conducting combat and logistic support, ensure the safety of troops on the March or in the staging area (waiting area).

At the same time, the concept of creating an Autonomous robot has a number of intractable problems related to the risks of unauthorized or incorrect application of weapon systems, including against the civilian population or their own troops. In this regard, currently, the Chinese military leadership's preference for the development of T-robots for their use in the structures of the SV of the country. The ultimate goal of the ongoing works is the creation of the exoskeleton – "iron man".

The analysis of possibilities of scientific and military structures involved in the production of RTK, shows that the implementation of the programmes of the F-robots can be fully implemented no earlier than 2065 (delivery of the first samples is expected after 2030), T-robot – by 2070 and will end with the creation of the transformer. The exoskeleton can go into service not earlier than 2040.

In the army Park ground RTK represented by several types of devices that operate in a controlled and Autonomous modes, capable of solving combat tasks, as well as comprehensive security (exploration of transportirovki cargo and personnel). Currently, the army of the country are robotic systems such as "Lindsey" (Lingxi, or "quick lizard") development of the Shenyang Institute of automation, "Raptor" (Raptor Beijing Bochuang Group), "snow" (Snow) and "Leopard-10" (Leopard-10), created by the Chinese scientific and industrial aerospace Corporation (China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation), a series of "Bot" (Bot) (HRSTEK Shanghai Co., Ltd).

In addition, there is reason to believe that in the near future the Chinese industry is able to implement more than five of the programmes of RTK with characteristics allowing their use in a possible combat operations in different physical environments and climatic conditions. Thus the main efforts will be aimed at creating a highly effective apparatus for the exploration targets on the battlefield and areas of operations of combat units, surveillance, rescue operations in the conduct of combat in urban environments, transport logistical constraints in the highlands.*

According to the results of realization of programs of the robotics of the battlefield, declared in 2014 a demonstration of the 21 sample robotic systems developed ten research organizations in the country. The actual practice of RTK indicates that we should expect their use in military, border security and the police.

Thus, the use of ground robotic complexes for demining of the area was worked out on the Sino-Vietnamese border (Guangxi Zhuang AR and Yunnan province) in April 2016 under the leadership of the ad hoc working group. The use of robots in the combat units was shown in July 2015, the developers of the Institute of armored forces of the people's liberation army of China, submitted for testing unmanaged shestibalnoy platform as the base model for future combat RTK. There was also a test of the mini robot created for operations of the units of special operations forces in various circumstances. Special attention of the Chinese side attaches to developing and manufacturing robots for bomb disposal (figure 1).


Figure 1 – Application of ground-based RTK sun of China to search for explosives

According to Chinese military experts, the main methods of application of RTNC can be single and group use one or more types of complexes composed of ground forces. It is assumed that existing and future robotic systems in the operations of the future will be in combat formations of mechanized units and to solve tasks of search and rescue, reconnaissance, mine clearing of minefields and detonation of unexploded ordnance, transmission of data on the operational situation and the targets of the enemy.

Park aviation robotic systems (VRTC) in the armed forces of the air forces of China include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) designed for reconnaissance, relaying signals, engage air and ground targets.

At the beginning of 2020 in the armed forces units of the PLA were up to 25 types of UAVs. Greatest interest are the drones of the type "Ilun-1" (Yilong) and CH-5 in its capabilities is not inferior to the American UAV "Predator" and MQ-9 Reaper, respectively.

The program of improvement of the Park blah BLAH is a national industry multi-purpose vehicles, long-range flight, able to solve problems of surveillance and attack purposes. 2014 developed four types, three of which can bear on pendants of different weapon system type "xianglong" (Xianglong), "Ilun-2" (Yilong) and "Lijiang" (Lijian). The first tests of these devices took place in 2015 (figure 2).


Figure 2 – the Combat UAV "Lijiang"

According to the plans of the Ministry of defense of China, the production and modernization of existing UAVS, the creation of advanced vehicles by 2025 it is planned to allocate 16.5 billion U.S. dollars. It is believed that this will allow for 2023 to increase significantly in the PLA number of UAVs.

Currently in the air force UAVs the Park most massively represented by devices of a series of SN-1, SN-2 whose production is established in 2003, and SN-3 and SN-4, issued in 2010 under the program of the Aerospace Academy of China. In 2015 for the national armed forces produced about 200 machines of the type SN-3 and SN - 4, which have a lifespan of 5 thousand hours and is capable of hitting targets at ranges up to 10 km In 2016 began production unit in this series of SN-5, far superior to its predecessors in all characteristics. A wingspan of 21 m, maximum takeoff weight is 3.3 t, the flight duration up to 30 hours in a reconnaissance mode, and up to 20 drums in a range of 2 kilometers.

Program analysis the development of Chinese UAV shows that in the future they can be involved in the solution of the tasks assigned at the present time in manned aviation. Along with UAV abilities to hit ground targets marked on them such advantages as stealth, maneuverability, lack of restrictions from international law (for easier application), the ability to act in dangerous situations without risk to flight crews.

The developers are committed to reducing the size of UAVS for various purposes, which allows the use of a miniature power plant, and also reduce the chances of fire damage.

The air force of China is considering UAVS as a priority of military weapons systems and is concentrating its efforts on achieving the following:

  • integration of information systems of surveillance, early warning, the establishment of a system of communication and control;
  • to absorb the forces and means of the enemy through the coordinated use of a large number of "drones";
  • the use of drones as a major tool of targeting in real time;
  • the use of (UAV "xianglong"), with the targeting of ballistic missiles "Dongfeng-21 D" (DF - 21D);
  • active use of UAVs by special operations forces.

Some Chinese military experts believe that the way to engage targets with the use of UAVS more "humane", since the selective application of air strike eliminates the destruction of civilian infrastructure and mass casualties among civilians. The RTK allows you to place the elements of the management system at a safe distance from the front edge of the fighting, to improve the accuracy of weapons to reduce the casualties among the troops (figure 3).


Figure 3 – the Integrated application of air and ground RTK in the conduct of air reconnaissance (option)

The views of the Chinese military experts, the biggest advantage of UAVS is their ability in combat conditions quickly identify targets. In any scenario of the operational environment that will allow command authorities to estimate the expected risks of escalation of the situation, to obtain intelligence on the actions of enemy forces in real time.

The most important area of robotics field of battle, the command of the PLA, is the involvement of implementing military programs of commercial companies. Thus, the company "Sasun Shenyang" (Shenyang Siasun one of the leading companies in the development of robotic systems) in 2012 completed work on the creation of an unmanned helicopter, able to solve wide range of tasks in all climatic conditions with active radio-electronic counteraction of the enemy. The aircraft's weight is 120 kg, it has a rotor size of 3.29 m, cruising speed about 100 km/h.

The command of the armed forces of China paid to the development of countermeasures UAV aircraft and missiles whose production is used stelth technology. In the interests of this plan to create special units to combat small aerial platforms in the first place, "drones" of various types operating at altitudes less than 1,000 metres and tasks control the battle area, identify targets and fire weapons.

In the "White paper on national defence" in 2015 (see "the Study of China in the military field") argues that the system fire weapons and unmanned aviation system will receive a greater degree of autonomy and technology of artificial intelligence and UAV systems will be integrated that will serve as a basis for the development of new breakthrough technologies for the production of RTK and platforms used in the interests of the armed forces.

In practice, the Chinese air RTK was investigated in the framework of various events:

  • control of the operating environment in the course of antiterrorist operations during a session of the Shanghai cooperation organization (2014) defeat the target using the UAV. In training missions took part of division of China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan;
  • reconnaissance using UAVs, long-range action "Harbin 005", which was used to control the situation in the region of Taiwan. Data from his work using Chinese satellites orbital constellation;
  • development of action plans in the complex electromagnetic conditions at application by the opponent of active electromagnetic means war, is designed for exposure to the air defense system of China (the doctrine of FIREPOWER 2015);
  • demonstration in October 2015 on the territory of the former Shenyang military district of new UAVs equipped with small arms. According to the test results the conclusion about expediency of application of the apparatus for exploration of the operational situation on the border, attacking targets, warning about the use of enemy UAVs.

Thus, the analysis of the views of the Chinese military experts on the use of air-RTK indicates that these complexes are considered as a means of solving wide range of tasks in the interests of the air force of the country.

According to the views of military experts of China, the arrival into service of the country's Navy marine robotic systems (MRTK) is also one of the important directions of the robotization of the armed struggle.

Chinese military experts believe that Maritime RTK can be used for the following tasks:

  • protection of naval bases (regions), points-based and sea coast;
  • the light surface and underwater environment (exploration);
  • search and destroy sea mines (anti-mine struggle);
  • the production of various types of barriers;
  • participation in antisubmarine warfare;
  • protection of sea communications;
  • maintaining the REB;
  • support of combat operations of special operations forces.

Military experts of the PLA believe that the group MRTK China should have machines that can match the performance characteristics of the American analogues of the "Remus-600" (Remus-600), "GOST Svimmer" (GhostSwimmer) and "Niffer" (Knifefish). Promising Chinese samples will be unobtrusive, will be able to use radio navigation, infrared and laser sensors and carry missile launchers and torpedo tubes.

Enterprises of military industry of China has established several types of UAVS that are planned to use in interests of naval forces, including the units, "Lijiang", "Anistan" with supersonic speed and which are armed with missiles "air-air" and the UAV "Janin" demonstrated the combat capabilities of the UAV type "Warrior eagle" (Eagle Warrior), capable of striking elements of the air defense system of the enemy. The unmanned aerial vehicle of the type "Tszyaolun" (Jiaolong) able to solve the problem of exploration and transmission of data. Shanghai ocean University in 2016 have demonstrated a device of type "the rainbow fish" (Rainbow Fish) in the offline mode can operate at ranges of over 11 km.

Production of RTK for the Chinese Navy carried out since the 1980-ies, including underwater and surface units of series "Jesus" (Zhishui), in service with the fleet. In semi-Autonomous mode, these underwater robotic systems able to perform tasks at a great distance from the control center and depths of over 600 metres. These systems provide status monitoring of subsea installations (cables, pipelines, etc.), leading the exploration of natural resources (searching mineral deposits in the southwestern waters of the Indian ocean). Data MRTK able to listen to or interrupt telephone conversations carried on cable communication lines, disrupt the integrity of the cables and destroy the items of stationary systems of hydroacoustic monitoring (for example, ASUS).

Laboratory for the production of MRTK in 2016, demonstrated the device series "Jesus-IV" (equipped with two screw propellers and two rudders) In the submersible sensors are mounted depth, speed, course, equipment, exchange data with other underwater devices, lighting underwater environment.

In 2014, the Institute of mechanical engineering and the national center of ocean technology in Tianjin demonstrated in the Northern part of the South China sea MRTK type "Petrel" (Haiyan). The device is an underwater glider, which has the ability to change the depth of immersion, equipped with small efficient powerplant, resulting in greater autonomy at the decision of tasks surveillance and reconnaissance at a great distance from the control point data of the robotic complex.

It should be noted that the Chinese leadership an important place is given to the development and production of UAVS for solving problems of control of sea borders and coastal areas. In the interests of the deployed units of the coast guard, which are armed drones that capture violations of the enemy's Maritime borders, provide comprehensive support of combat ships, search for sailors on the water, convey information about the damage to the ships, and in the future – electronic warfare.

Shanghai engineering Institute for the development of underwater vehicles in 2016 presented a promising RTK series "Jinghai-4". The devices of this series demonstrated the high efficiency activities of Chinese research ships in the waters of the South China sea (2013), in 2014 the robot "snow dragon" (Snow Dragon) ensured the activities of the Chinese expedition at the South pole. Currently, the Institute is developing a robotic system multi-purpose "Jinghai-7". In 2015, the Navy of China announced the adoption of the deep-water apparatus "Great wall", about the ongoing work to create a distributed system of monitoring of underwater environment, which will allow to warn about natural disasters, typhoons, and increase the effectiveness of intelligence activities of the enemy on the sea.

Special attention to Chinese military experts pay applications MRTK as part of advanced carrier strike groups of the Chinese Navy in the interests of resolving the tasks of ASW and anti-surface ships. Analysis of Chinese military sources allows to conclude that, by 2035 the Navy will apply the option according to which heterogeneous MRTK included in the generated Aug to ensure the action of the ships at sea.

The results of the analysis of the views of the military leadership of China on the creation and use of MRTK show that these robotic systems are considered by Chinese military experts as a promising highly efficient weapon, able to operate autonomously at sea.

Thus, the rapid increase in the production of robotic systems for military purposes contributes to improving capabilities of the PLA on the use of future combat systems in the military conflicts of the future that can counter possible enemy in the air, on sea and on land. The Chinese government provides significant investment support to the development programs of RTK for military purposes. This work focused in the areas of creation of elements of artificial intelligence and nanotechnology designed to significantly extend the functionality of robotic systems of different types, to bring their quantitative and qualitative indicators of the same weapons systems produced in the United States, France, Germany and Israel.

Ruslan Bolonchuk

*Research center of military ground robotic systems China implements the development apparatus of this type under the conditional name "the big Dog" (Big Dog).

RELATED MATERIALS: Defence and security