HONG KONG, March 6 (UPI) -- "Anti-piracy operations" have given China's People's Liberation Army navy the best excuse to penetrate the Indian Ocean and station forces there permanently.
As fighting piracy around the Gulf of Aden becomes a long-term mission, the PLA navy South Sea Fleet is likely to set up a sub-fleet to handle that task -- perhaps the "Indian Ocean Sub-fleet of the South Sea Fleet" -- and the PLA navy will become the new owner of the Indian Ocean.
In recent months, Chinese military publications have carried a number of articles stating that "the Indian Ocean does not belong to India." The intent of these articles is increasingly clear.
While carrying out anti-piracy operations, the PLA navy's warships will gain experience in long-distance maritime combat operations in preparation for the establishment of an oceangoing aircraft carrier fleet. The Chinese navy may dispatch other warships, such as its 054A FFG, on similar missions in the future.
China has a key military objective in dispatching warships to the Gulf of Aden. The "Chinese Aegis" class DDG it has sent to the region has the most advanced radar detection and C4IRS capabilities, and therefore can conduct effective battlefield monitoring exercises in this region. The Gulf of Aden provides the best geographical environment for the PLA navy to conduct surveillance on the activities of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
The powerful detection capability of the Chinese Aegis DDG relies on the Sea Lion active phased array radar installed on the battleship.
China received some of the subsystems and technological advice from the Ukrainian Kvant Design Bureau in developing this radar system. This is the bureau that participated in the research and development of almost all major Soviet surface warship radar systems. This includes the Fregat 2EM 3-D radar, which China imitated from the Russian system, working from a blueprint provided by Kvant.
China redesigned and reconfigured the Sea Lion radar system on its own, however, particularly the electric circuits, according to an authoritative source from the Ukrainian Administration of Arms Import and Export.
The development from passive to active phased array radar means huge technological progress, as the problem of the large radiator covering the antenna must be solved. The Chinese system uses the radiator cover designed by Ukraine; it regularly cools the antennas with a coolant to which a small amount of desiccant is added.
The technical perimeters of the radar system on the Chinese Aegis class DDG have never been officially released. Western observers generally believe that the Russian and Chinese Aegis DDGs' data-processing systems lag far behind that of the U.S. Aegis class DDGs. The chief designer of the Chinese ship has also made similar comments.
The basic measurements of the Chinese Sea Lion radar system give some clues as to its performance features. It is a sea-to-air search radar capable of simultaneously searching for and tracking targets while constantly changing the beam indexes. It can search for more than 100 targets at once and track 50 of them at the same time.
(Part 2: The capabilities of China's Aegis radar "eye" to command the Indian Ocean)
(Andrei Chang is editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto.)