China defense initiatives put IT on front line

The Chinese military is developing tools and programs to disrupt electronic systems and deface Web pages during times of attack, according to a Department of Defense report released July 11 to Congress.

Within the next decade, China may have tools that will jam electronics in guidance, altimeter, fire control, communications, navigation and other critical missile and aircraft subsystems through the use of high-powered radio frequencies, according to the "Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China."

Although the report states "there is little evidence that a program to produce a radio frequency weapon for this mission has been initiated," it also said much of the basic research needed to build such a weapon has begun.

The country also may be developing jammers that can be used against Global Positioning System receivers and may also contract Russia to build a high-powered microwave system to target electronics in guided weapons.

Web pages and data networks may also be in the firing line, according to the report. The People's Liberation Army of China has been recruiting specialists, including students, for duties in information operations and information warfare.

In the near future, "nationalistic hacking is likely to occur during periods of tension or crises," the report said. Such hacking might transpire as "extensive Web page defacements with themes sympathetic to China."

The report, completed as a requirement of the fiscal 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, reviews the state and probable future of military-technological development of the Chinese Army. It estimated that China has a total annual defense budget of $65 billion for 2002, though the country publicly claims an annual budget of $20 billion, or an increase of 17.6 percent. Double-digit growth of the Chinese military budget is expected from 2001 to 2005.

Other Chinese military IT systems undergoing development include those in:

*Command, control, communications, computers and intelligence. China is building an infrastructure to enable joint battle management. "By 2010, the PLA ... should have developed the operational concepts and the training needed to fight as an integrated force," the report said. Current military communications networks, run by both the government and contractors, employ coaxial and fiber-optic cable, satellite communications, microwave radio relay and long-range high frequency radio.

*Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. China is developing reconnaissance satellites, airborne early warning aircraft, long-range unmanned aerial vehicles and over-the-horizon radar that will better detect, monitor and target naval activity in the western Pacific Ocean. The country already has a number of short-range and longer-range UAVs.

The offices that provided these findings were not included in the public release of this report. The report is available online at www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2002/d20020712china.pdf.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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