Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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China will Use Massive Electronic Warfare to Defend Illegal Gains in South China Sea


(Photo : PLA) SSF electronic warfare combat vehicle

The U.S. Department of Defense estimates China is placing huge emphasis on electronic warfare (EW) and will use this heightened capability to better defend its illegal holdings in the South China Sea against any attack by the United States.

China has also gone a step further than the U.S. by integrating electronic warfare and cyber warfare into a singular discipline that must be conducted simultaneously.

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"The (People's Liberation Army) sees EW as an important force multiplier, and would likely employ it in support of all combat arms and services during a conflict," said the annual report on China's military and security developments submitted by the Pentagon.

The report believes the PLA is placing greater emphasis on EW, which is now at par with traditional domains of warfare such as air, ground and maritime.

The newly-established Strategic Support Force (SSF) is in charge of the PLA's space, cyberspace and EW operations. SSF's mission is to ensure that the PLA's military superiority is maintained in space and on the Internet.

Its responsibilities include targeted reconnaissance and tracking; global positioning operations and space assets management, as well as defense against electronic warfare and hostile activities in cyberspace.

The Pentagon report revealed the PLA's EW units have conducted jamming and anti-jamming operations, and has tested EW weapons, equipment and performance. All these have helped the PLA improve its "confidence in conducting force-on-force, real-equipment confrontation operations in simulated EW environments."

China's EW weapons include "jamming equipment against multiple communication and radar systems and GPS satellite systems. EW systems are also being deployed with other sea- and air-based platforms intended for both offensive and defensive operations."

But its in their merging of cyber and electronic warfare into a singular discipline that makes the Chinese stand apart from the U.S.

In the U.S. system, EW tends to focus on jamming and various other aspects. The Chinese, however, have long seen EW as an integration of network and electronic warfare.

"That the two are two sides of the same coin; one focusing on the data, the other on the electronic equipment," said Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative American think tank based in Washington D.C.

China will use its immense EW capabilities to better defend its man-made islands in the South China Sea, which it sees as its first line of defense against the U.S. These artificial islands and those seized from neighboring Asian countries such as the Philippines allow China to control the South China Sea while compromising U.S. alliances with Asian countries.

China's EW capabilities will also be used against far less sophisticated nations such as Vietnam, India, Taiwan or Japan.

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