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Land-Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM)

China is developing land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) for theater warfighting and strategic attack. These cruise missiles seem to have a relatively high development priority to ensure that Chinese forces will have greater conventional firepower. Long-range cruise missiles probably will also be used to bolster the viability of Chinese military deterrence. The first LACM design produced probably will be air-launched from Chinese bombers and should be operational early in the next century. China could develop a sea-launched version for use on either submarines or surface combatants. Almost no hard data is available concerning this new weapon system, though various sources have provided fragmentary accounts.

Chinese LACM R&D is aided by an aggressive effort to acquire foreign cruise missile technology, particularly from Russia. China also seeks enabling technologies and subsystems from the United States and other foreign countries. It has been reported that that China transported cruise missile production facilities from Russia to a location in the vicinity of Shanghai in 1993, and recruited cruise missile engineering specialists from Russia in 1995 and. It is also reported that China has obtained technical data concerning a Russian cruise missile guidance system.

The guidance system represents the most significant challenge for a long-range cruise missile program. China would require an extensive database of accurate topographic information to use terrain comparison (TERCOM) guidance. But TERCOM would probably be relatively ineffective in areas such as the South China Sea, which present few navigational reference points. Published reports suggest that GPS would initially be used as the primary guidance system, possibly to be supplemented subsequently with TERCOM.

The potential use of the American GPS system would render this system vulnerable to jamming of the unencrypted civil signal (CA code) from GPS satellites within view of the Chinese area of operations, or to local jamming and spoofing in the target area. Chinese cruise missiles could still find their targets using intertial navigation system [INS] technology, but without GPS updates they would be significantly less accurate.

Sources and Resources

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