CHINESE AIR DEFENSE CAPABILITIES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

Created: 7/17/1964

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CHINESE AIR DEFENSE CAPABILITIES IK SOUTHEAST ASIA

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CHINESE AIR DEFENSE CAPABILITIES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

Rocer.t top-lavolbetwoon tha North jirianaao and Chinese Conojnlsts probably concerned actions to bs taken to dofand Communist-dominated parts of Southeast Asia against air attack. There may also bava been some discussion of whatmight bs taken against tbe recentlyanti-Communist Mr activity Idbotb tho8 strikes and US photors-connalssancs missions. North Vietnam, which bas no tactical air fores, may obtain soms air support from Communist China, There is no evldsncs to suggestovement of jet aircraft ls imminent,ecant statement by Chinese Communist ForeignChen Tl put the US on notice tbat it couldChinese countormovea if it attacked North For the moment, both the Pathet Lao and Viet Cong ars Improving their air defsnses primarily by introducing more end better antiaircraft waapons for uss against low-flying aircraft.

Viatnan

Hanoi, prohibited froman air forca under the terms of4 Censvs Accords, has nevertheless developed aair defense capability. An airly warning radar system begun7 now has abouttations providing information to airheadquarters in Hanoi. The network's coverage extends as far west as eastern Thailand, as far south ash parallel, and as far east as Hainan Island, The equipment, with the oxceptlon of one, possibly two, Flstface radars near Hanoi, la limited to early-model radars produced ln China and the USSR, and is woo-fully deficient ln establishing target altitudes.

Active defease againstaircraft depends upon a

wide assortment of light and medium antiaircraft artillery

(AAA). Most of this equipment

dates from World War II, but

sons relativelymm. guns

may have been added ln recent

years. The mediumm.,

rimarily

used to defend critical targets

such as urban areas, has an sf-

fective vertical range of about

eet.

Since last February, the Vietnamese air defensehas beenroatlycombat alert. ew "commandas beento tighten control over artillery units in tbe dopuIous Red River Delta area.

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beenby efforts to prepare the public psychologically against air attacks. pecial party conference on the "People's Air Defenses" was convened in late June.

Although North Vietnam has no combat aircraft, thefor the creation of an air arm have been laid. Vietnamese pilots have beenountry-wide civil transport fleet since An air command and administrative organ, which probably directs long-term development plans, has been in existence since at least

North Vietnameseremendous boost during the Soviet airlift into Laos, which began in0 and extended During this period runways were improved, POL and cargo storage areas wereand facilities warefor loading and unloading, maintenance, and comnunicattons. When the airlift ended, enough aircraft were left behind to more than double Hanoi's

A large number of airfields inherited from the French have been improved and onlarged over the years. Aboutow are serviceable, including at least three in tbe Hanoi-Haiphong area that are considered capable of supporting limited jet fighter operations.

A modern airfield withoot runway has been under construction with Chinesesince2 at Phuc Yen near Hanoi. The fieldis Intended to serverincipal international air terminal, but it is capable of handling almost all types ofaircraft. Civilianincluding Chinesejet transports, have been using lt sinceune, although some fueling, maintenance, and electronics facilities are not quite completed.

Aside from the actualof aircraft, the lack of training facilities poses the most serious obstacle to theof an indigenous air force. Only basic flightcan be provided in Northand for that only about ISMax) piston-engineare available. There have been consistent low-level reports that Vietnamese pilots arsadvanced flight training in China, the Eastern European satellites, and, lately, in the Soviet Union. Thus far, however, only the training of civilian pilots in China has been confirmed.

As long as North Vietnamighter capability lt will remain extremely vulnerable to air attack. It will have to roly upon fighter aircraft basod in southwest China to make up the deficit.

Communist China

Pelplng's first moves toits air power in southwest China camehen lt created an air defense district coinciding roughly with the Kunming Military Region, established an earlyradar network, and moved one

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of Jet fighters to egiment ls equivalentS Air Force squadronlanes*) Little more was done until the late summer Then,our by North Vietnamese military figure* ln Chios ln June* an additional regiment of jet fighters was de* ployedew airfield at Heng-txu, aboutiles north of the North Vietnamese border.

At about tbe same time,began closing the radar gap In western south China, Sinceour radar stations bave been moved closer to the Sino-Vletnamese border and equipped with the latest Chinese long-range early warninground control Intercept (CCD station was added oarly this year to guide fighter aircraft to their targets.

Since the regiment was added at HengtzUt there have beenet fighters in the area. Early warning and GCI control are providedadar net of sometationsiles of

the Vietnamese border. Flight operations can be conducted from five first-line airfields and several backup bases In thearea and in south Chins.

This gives theood capability to detect, track, and undertake timely defensive measures against daylightln clear weather by small numbers of subsonicalong the Slno-Laos and Sino-Vietnamese border. Their capability to handle greater Qumbera of intruders would vary with the number of GCIand Interceptor aircraft

assigned to this area. Thepaucity of GCI stations, especially west of Nanning,that large-scale airwould quickly saturatedefenses.

anned, subsonic bomber threat at medium altitudes the Chinese Communist Jet fighter aircraft would probably beduring the day under good flying conditions. Against super sonic threat such ssntercspt would be limited to the HIC-21 (Flshbed) and even then would be marginal. Nightwould probably go largely unmolested because of the limited number of airborne radar-equipped interceptors currently operating ln south China, Weaponsat very low and very high altitudes would also be limited.

Chinese jet fighters staged from forward bases such as Meng-tzu could operate over majorof Laos and North Vietnam as well as some areas of Burma and Thailand. Their however, would probably be marginal unless pilotis greatly improved. At present, for example, Jet pilots assigned to first-rate units are evidently not receiving adequate flight training to maintain tho high standards of proficiency which would be necessary toodern air force.

Air defenses In the south China area could be expanded at any time, but there are several limiting factors. Of the five

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frJnt^TTnO airbases only Nannlnglas unoccupied, and few otherin the forward area could be converted readily to tactical use. Th* deployment of additional units to secondary bases in the southwest China district would probably strain China's logistic facilities. All bulk items destined for that area, such as aircraft POL supplies, must be brought inircuitous single-track rail line that runs through North Vietnam.

orth Vietnamese Air Defense Cooperation-

No link has been detectedtho air defense systems of China and North Vietnam, but the development of such a link seems likely In view of the general trend toward closer political and military cooperation.

Recent US threats have probably given an increased urgency to plans

for air defense cooperation, at least to tbe extent of exchanging early warning Information. Such cooperation may be an Important topic of the high-level talksPeiping and Hanoi thathave been under way sinceune. Sino-Vietnamesemore restricted in scope and importance, apparently took place last summer prior to theof jet fighters to Hengtzu.

Contingency plans havebeen made for tbe urn* ofaircraft over North Vietnam should the situation warrantove. Steps may have been taken to facilitate the movement of jet aircraft into North Vietnam on short notice if military operations arm extended to North Vietnam.

Jet fuel storage facilities ar* near completion at the new airfield at Phuc Yen. but there is still no sign of the developments

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which would probably precede the

introduction of jets. bl icludttrthe establishment ofsites, the activation of

military flight service and

fighter operations I

Laos last month.

and directof Chinese-speakingln the North Vietnamese air defense aystem.

Before deciding to send jets, Communist China mightNorth Vlstaamimited retaliatory tactical airsuch as suitable piston-engine, ground-attack aircraft.

Laoa and South Vietnam

The effectiveness ofair defenses ln Southandesser extent ln Laos, stems from tho nature of the terrain and the kind of war that is being fought thare. Guerrilla units operate inforested areas and can be dotocted only from low altitudes where attacking aircraft are vulnerable to small-arms ground fire.

Pathet Lao air defenses naveignificant expanalon ln rscsot months.mm. antiaircraftguna, many equipped with gun-laying radar, have been firmly identified ln photography of central and southern Laos since mid-May. Ground observers reported the movement ofmm. antiaircraft machine guna from North Vietnam

OS jets were downed over this area last month and many Laotian airave received some flak damage.

In South Vietnam, the Hanoi-directed Viet Cong have devised tactics to counter theincreased use of air Large-caliber machine guns have been equipped with special mounts and gun sights, and guerrilla units aretraining in antiaircraft techniques. Last year the Viet Cong scored ten times as many hits on government aircraft as they had ln the previous year.

In the light of8 activity against the Pathet Lao by tbe Laotian Air Force, the Pathet Lao will probablyto improve their defensive capability through theof additional antiaircraft artillery and fire-control radar from North Vietnam. The Viet Cong have substantially Improved their capabilities against low-flying aircraft and helicopters, and they too will undoubtodly receive increasing quantities of light mobile automatic weapons which will further improve their effectiveness.

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