J. Michael Dahm

South China Sea Military Capabilities Series

In the information age, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believe that success in combat will be realized by winning a struggle for information superiority in the operational batttlespace. China’s informationized warfare strategy and information-centric operational concepts are central to how the PLA will generate combat power. These South China Sea (SCS) military capability (MILCAP) studies provide a survey of military technologies and systems on Chinese-claimed island-reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands. The relative compactness of China’s SCS outposts makes them an attractive case study of PLA military capabilities. Each island-reef and its associated military base facilities may be captured in a single commercial satellite image. An examination of capabilities on China’s island-reefs reveals the PLA’s informationized warfare strategy and the military’s designs on generating what the Chinese call “information power.” The SCS MILCAP series is organized around different categories of information power capabilities, from reconnaissance to communications to hardened infrastructure. Kinetic effects will remain an important component of PLA operational design. However, any challenger to Chinese military capabilities in the SCS must first account for and target the very core of the PLA’s informationized warfare strategy—its information power.