Japanese defense officials informed the Pentagon that the Link-11 secure military communication system was compromised after a U.S. Navy plane was forced down. Japanese defense officials confirmed that Tokyo ordered its defense forces to change Link-11 codes immediately after the EP-3E was captured.
The U.S. Navy EP-3E surveillance aircraft held by China is equipped with the most advanced version of the NATO Link-11 secure communication system. The Navy aircraft was forced to land on Hainan Island after a collision with a Chinese air force F-8 interceptor in April.
Japan has bought several EP-3E aircraft from America and shares the Link-11 system with U.S. allies in NATO. The Link-11 system passes information between ground stations and airborne early-warning aircraft of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
The EP-3E in question, aircraft PR-32, was equipped with the latest version of the NATO Link-11 system, code named "Story Book." Japanese officials are concerned that, even if the hard drives of the computers were magnetically wiped and the CD-ROM key disks were destroyed, there is still much the Chinese could learn.
Chinese Army Uses Stolen U.S. System
Chinese military engineers are already very familiar with the U.S. designed Link-11 communication system. The Chinese military employs a stolen version of the U.S.-made Link-11. The Link W system employed by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is an unlicensed copy of the U.S. Navy Link-11.
Japan also shares the Link-11 system with America. Japan has two new Boeing 767 airliners, equipped with huge American designed radars to monitor aircraft and missile activity inside China. The Link-11 communication systems in these aircraft are identical to those used on the captured American EP-3E. Japanese military officials are worried that the new Boeing early-warning aircraft will be jammed and unable to pass critical data to command posts in the event of war with China.
The Japan Defense Agency in Tokyo ordered an immediate evaluation of the risks to Japan after the U.S. Navy EP-3E was captured. Taiwan and Japan regularly fly electronic surveillance aircraft in the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea to monitor Chinese army communications and Chinese navy warship activity. Since the April EP-3E incident, Japanese and Taiwanese flights have been escorted by fighters and watched closely by radar.
Navy and CIA Ignored Warnings
Pentagon sources are convinced that the EP-3E incident was not an accident. In March, U.S. Navy intelligence officials ignored the repeated close encounters with the Chinese air force's jets, deciding that they were the actions of a single "hot-shot" pilot.
Now defense analysts stated that they are certain that Chinese pilot Wang Wei acted with permission from PLAAF command. The Chinese air force operates under a strict Soviet-style control system that does not allow pilots to fly close passes without permission.
In addition, Chinese army intelligence officials warned their American counterparts in January that the People's Liberation Army disapproved of American spy satellites, warning that the PLA might shoot one down in the future. CIA officials reportedly ignored the warnings from Beijing at the time.
Defense officials now acknowledge the China has the capability of disabling or destroying a U.S. satellite. U.S. spy satellites are considered strategic assets and are monitoring Chinese military exercises. U.S. satellites also monitored the recent deployment of Chinese DF-11 and DF-15 mobile missiles to forward bases opposite Taiwan.
Army's Anti-satellite Weapons
The Chinese military has several active anti-satellite programs and has demonstrated a conventional space-rocket-launched anti-satellite weapon. More importantly, the People's Liberation Army Air Force is working on an aircraft launched anti-satellite missile that can pop up unexpectedly to attack U.S. satellites.
The PLAAF program reportedly included the purchase of a MiG-31 Foxhound aircraft from Russia to fire a large, two-stage, anti-satellite missile. The Russian Foxhound is capable of flying at speeds in excess of 2,000 miles an hour at extremely high altitudes. Apparently the Chinese attempt to buy the Foxhound from Moscow has failed. However, the new Chinese J-11 Flanker jet fighter is capable of carrying the large anti-satellite missile.
The Chinese army is also working on a ground-based laser designed to destroy or disable U.S. satellites. Recent translations of Chinese military documentation show that the PLA accelerated development of beam weapons during 2000. The new PLA anti-satellite laser is estimated to be able to deliver over 10,000 watts of output power on a target up to 500 miles away.