China’s rapidly developing high-speed train network spanning the length and breadth of the giant nation could prove to be of “immense strategic military value” for the rapid movement of forces and missiles, an official media report said.
China’s high-speed rail lines are becoming a major transport force for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), allowing the rapid movement of military forces throughout the country, a recent state-run news report said.
“While bringing convenience to the lives of the masses, high-speed rail also plays a military role that is growing more prominent by the day,” the article states.
“A lightly equipped division could be moved on the Wuhan-to-Guangzhou line – about 600 miles (965 kms) – in five hours, a fairly rapid mobilisation in military terms,” the China Youth Daily said outlining military benefits of the country’s six high-speed rail lines.
The report says that China’s high-speed rail network will provide “immense strategic military value”.
“And the Second Artillery (missile forces) could use the high-speed rail network to quickly deploy short-range missiles ‘in a certain strategic direction’ – presumably from inland locations to coastal regions near Taiwan or Japan,” the Washington Times quoted the Daily’s report as saying.
Other key rail lines include the Xian-Baoji and Xiamen-Shenzhen connections that are part of the network that has made China a world leader in high-speed rail.
Since 2009, the PLA has reportedly been using high-speed trains to move troops in exercises. In 2011, the military conducted a rapid troop transfer on the Beijing-Shanghai line.
The PLA’s ability to move troops to the border due to a highly developed rail, road and air infrastructure, including in the rugged Tibetan region, has long raised concerns in the Indian Army prompting the Indian government to initiate its own rapid infrastructure development along the Chinese border.
The January 14 report in the Daily said China will eventually set up a high-speed network of eight lines extending in all directions.
A typical military train includes 16 high-speed rail cars that can carry 1,100 lightly armed soldiers.
“With the daily improvement in China’s high-speed rail network, transferring a 100,000-strong army might be possible within half a day in the future,” the report said, adding that the military will use high-speed rail to project “mobile combat forces in various strategic directions”.
It said, “the use of high-speed trains as mobile missile launch platforms for strategic weapons is also a good idea”.
China is reportedly planning rail-mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) using a separate system that is not built for high-speed travel but for heavy transport.
“The speed with which vehicles change direction is less than in road manoeuvring and is suited to testing work during manoeuvring to reduce the time required to prepare for firing. In addition, it is possible to manoeuvre and shift more than a thousand kilometres at once, making it easier to escape enemy tracking,” the report said.