The PRC is envisioning low-yield nuclear weapons that generate an electro-magnetic pulse designed to knock out the sensitive electronic equipment of US aircraft carriers, according to a declassified report:
“For use against Taiwan, China could detonate at a much lower altitude (30 to 40 kilometers) … to confine the EMP effects to Taiwan and its immediate vicinity and minimize damage to electronics on the mainland,” the report said.
The report, produced in 2005 and once labeled “secret,” stated that Chinese military writings have discussed building low-yield EMP warheads, but “it is not known whether [the Chinese] have actually done so.”
The report said that in addition to EMP weapons, “any low-yield strategic nuclear warhead (or tactical nuclear warheads) could be used with similar effects.”
“The DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile has been mentioned as a platform for the EMP attack against Taiwan,” the report said.
According to the report, China’s electronic weapons are part of what are called “trump card” or “assassin’s mace” weapons that “are based on new technology that has been developed in high secrecy.”
Planning to toss around nukes in the event of a local conflict – even low-yield nukes – would be a hilariously bad idea, were it not for the fact that it lacks any trace of hilarity. The risk of miscalculation in proportionate response is significant.
Strategic weapons, as the Chinese ought to know, are designed to guarantee national survival, and the distinction between a tactical nuke and a strategic weapon is chiefly one of perspective: If yours lands on him, it’s tactical. When his reply lands on you, it’s strategic.