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China reached a milestone in its drive to master the military
use of space with the launch of trials for its Beidou satellite
global positioning network, a move that will bring it one step
closer to matching US space capabilities.
If Beijing can successfully deploy the full 35 satellites planned for the Beidou network on schedule by 2020, its military will be free of its current dependence for navigation on the U.S. global positioning network (GPS) signals and Russia’s similar GLONASS system. And, unlike the less accurate civilian New satellites to extend China’s military reach versions of GPS and GLONASS available to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), this network will give China the accuracy to guide missiles, smart munitions and other weapons.
“This will allow a big jump in the precision attack capability of the PLA,” said Andrei Chang, a Hong Kong-based analyst of the Chinese military and editor of Kanwa Asian Defense magazine. China has launched 10 Beidou satellites and plans to launch six more by the end of next year, according to the China Satellite Navigation Management Office.
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