The murky world of China’s stealth hubcaps

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I get it that aircraft need stealth designs and coatings. I also understand the benefits of stealthy designs for ships. But stealthy hubcaps on trucks?

It emerged that Chinese engineers from the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) worked long and hard – six months, in fact – to create ‘wonder hubs’ for the wheels of missile transporter-erector-launchers (TEL) ahead of China’s military parade in Tiananmen Square, Beijing on 3 September 2015.

The parade featured 12,000 Chinese troops and no less than 500 pieces of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) equipment. Of that total, there were 112 missile launchers/TELs from the Second Artillery Corps, since renamed the Rocket Force.

The PLA had requested that CASIC design these ‘cloaking devices’ to stop snooping foreign intelligence operatives from learning more than they should. Thus, 30 engineers and workers from Wuhan Magnetism-Electron in Hubei Province (including four doctoral and 11 master’s degree holders, it should be pointed out), designed the requisite equipment.

A report by the China Daily quoted Gao Zhuo, a military observer in Shanghai, as saying foreign missile specialists would be able to calculate the weight of a missile and its warhead if they could examine the transporter vehicles’ wheels.

‘This information is highly sensitive because you can use it to judge a missile’s power and capacity,’ he said. ‘I think the specially designed shells can reduce radar and thermal detection, enabling the missile to remain a secret from those in the crowd using mini-detection devices, or from spy satellites.’

Really? I was at the parade but unfortunately I did not see any mini-detection devices among the crowd.

It seems all a bit paranoid from my perspective.

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It is possible that CASIC provided more stealth features than just the hubcaps, but I have to question the point. Look at any reputable source and you will find fairly detailed information about the estimated weights, sizes and ranges of Chinese missiles.

Ironically, the DF-10, DF-15B and DF-31A all appeared in the preceding 2009 parade without such special wheel hubs. All that these mysterious ‘missile specialists’ have to do then is obtain some revealing photos of TELs from that event.

I’m just not sure that stealth hubcaps are going to gain much traction…

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