China breaks ground on futuristic supercomputer complex

China will be using its supercomputing capability for scientific research such as climate models, but also for military purposes

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"[China seeks to] integrate electronic warfare, cyber operations, [psychological operations], denial and deception, and kinetic attack to defeat adversary information systems," Ulman testified. "[China's People's Liberation Army] seems intent on integrating electronic warfare with cyber operations."

China is developing "stealthy" fighter aircraft with a small radar cross-section that's expected to be operational between 2017 and 2019, said Roger Cliff, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corp., who studies China's military capabilities.

In e-mailed answers toi questions about the slide, Cliff said that it "illustrates how supercomputers can be used to calculate the radar cross-section of an aircraft or a ship. This can help designers choose shapes for an aircraft or ship that will have the smallest possible radar cross-section."

When Lockheed developed the first stealth aircraft, the F-117, in the 1980s, its designers "lacked the computing power to calculate in advance the radar cross-section of a particular design. The F-117 therefore consisted entirely of flat surfaces," said Cliff.

Since then, however, "improved computing technology has allowed aircraft designers to create aircraft that have more complicated surfaces, enabling them to be capable of high aerodynamic performance while minimizing their radar cross-section. The slide is illustrating is how the Chinese Academy of Sciences Supercomputing Center can aid in the development of aircraft and ships with minimal radar cross-sections. This implies that China is trying to develop stealthy aircraft, but that was already known," said Cliff.

In releasing the rendering of the supercomputing center, Chinese officials did not detail what kind of research will be conducted there. But a photo of the groundbreaking on Sunday showed 11 people, among them two individuals wearing what appeared to be military uniforms.

China supercompting center groundbreaking
A photo from the groundbreaking ceremony for the supercomputing center shows two people, third from left and fourth from right, apparently dressed in military uniforms.

Construction is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at  @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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