25 June 2009

Chinese ASBM Development: Knowns and Unknowns

Andrew S. Erickson, “Chinese ASBM Development: Knowns and Unknowns,” Jamestown China Brief 9.13 (24 June 2009): 4-8.

China wants to achieve the ability, or at minimum the appearance of the ability, to prevent a U.S. carrier strike group (CSG) from intervening in the event of a future Taiwan Strait crisis. China may be closer than ever to achieving this capability with land-based anti-ship homing ballistic missiles. There have been many Western reports that China is developing an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). Increasingly, technical and operationally-focused discussions are found in a widening array of Chinese sources, some authoritative. These factors suggest that China may be close to fielding, testing, or employing an ASBM—a weapon that no other country possesses. According to U.S. Government sources, Beijing is pursuing an ASBM based on its CSS-5/DF-21D solid propellant medium-range ballistic missile. The CSS-5’s 1,500 km+ range could hold ships at risk in a large maritime area—far beyond the Taiwan theatre into the Western Pacific. Yet there remain considerable unknowns about China’s ASBM capability, which could profoundly affect U.S. deterrence, military operations and the balance of power in the Western Pacific. …