08 September 2009

Using the Land to Control the Sea? Chinese Analysts Consider the Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile

Andrew S. Erickson and David D. Yang, “Using the Land to Control the Sea? Chinese Analysts Consider the Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile,” Naval War College Review 62.4 (Autumn 2009): 53-86.

This article won the Naval War College Foundation Capt. Hugh G. Nott Prize (second place) in 2009, has been posted on U.S. Fleet Forces Command Website, and is a featured link in Wikipedia’s “Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile” entry.

China’s open-source literature does not establish whether that nation has, or is close to having, tactical ballistic missiles capable of effective attacks on surface ships. It does establish, however, that the Chinese are deeply interested in the idea—a potential “game changer” that would critically influence America’s place in the Pacific for decades to come—and heavily engaged in the issues involved, technically and otherwise.

For China, the ability to prevent a U.S. carrier strike group from intervening in the event of a Taiwan Strait crisis is critical. Beijing’s immediate strategic concerns have been defined with a high level of clarity. The Chinese are interested in achieving an antiship ballistic missile (ASBM) capability because it offers them the prospect of limiting the ability of other nations, particularly the United States, to exert military influence on China’s maritime periphery, which contains several disputed zones of core strategic importance to Beijing. ASBMs are regarded as a means by which technologically limited developing countries can overcome by asymmetric means their qualitative inferiority in conventional combat platforms, because the gap between offense and defense is the greatest here.