04 January 2010

Ballistic Trajectory—China Develops New Anti-Ship Missile

Andrew S. Erickson, Ballistic Trajectory—China Develops New Anti-Ship Missile,” China Watch, Jane’s Intelligence Review 22 (4 January 2010): 2-4.

China’s anti-ship ballistic missile programme is showing signs of maturing. The missile could potentially deter or in wartime disable US carrier strike groups in the western Pacific. The development of the missile may motivate countermeasures from the US and other regional militaries.

It seems a cliché to cite Sun Zi’s maxim “in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.” Yet, this universally accepted approach does seem to correspond to Chinese military planning. Nowhere is this more true than in such ballistic missile developments as its anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) programme, one of several weapons designed to exploit relative Chinese military strengths against relative military weaknesses of the United States.

Through this approach, China is working to make it more difficult for the US to intervene militarily in China’s maritime periphery. An ASBM, if developed and deployed successfully, would be the world’s first weapons system capable of targeting a moving aircraft carrier strike group from long-range, land-based mobile launchers. This could make defences against it difficult and raise the prospect of potentially highly escalatory strikes against launchers or associated targets in China.

However, there are various obstacles that could limit China’s ability to deploy ASBMs effectively, particularly the issues of joint service operations and information usage. Further, the missile deployment could act as a significant escalation in military rivalry and may only prompt US forces to deploy countermeasures rather than prevent carrier strike group employment. …