Bradley Perrett, “China Details Anti-ship Missile Plans,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, 15 July 2011.
For more than a century, surface warships have been struggling to survive against mines, submarines, aircraft and, more recently, cruise missiles. Now China’s rapid development of a sophisticated anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) raises the threat to a new level.
The U.S. Navy, mindful of the threat and no less focused on advancing its technologies to protect its fleet, remains confident in its ability to project naval power globally on the surface as well as under water. But for less technologically advanced navies of the Asia-Pacific region, it is becoming difficult to see how in the decades ahead they can stand up to an opponent that can target surface ships with hypersonic homing warheads that can range more than 1,500 km (900 mi.)—and perhaps much farther.
China Daily is citing a range of 2,700 km for the revolutionary missile, the DF-21D, presenting the crucial data point in a report based on comments by the chief of the Chinese general staff, Gen. Chen Bingde. The Pentagon said last year the DF-21D’s range is “in excess of 1,500 km.”
If not a journalistic error, the statement means that U.S. aircraft carriers launching strike missions while keeping clear of DF-21Ds would need aircraft with even longer ranges than thought. It means that the DF-21Ds can be safely kept further inland. And, for Asian navies, it means the whole South China Sea can be covered from Guangdong, a Chinese province where DF-21Ds are based.
China’s second key revelation about the DF-21D is that it is still in development, though the U.S. has said it is in service.
“The missile is still undergoing experimental testing and will be used as a defensive weapon when it is successfully developed, not an offensive one,” says Chen. “It is a high-tech weapon and we face many difficulties in getting funding, advanced technologies and high-quality personnel, which are all underlying reasons why it is hard to develop this.” …
U.S. Naval War College Prof. Andrew Erickson says the tone of Chen’s remarks “could be interpreted to reflect a high level of uncertainly and ambivalence about the missile’s immediate prospects, directed at a Chinese audience through Chinese media.
“Viewed in this light, the three factors Gen. Chen outlines—funding, technology, talent—may be viewed as serious constraints, even bottlenecks, in the challenging task of successfully maturing and integrating an ASBM system of systems.”
China’s idea of “operational” may be closer to the U.S. concept of full operational capability, adds Erickson. …
For the latest analysis of official Chinese statements, see “General Chen Bingde, PLA Chief of General Staff, Becomes First Chinese Official to Confirm Publicly that “2,700 km-Range” DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) is in Development; “Not Operational Yet” by PLA Definition.”
For the latest analysis and sources on Chinese ASBM development, see “China’s Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) Reaches Equivalent of ‘Initial Operational Capability’ (IOC)—Where It’s Going and What it Means.”
For an explanation of Chinese ASBM development and its larger implications, see the China Maritime Studies Institute Lecture of Opportunity, “Chinese Sources Discuss the ASBM Threat to the U.S. Navy,” that I presented at the Naval War College on 21 March 2011.
For detailed analysis of Admiral Willard’s statement regarding China’s ASBM reaching IOC, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “China Deploys World’s First Long-Range, Land-Based ‘Carrier Killer’: DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) Reaches ‘Initial Operational Capability’ (IOC),” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 14 (26 December 2010).
For further background on Chinese ASBM development, see also “China Testing Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM); U.S. Preparing Accordingly–Updated With Latest Analysis & Sources.”