04 April 2010

Beijing Testing ‘Carrier Killer,’ US Warns

Greg Torode, Beijing Testing ‘Carrier Killer,’ US Warns,” South China Morning Post, 3 April 2010.

… Admiral Robert Willard, the commander of the US Pacific Command, recently told US congressmen that China was both “developing and testing” [an ASBM]—the first formal comment from a senior US official that progress had advanced to the testing phase. …

Foreign and American military analysts are scrutinising Willard’s remarks. Many believe China’s ASBM development could be reaching its final stages after extensive funding and theoretical work but are unsure precisely what testing is under way.

There is certainly no sign of a fully integrated flight test on a moving target—something that would be very hard to hide. Such tests are widely considered vital before Beijing’s political leadership would be fully committed to funding the production of an ASBM and formally including it among its defensive options. …

Dr Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute of the US Naval [War] College, said there were a range of possibilities in terms of testing.

“While system components may be tested separately, and on the ground in many cases, a fully integrated flight test is likely to be necessary to give the PLA confidence in approving full-scale production and deploying ASBMs in a full operational state,” he said, speaking in a private capacity.

Noting the potential significance of Willard’s remarks, Erickson said a number of factors were converging to the point some form of ASBM flight tests might be important.

He noted China’s expanding defence spending, a clear strategic rationale as well its long development of ballistic missile technology dating back to the 1950s. More specifically, he also noted the reported completion of a factory to produce rocket motors for an ASBM and the launch of advanced maritime surveillance satellites – including several Yaogan satellites in recent months. …