22 December 2010

Selected ASBM-Related Content from Ronald O’Rourke’s 1 December 2010 Congressional Research Service Report “China Naval Modernization”

Ronald O’Rourke, “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, 1 December 2010.

Selected Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM)-Related Content:

pp. 3-4

“DOD and other observers believe that the near-term focus of China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, has been to develop military options for addressing the situation with Taiwan. Consistent with this goal, observers believe that China wants its military to be capable of acting as a so-called anti-access force—a force that can deter U.S. intervention in a conflict involving Taiwan, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening U.S. naval and air forces. ASBMs, attack submarines, and supporting C4ISR systems are viewed as key elements of China’s emerging anti-access force, though other force elements—such as ASCMs, LACMs (for attacking U.S. air bases and other facilities in the Western Pacific), and mines—are also of significance. China’s emerging maritime anti-access force can be viewed as broadly analogous to the sea-denial force that the Soviet Union developed during the cold war to deny U.S. use of the sea or counter U.S. forces participating in a NATO- Warsaw Pact conflict. One potential difference between the Soviet sea-denial force and China’s emerging maritime anti-access force is that China’s force includes ASBMs capable of hitting moving ships at sea.”

p. 7

“Observers have expressed strong concern about the DF-21D, because such missiles, in combination with broad-area maritime surveillance and targeting systems, would permit China to attack aircraft carriers, other U.S. Navy ships, or ships of allied or partner navies operating in the Western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has not previously faced a threat from highly accurate ballistic missiles capable of hitting moving ships at sea. Due to their ability to change course, the MaRVs on an ASBM would be more difficult to intercept than non-maneuvering ballistic missile reentry vehicles.”

pp. 8-9

An August 16, 2010, news report stated:

China will test its new the [sic] Dong Feng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile, the country’s state media said Friday [August 13]. There is speculation that Beijing is responding to the U.S. deployment of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to the West Sea [i.e., the Yellow Sea] and the South China Sea to join naval exercises with Korea and Vietnam, which China considers too close for comfort.

Internet China National Radio said the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation will soon test-fire “a weapon under an important state weapons project.”

Although it did not specify what this project was, it carried a photo of a Dong Feng 21C medium-range ballistic missile, the same series as the Dong Feng 21D, and an artist’s drawing of such missiles attacking an American aircraft carrier.22

22 “China to Test-Fire New Anti-Ship Missile,” The Chosen Ilbo (English edition) (english.chosen.com), August 16, 2010.

p. 30

“Comparisons of numbers of ships (or aggregate tonnages) do not take into account maritime-relevant capabilities that countries might have outside their navies, such as land-based anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), land-based anti- ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), and land-based air force aircraft armed with ASCMs. This is a particularly important consideration in comparing U.S. and Chinese military capabilities for influencing events in the Western Pacific.”

p. 43

The U.S. Navy and (for sea-based ballistic missile defense programs) the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) have taken a number of steps in recent years that appear intended, at least in part, at improving the U.S. Navy’s ability to counter Chinese maritime anti-access capabilities, including but not limited to the following:

  • increasing antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training for Pacific Fleet forces;
  • shifting three Pacific Fleet Los Angeles (SSN-688) class SSNs to Guam;
  • basing all three Seawolf (SSN-21) class submarines—the Navy’s largest and most heavily armed SSNs—in the Pacific Fleet (at Kitsap-Bremerton, WA);
  • basing two of the Navy’s four converted Trident cruise missile/special operations forces submarines (SSGNs) in the Pacific (at Bangor, WA);98
  • assigning most of the Navy’s ballistic missile defense (BMD)-capable Aegis cruisers and destroyers to the Pacific—and homeporting some of those ships at Yokosuka, Japan, and Pearl Harbor, HI;
  • expanding the planned number of BMD-capable ships from three Aegis cruisers and 15 Aegis destroyers to 10 Aegis cruisers and all Aegis destroyers;99 and
  • increasing the planned procurement quantity of SM-3 BMD interceptor missiles.

In addition, the Navy’s July 2008 proposal to stop procurement of Zumwalt (DDG-1000) class destroyers and resume procurement of Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class Aegis destroyers can be viewed as having been prompted in large part by Navy concerns over its ability to counter China’s maritime anti-access capabilities. The Navy stated that this proposal was driven by a change over the last two years in the Navy’s assessment of threats that U.S. Navy forces will face in coming years from ASCMs, ballistic missiles, and submarines operating in blue waters. Although the Navy in making this proposal did not highlight China by name, the Navy’s references to ballistic missiles and to submarines operating in blue waters can be viewed, at least in part, as a reference to Chinese ballistic missiles (including ASBMs) and Chinese submarines.

For further information on Chinese ASBM development, see “China Testing Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM); U.S. Preparing Accordingly–Updated With Latest Analysis & Sources.”