04 January 2011

Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6): China Has Space-Based & Non-Space-Based C2 + ISR “capable of providing the targeting information necessary to employ the DF-21D” Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM)

In response to a query from Bloomberg news reporter Tony Capaccio, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6) provided the following responses on Monday 3 January 2011:

1. Does the US Navy agree with ADM Willard’s view that the Chinese have reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) with the DF 21D?

Answer: The U.S. Navy agrees with Admiral Willard’s characterization of the DF-21D as IOC. China has developed a workable design for an antiship ballistic missile. However, several definitions of IOC used by U.S. agencies include the requirement that an operational unit be capable of effectively employing the system in question. The U.S. Navy does not believe this is the case for China and the DF-21D.

2. Do the Chinese have the C2, satellite links, and other systems in place and operational to potentially employ the missile?

Answer: China likely has the space based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), command and control structure, and ground processing capabilities necessary to support DF-21D employment. China operates a wide spectrum of satellites which can provide data useful for targeting within its maritime region. China employs an array of non-space based sensors and surveillance assets capable of providing the targeting information necessary to employ the DF-21D.

3. How effective can it be if it has not been flight tested?

Answer: It is unknown to us, and probably the Chinese, as to how effective the missile will be without a full-scale test.

4. Has the satellite and command and control system needed to cue the weapon been IOCd? If not, any sense of how many more years?

Answer: Yes, the satellite C2 systems are likely in place.

5. Does N2 assess that the missile itself, without the satellite cuing system, is a threat to Navy carriers and other vessels?

Answer: Yes, China’s non-space based ISR could provide the necessary information to support DF-21D employment. This includes aircraft, UAVs, fishing boats, and over-the-horizon radar for ocean surveillance and targeting.


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 detailed analysis of Admiral Willard’s statement regarding China’s ASBM, 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.”