23 March 2011

“Chinese Sources Discuss the ASBM Threat to the U.S. Navy”–Naval War College Presentation–Full-Length Video Available

Andrew S. Erickson, “Chinese Sources Discuss the ASBM Threat to the U.S. Navy,” presented at China Maritime Studies Institute Lecture of Opportunity, Naval War College, 21 March 2011.

Click here for an adaptive version of the video on Vimeo, as well as the latest sources and analysis.

Click here for a link to videos of this and other CMSI lectures of opportunity

China’s anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) is the world’s first and only weapons system potentially capable of targeting a moving carrier strike group (CSG) from long-range, land-based mobile launchers. Top U.S. Navy officials state that it has reached the equivalent of Initial Operational Capability (IOC); it must now be taken seriously by foreign observers, and certain  operational possibilities now have to be taken into account as never before.

Since the 1920s, the U.S. Navy has built its carrier forces around the idea that the air group represents the first and best line of defense for the carrier. The ASBM potentially bypasses the air group and removes it from the defensive equation. Only one other major system has ever offered the possibility of doing this. That is the submarine, and while China is developing a potent fleet, it cannot today effectively conduct advanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW), while the U.S. can. Defense against missiles, by contrast, is potentially an extremely difficult problem for any military, though the U.S. is likely developing and employing a variety of potent countermeasures.

While the exact details remain uncertain, unofficial Chinese sources are increasingly assertive in their claims. One Chinese newspaper claimed in February 2011 that the missile has been deployed. A December 2010 opinion editorial in People’s Daily Online called U.S. CSGs “an easy target.”

Perhaps most important for U.S. analysts of China’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities development to understand now is how Chinese sources—including the Second Artillery’s authoritative handbook, the PLA Navy’s official magazine, technical studies by Second Artillery Engineering Academy researchers, and state shipbuilding industry-affiliated publications—view China’s ASBM development, its potential deterrence value, and its potential strategic and operational benefits, risks, and vulnerabilities. This lecture covers Chinese open source ASBM analysis comprehensively to give a deep sense of how Chinese strategists and analysts view a system that has the potential to fundamentally influence the ways of warfare in the Western Pacific.

Dr. Andrew S. Erickson is an Associate Professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College and a founding member of the department’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI). He is a Fellow in the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, an Associate in Research at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, and a Fellow in the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations’ Public Intellectuals Program. Erickson has been studying ASBM development using Chinese language open sources since summer 2008, and has published his findings in Proceedings, Naval War College Review, Jane’s Intelligence Review, and China Brief.

For the latest sources and analysis on Chinese ASBM development and testing, 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 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.”