17 July 2011

Greg Torode, South China Morning Post: “‘Carrier Killer’ Missile May Give China Powerful Edge”

Greg Torode, ‘Carrier Killer’ Missile May Give China Powerful Edge,” South China Morning Post, 15 July 2011.

While PLA chief Chen Bingde’s remarks about China’s aircraft carrier development hogged attention during the visit by his US counterpart this week, it was his confirmation that the military is developing a missile able to hit carriers that has caused a stir.

The general’s comments on the anti-ship ballistic missile – the so-called carrier killer – were the first official military acknowledgement that work on the DF 21-D is under way, even as he outlined problems ahead. …

Beijing knows such a weapon would have a considerable deterrent effect, forcing the US to rethink how it deploys its aircraft carriers, particularly the one permanently based with the US Seventh Fleet in Japan.

“Chen’s remarks are very significant… many of us wondered whether this was actually real or just some kind of myth to sow fear and confusion,” said one veteran Asian military attache. “The weapon, we are told, is actually being developed.” …

Dr Andrew Erickson, a strategic scholar at the US Naval War College, noted Chen;s apparent caution, saying he could be both downplaying Chinese capabilities to minimise foreign development of counter-measures and preparing the ground for further testing before the PLA was fully confident in the weapon.

Erickson noted potential problems for the Sino-US relationship. “From a Chinese perspective, this appears inherently defensive; from the perspective of the US and other regional actors, it may not appear defensive at all. Herein lies a substantial challenge for Sino-American strategic relations even as the two great powers move to explore possibilities for mutually beneficial security co-operation in the future.”

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.”

Detailed analysis by top subject matter experts of Chinese ASBM development and strategic implications is offered in five dedicated chapters in Andrew S. Erickson and Lyle J. Goldstein, eds., Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2011).

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.”