17 July 2011

J. Michael Cole, Taipei Times: “Official Confirms ‘Carrier Killer’ is Being Developed”

J. Michael Cole, Official Confirms ‘Carrier Killer’ is Being Developed,” Taipei Times, 14 July 2011.

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde (陳炳德) confirmed earlier this week that China was developing the Dong Feng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), the first Chinese official to publicly state that the missile is in development. …

Although Chen’s references to a technological bottleneck could be seen as counterproductive in terms of presenting the US and other regional powers with a deterrent, Andrew Erickson, associate professor of strategy at the US Naval War College, said the public mention by a top official was a sign that the DF-21D was likely nearing operational capability.

“Chen would likely not be mentioning China’s ASBM in public if the PLA were not confident that it was maturing effectively and already had reached the necessary development level to begin to credibly shape regional strategic thinking in Beijing’s favor,” he wrote on Tuesday. …

According to experts, the US and Chinese may have different interpretations of what is meant by operational.

In March, National Security Bureau Director Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝) told the legislature that the anti-ship missile was already deployed. …

Asked for comment yesterday, Ministry of National Defense spokesman David Lo (羅紹和) said Taiwan was aware of the progress being made in the development of the DF-21D, but he refused to provide specifics on its range or whether it was already operational.

The missile presents a threat to surface ships in the region and the ministry will develop countermeasures accordingly, he said.

An essential component to China’s ability to track and hit moving targets at sea will be the constellation of electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellites — which can relay positioning information to firing bases — it is believed to be in the process of building.

Although Beijing claims that a number of satellites deployed in recent years are for “space scientific experiments,” defense analysts believe that China’s “scientific” satellites, many of which are developed by firms closely associated with the General Armaments Department, can serve military purposes.

One such satellite, the Shijian-11-03, was launched last Wednesday.

According to Jane’s Defence Weekly , ELINT satellites operating in pairs or greater numbers can conduct “time difference of arrival” assessment or geolocation to track targets over large expanses of territory.

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.”