04 September 2015

China’s Parade Puts US Navy on Notice

Wendell Minnick, “China’s Parade Puts US Navy on Notice,” Defense News, 3 September 2015.

TAIPEI — China showcased its growing capability to deny the US Navy access to the maritime domain of both the East China Sea and South China Sea during a celebratory parade Thursday commemorating the 70th anniversary of its victory over imperialist Japan. …

The parade showcased for the first time a variety of ballistic missiles under the command of the Second Artillery Corps. Mark Stokes, a China ballistic missile specialist at the Project 2049 Institute, said that leading each parade formation were corps leader grade officers – chief of staff, chief engineer or deputy commander.

“It appears that each of the six missile bases were represented with a new missile system,” he said.

The ballistic missile line-up was impressive: DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missile, DF-15B short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), DF-16 medium-range ballistic missile, DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile with ASBM capabilities, and the DF-31A ICBM.

The DF-5B is believed to be China’s first nuclear-armed ICBM with multiple independent re-entry vehicles. Officially, the DF-5B can carry only three nuclear warheads, but there are suspicions it can carry as many as five.

The parade in Beijing comes roughly 20 years after the Taiwan Strait missile crisis (July 1995 to March 1996). China’s decision to conduct missile drills with SRBMs was in part an effort to disrupt Taiwan’s first democratic presidential elections. The US deployed two aircraft carriers to monitor the crisis. In total, China fired 10 DF-15A SRBMs around the island. China took offense to the positioning of US aircraft carriers, and began to develop a means to hold at risk US carriers in future scenarios.

This has led to the development of the first ASBM ever deployed. The DF-21D ASBM, dubbed the “carrier killer,” was on parade for the first time, along with a surprise statement by Chinese commentators that the DF-26 intermediate range ballistic missile was also an ASBM.

Though the DF-26 has been dubbed the “Guam Killer” by some Western analysts, the announcement during the parade that the missile also had anti-ship capabilities came as a chill to some analysts. …

“The most interesting possibility from the parade is that China debuted not one ASBM, but two,” said Andrew Erickson, now a research associate at Harvard University’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. The DF-21D and DF-26 were both described during the parade as ASBMs, he said.

Furthermore, the parade announcer said the DF-26 was able to hit medium and large size ships. …

China also paraded two supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles: the DF-10A (formerly CJ-10) and the air-launched YJ-12. Erickson said that while China may not have progressed as far as it wants with DF-26 targeting support, “it probably already has sufficient surface wave stations to enable the DF-10 to cover the approaches to the Taiwan Strait.” …

Related analysis: 

Andrew S. Erickson,Showtime: China Reveals Two ‘Carrier-Killer’ Missiles,” The National Interest, 3 September 2015.

Andrew S. Erickson, “Missile March: China Parade Projects Patriotism at Home, Aims for Awe Abroad,” China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal, 3 September 2015.

Andrew S. Erickson, “Sweeping Change in China’s Military: Xi’s PLA Restructuring,”China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal, 2 September 2015.

China Military Parade—3 September 2015—Your Complete Hardware & Logistics Guide (Updated Version)