China is testing Ballistic Missile

March 30th, 2010  

Topic: China is testing Ballistic Missile

Last week, Adm. Robert Willard, the head of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), made an alarming but little-noticed disclosure. China, he told legislators, was “developing and testing a conventional anti-ship ballistic missile based on the DF-21/CSS-5 [medium-range ballistic missile] designed specifically to target aircraft carriers.”

What, exactly, does this mean? Evidence suggests that China has been developing an anti-ship ballistic missile, or ASBM, since the 1990s. But this is the first official confirmation that it has advanced (.pdf) to the stage of actual testing.

If they can be deployed successfully, Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles would be the first capable of targeting a moving aircraft-carrier (.pdf) strike group from long-range, land-based mobile launchers. And if not countered properly, this and other “asymmetric” systems — ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines, torpedoes and sea mines — could potentially threaten U.S. operations in the western Pacific, as well as in the Persian Gulf.

Willard’s disclosure should come as little surprise: China’s interest in developing ASBM and related systems has been documented in Department of Defense (.pdf) and National Air and Space Intelligence Center (.pdf) reports, as well as by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) and the Congressional Research Service. Senior officials — including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair (.pdf) and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead — have pointed to the emerging threat as well.

In November 2009, Scott Bray, ONI’s Senior Intelligence Officer-China, said that Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile development “has progressed at a remarkable rate.” In the span of just over a decade, he said, “China has taken the ASBM program from the conceptual phase to nearing an operational capability.… China has elements of an [over-the-horizon] network already in place and is working to expand its horizon, timeliness and accuracy.”

When someone of Bray’s stature makes that kind of statement, attention is long overdue.

Equally intriguing has been the depiction of this capability in the Chinese media. A lengthy November 2009 program about anti-ship ballistic missiles (video) broadcast on China Central Television Channel 7 (China’s official military channel) featured an unexplained — and rather badly animated — cartoon sequence. This curious 'toon features a sailor who falsely assumes that his carrier’s Aegis defense systems can destroy an incoming ASBM as effectively as a cruise missile, with disastrous results.
The full program is available in three segments (parts 1, 2, and 3) on YouTube. Skip to 7:18 on the second clip to view this strange, and somewhat disturbing, segment.

China is testing Ballistic Missile

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