Chinese missile could shift Pacific power balance

August 5th, 2010  

Topic: Chinese missile could shift Pacific power balance

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON – Nothing projects U.S. global air and sea power more vividly than supercarriers. Bristling with fighter jets that can reach deep into even landlocked trouble zones, America's virtually invincible carrier fleet has long enforced its dominance of the high seas.

China may soon put an end to that.
U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China — an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles).
EDITOR'S NOTE — The USS George Washington supercarrier recently deployed off North Korea in a high-profile show of U.S. sea power. AP Tokyo News Editor Eric Talmadge was aboard the carrier, and filed this report.
Analysts say final testing of the missile could come as soon as the end of this year, though questions remain about how fast China will be able to perfect its accuracy to the level needed to threaten a moving carrier at sea.

The weapon, a version of which was displayed last year in a Chinese military parade, could revolutionize China's role in the Pacific balance of power, seriously weakening Washington's ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea. It could also deny U.S. ships safe access to international waters near China's 11,200-mile (18,000-kilometer) -long coastline.

While a nuclear bomb could theoretically sink a carrier, assuming its user was willing to raise the stakes to atomic levels, the conventionally-armed Dong Feng 21D's uniqueness is in its ability to hit a powerfully defended moving target with pin-point precision.

The Chinese Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to the AP's request for a comment.
Funded by annual double-digit increases in the defense budget for almost every year of the past two decades, the Chinese navy has become Asia's largest and has expanded beyond its traditional mission of retaking Taiwan to push its sphere of influence deeper into the Pacific and protect vital maritime trade routes.

"The Navy has long had to fear carrier-killing capabilities," said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the nonpartisan, Washington-based Center for a New American Security. "The emerging Chinese antiship missile capability, and in particular the DF 21D, represents the first post-Cold War capability that is both potentially capable of stopping our naval power projection and deliberately designed for that purpose."

Setting the stage for a possible conflict, Beijing has grown increasingly vocal in its demands for the U.S. to stay away from the wide swaths of ocean — covering much of the Yellow, East and South China seas — where it claims exclusivity.

It strongly opposed plans to hold U.S.-South Korean war games in the Yellow Sea off the northeastern Chinese coast, saying the participation of the USS George Washington supercarrier, with its 1,092-foot (333-meter) flight deck and 6,250 personnel, would be a provocation because it put Beijing within striking range of U.S. F-18 warplanes.
The carrier instead took part in maneuvers held farther away in the Sea of Japan.
U.S. officials deny Chinese pressure kept it away, and say they will not be told by Beijing where they can operate.

"We reserve the right to exercise in international waters anywhere in the world," Rear Adm. Daniel Cloyd, who headed the U.S. side of the exercises, said aboard the carrier during the maneuvers, which ended last week.

But the new missile could undermine that policy.
"China can reach out and hit the U.S. well before the U.S. can get close enough to the mainland to hit back," said Toshi Yoshihara, an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College. He said U.S. ships have only twice been that vulnerable — against Japan in World War II and against Soviet bombers in the Cold War.

Carrier-killing missiles "could have an enduring psychological effect on U.S. policymakers," he e-mailed to The AP. "It underscores more broadly that the U.S. Navy no longer rules the waves as it has since the end of World War II. The stark reality is that sea control cannot be taken for granted anymore."

Yoshihara said the weapon is causing considerable consternation in Washington, though — with attention focused on land wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — its implications haven't been widely discussed in public.

Analysts note that while much has been made of China's efforts to ready a carrier fleet of its own, it would likely take decades to catch U.S. carrier crews' level of expertise, training and experience.

But Beijing does not need to match the U.S. carrier for carrier. The Dong Feng 21D, smarter, and vastly cheaper, could successfully attack a U.S. carrier, or at least deter it from getting too close.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned of the threat in a speech last September at the Air Force Association Convention.

"When considering the military-modernization programs of countries like China, we should be concerned less with their potential ability to challenge the U.S. symmetrically — fighter to fighter or ship to ship — and more with their ability to disrupt our freedom of movement and narrow our strategic options," he said.

Gates said China's investments in cyber and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, along with ballistic missiles, "could threaten America's primary way to project power" through its forward air bases and carrier strike groups.

The Pentagon has been worried for years about China getting an anti-ship ballistic missile. The Pentagon considers such a missile an "anti-access," weapon, meaning that it could deny others access to certain areas.

The Air Force's top surveillance and intelligence officer, Lt. Gen. David Deptula, told reporters this week that China's effort to increase anti-access capability is part of a worrisome trend.
He did not single out the DF 21D, but said: "While we might not fight the Chinese, we may end up in situations where we'll certainly be opposing the equipment that they build and sell around the world."

Questions remain over when — and if — China will perfect the technology; hitting a moving carrier is no mean feat, requiring state-of-the-art guidance systems, and some experts believe it will take China a decade or so to field a reliable threat. Others, however, say final tests of the missile could come in the next year or two.

Former Navy commander James Kraska, a professor of international law and sea power at the U.S. Naval War College, recently wrote a controversial article in the magazine Orbis outlining a hypothetical scenario set just five years from now in which a Deng Feng 21D missile with a penetrator warhead sinks the USS George Washington.

That would usher in a "new epoch of international order in which Beijing emerges to displace the United States."

While China's Defense Ministry never comments on new weapons before they become operational, the DF 21D — which would travel at 10 times the speed of sound and carry conventional payloads — has been much discussed by military buffs online.

A pseudonymous article posted on Xinhuanet, website of China's official news agency, imagines the U.S. dispatching the George Washington to aid Taiwan against a Chinese attack.
The Chinese would respond with three salvos of DF 21D, the first of which would pierce the hull, start fires and shut down flight operations, the article says. The second would knock out its engines and be accompanied by air attacks. The third wave, the article says, would "send the George Washington to the bottom of the ocean."
Comments on the article were mostly positive.
August 6th, 2010  
August 6th, 2010  
I see what you are getting at but the from what I have read about this Chineses missile even American military circles are very concerned about it and they must know something that we don't which is most likely that this aegis system is most likely insufficient to stop this type of missile it probably can stop older Chinese anti-ship missile such as the C-801 or C-802 or the silkworm but I don't anything short of mounting an S-400 system on American carrier can stop this new Chinese anti-ship missile.
August 6th, 2010  
The fact that we're very concerned doesn't mean that we're useless against them. We were "very concerned" about the Soviet Union, and we're not all dead. The SM-3 is the missile that hit the US-193 satellite a couple of years ago. It's designed for ABM use. We'll be fine.
August 6th, 2010  
But hitting a satellite is one thing but hitting a missile thats designed to evade, skim low, and make erratic moves on its way to due course is a whole different thing, I have read a lot of articles by defense officals and military circles and one thing is for sure if the eisenhower was to cruise to the taiwan straights in the event of a conflict and china sent may 10 or 20 or 30 of these missile for good measure even though it is stated only 3 is needed tell me how the aegis system will counter these missiles and these missile are no satillites. I will tell you this the S-400 which every military buff or military person with missile know-how in this world agrees is this the best will be the only system that may be able to counter it
August 6th, 2010  
You're misunderstanding the concept of the DF-21. It's an anti-ship ballistic missile. That means that, at most, it'll be making minor course corrections as it follows a generelly parabolic path from its launch site. It's not a sea-skimming cruise missile. Its main benefit is range.
August 13th, 2010  
what's the power balance? world will be destructed by America for his Hegemony !
if china fight with America, world war must break out! other countries will not survive!
this forum spy millitary webs!
August 14th, 2010  
Not to be rude...but what?
August 14th, 2010  
Originally Posted by xbwstar
what's the power balance? world will be destructed by America for his Hegemony !
if china fight with America, world war must break out! other countries will not survive!
this forum spy millitary webs!

No, seriously...what do you want to tell us? I don't get it.
Anyway, I don't really think this missile is going to shift the power balance in the area. As already pointed out by c/Commander, there are proven systems to counter such threats.
August 14th, 2010  
I am very certain if the USN can shoot down a satellite moving in orbit at thousands of miles per hour, than a ballistic missile, which is technology that has been researched for counter measures for decades now, isn't going to "move" military and civilian leaders that much.

And placing reliance on one single piece of hardware , spare WMDs of course, then you may already be starting a conflict on bad footing, why would you rely on what you know your enemy already has counter measures for? I think if I were a Chinese military planner, I certainly would not take the missile off the table, just look for other applications for the technology, or other targets for the missile other than ships, or just package it and export it.

"Fight your enemy with the weapons he lacks" -Aleksandr

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