Terrence Aym – Helium.com
A new ‘smart missile’ threatens to tip the balance of power towards China, US military analysts say.
The latest generation of the Dong Feng 21D (DF-21D) [Photo] is a supercarrier killer according to experts on China’s armaments. The missile can be launched from land and strike an aircraft carrier 900 miles away.
China has 11,200 miles of coastline. That fact coupled with the range and accuracy of the new missile could spell doom for any US or allied carrier fleet.
Patrick Cronin, a senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program that is part of the Washington, DC Center for a New American Security organization admits the DF 21D is designed to kill carriers—specifically US Naval carriers. “The Navy has long had to fear carrier—killing capabilities. The emerging Chinese anti-ship 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.”
The new Chinese military’s 96166 Unit will be outfitted with DF 21C medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) and possibly the DF-21D ASBM as well.
For more than a decade Pentagon strategists, analysts and war-gamers have worried about a new super missile that could pierce America’s invincible carrier fleet. The carriers maintain the dominant American influence in the East Asian waters and counterbalance the threat of the globally emerging China.
With the potential loss of carrier superiority, the US faces the prospect of a very real Chinese move on Taiwan. It also could potentially greatly weaken the US leverage on North Korea and expose South Korea to greater military risk.
Other than a nuclear attack, American carriers are well shielded with defensive weaponry, high-tech machinery of war and of course state-of-the-art jet fighter aircraft and jet bombers. All US carriers are also equipped with conventional cruise missiles and nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.
“The Chinese now have a weapon that can potentially neutralize our 21st Century carrier fleet,” a USN admiral said under conditions of anonymity. “If the Chinese decide to deploy it and launch against us we’d be backed into a corner. We’d have to respond with our nuclear arsenal.”
The Chinese were floundering in attempts to build effective missiles until the Clinton administration agreed to sell China three Cray supercomputers as part of a trade deal. Intelligence analysts agree that China immediately put the superior computing power to work for their military, especially nuclear and missile development.
The Chinese are well aware their new weapon has the ability to checkmate the US Navy. For several years the Chinese government has become more strident in their demands that US naval forces stay out of the Yellow, East and South China seas. Beijing has flatly claimed that region as theirs.
International experts claim that several US naval exercises during the past several years have been delayed or moved because of Chinese threats. They point out China strongly protested war game exercises the US planned jointly with South Korea in the Yellow Sea. The naval task forces would have conducted operations near the north-eastern Chinese coast. China flatly stated any such exercise within the vicinity of its coastal waters would be a provocative action. They claimed that the naval forces would be within striking distance of Beijing. In the end the tensions were resolved by the US moving the exercise to the Sea of Japan.
Pentagon officials, however, flatly denied that was the motivation for moving the location of the exercises. In a terse statement to the press the Pentagon dismissed the allocation that any Chinese pressure ever modified any planned US naval exercises.
The Pentagon added that the United States Navy will not be told by Beijing where they can or cannot operate operate. “We reserve the right to exercise in international waters anywhere in the world,” declared Rear Admiral Daniel Cloyd, who headed the U.S.exercises.
As China has risen into the ranks of an emerging superpower, so has its military. Better armed, better trained, the Chinese navy is seeking to extend its influence across more of the region. And that region is rapidly expanding. Virtually each of the last 20 years China has funneled more and more money into its military forces and weaponry. China has maintained a stunning double-digit growth rate in military expenditures for all of those two decades.
With the new generation of missile and more to come, the US position has weakened and may weaken more in the years ahead.
Toshi Yoshihara, an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College asserts that now “China can reach out and hit the U.S. well before the U.S. can get close enough to the mainland to hit back.” China has maneuvered itself into a position where it can threaten and deter US action. The US has only faced such a situation during the action in the Pacific against the Japanese during WWII and when facing down the Soviet threat during the Cold War.
Considering the implications and significant threat of China’s new generation of carrier-killing missiles, Yoshihara foresees the possibility that they “could have an enduring psychological effect on U.S. policymakers. 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.”
US power in the region is gradually being eclipsed.