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China to Test Carrier Killing Missile On Fourth of July?

Chinese media reports that beginning today the People’ Liberation Army (PLA) will hold six days of military exercises in the East China Sea, a message, analysts say, to the U.S. Navy not to steam its carrier battle groups too close to Chinese shores.

While a Chinese military official said the drills are routine, observers say the anti-carrier exercise is intended to pressure the U.S. Navy not to hold joint exercises with the carrier USS George Washington and South Korean ships in the Yellow Sea.

Respected China analyst Andrew Erickson says the live fire training aims to demonstrate China’s ability to attack a U.S. carrier strike group and may include the first test of China’s long talked about anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). He sees hints that China’s Second Artillery, a powerful organization within the Chinese military which operates the country’s missile force, may be at a point where it’s ready to test an ASBM.

Recent indications include the reported completion of a DF-21D rocket motor facility in 2009 and the recent launch of 5 advanced Yaogan satellites, three of which were apparently placed in the same orbit on 5 March–thereby perhaps offering better coverage of critical areas along China’s maritime periphery. Another possible indication is a recent news release attributed to China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation (CASIC) citing Wang Genbin, Deputy Director of its 4th Department, as stating that the DF-21D can hit “slow-moving targets” with a CEP (circular error probable, meaning half of missiles fired will strike within) of dozens of meters.

I attended Erickson’s presentation at a recent National Defense University conference on Chinese naval modernization and he said China is rapidly putting into place the component parts of an advanced reconnaissance-strike complex, including launching a series of ocean observation satellites and electro-optical military satellites. An actual live-fire test of a missile would of course be a big step in ASBM development, he says.

The U.S. military has the advantage of its GPS constellation, in addition to a fleet of electro-optical satellites, to provide precise targeting for its guided weapons. Analysts believe China would use ocean-surveillance satellites to get the initial bearing and distance to an approaching carrier strike group and then launch missiles towards the target that would rely on active-radar or radar-homing to hit a carrier (that’s how the Soviets planned to do it in the Cold War days with their missile launching Backfire bombers and Oscar class subs).

Erickson says Chinese tactics would aim for “multi-axis saturation” of a carrier strike group’s missile defenses by combining swarms of missile boats (such as the Houbei Type 022 fast missile catamaran), missile launching submarines and land based ballistic missiles.

He surmises that the Chinese might be tempted to carry out a test on 4th of July because much of official Washington and the press would be busy with backyard BBQs.

– Greg Grant

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Marvel June 30, 2010 at 3:08 pm

If somebody could clarify, the ASBM would not be a unitary warhead, correct? I remember reading somewhere that it may be a sort of cluster munition designed to puncture the carrier deck with flechettes, rendering it inoperable.


Christopher Bloom June 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I think it will only be able to carried out a Mission kill and wont be able to sink a carrier out right just destroy planes, weapons systems, antennas, anything exposed. Crippling the ship, and requiring the ship to return to base.


bdwilcox June 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm

The Chinese should name that first test missile "The Bill Clinton" in honor of the man who gave them the technology. They could name the other missiles "The Loral", "The Commerce Dept" and "The Ron Brown". That last one will fall out of the sky with a bullet hole in its nosecone, but no one will ask questions.


Tad June 30, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Ha ha ha, you are spot on!!


JSCS June 30, 2010 at 4:20 pm

I remember quite a stink when the Loral deal was exposed. Then it sort of quietly faded from view. Who went to jail? Who's serving time?


Andres June 30, 2010 at 5:10 pm

thank god, ABLs are in the pipeline^^


Matt June 30, 2010 at 5:55 pm

1: yes gates china is clearly our friend so its ok to cut defence budgets for health care… its not like they r trying to counted act our strongest weapon…
2: i honestly have a question. like what about the aegis bmd system and other missle defences? can they stop this asbm thing? or do they just work on like icbm type things… also what is the RIM-174 missle designed stop?


Matt June 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm

**counter act


pleuris June 30, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I don't know for you but I think the health care bill is a real threat for Defense budgets. I think the real budget threat comes from two wars that are fought for too long. Somehow someone did not think that maybe the people of Iraq did not want us to stay in iraq after the war against Sadams regime. It's probably the same guy who did not know that in afghanistan normal logic does not aply. And maybe some hotshots from a few banks did throw a lot of money down the drain. Maybe thats the real threat.

That said; maybe you can do the math that if you have a population that can fall back to medical assurance, that maybe that population gets healthier and that population can bring more brains into the fight….And more of them?


Matt July 3, 2010 at 3:28 pm

"yes gates china is clearly our friend so its ok to cut defence budgets for health care"
i was being scarcastic… i think this could be like pearl harbor; gov is getting complacent with spending and defences… then our navy gets a crippling blow… exept now the dems would just talk to china (mabye sell them hawii?)… but seriously china is threatining america…


pleuris July 3, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Allright Matt, sometimes my sarcasm-radar is a litlle off, I get your point.


CantBelieve June 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Matt, with all ABM systems there is a certain % of enemy missiles that are going to get through. Unfortunately when it comes to ships at sea it only takes one to make a really bad day….

The problem is that although China may be our trading partner today, the military is assigned the strategic role of envisioning what the future looks like 20-30 years out. Those who remember WWII or are history buffs know that an Air War from Japan was the least of our concerns in the 1930s and 1940s… and we almost paid the ultimate price for that.

This article appears to be more evidence of reasons why we cannot simply rely on fighter jets or tiny tactical UAVs for everything….


dave June 30, 2010 at 10:20 pm

China is talking crap they couldnt beat us on their best day. i would call that carrier killing missile an act of war if they test it. The president should tell china if they test that missile the US will consider it and act of War and respond, since china doesnt have the worlds largest carrier fleet,America does, that would be a direct threat.

best way to take out the chinese, is to drop some containers marked as blank TDK DVD-R' s then load some containers with the bird flu, and black plague, and drop it on RED STAR capitol.

or we can just wait till 2079, thats when nostradamus said would be the year that america defeated its enemys, and china would be one of them


Tad June 30, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Testing a missile like that is not an act of war by any stretch of the imagination. Unless you're talking about China testing their missile on a US carrier?


poncho July 3, 2010 at 4:19 pm

testing a missile an act of war? you r way to anal & stupid.


William C. June 30, 2010 at 11:00 pm

What happened to that great relationship with China Obama was supposed to give us? Testing a missile designed to destroy US carriers on the Fourth of July, a date where we celebrate our independence is hardly a sign of friendship.


dan nurnberger July 4, 2010 at 9:22 am

obama is an al-qaeda operative mark my words he is a menace to our country…its time AMERICANS WAKE UP


tim June 30, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Didn't that great ally of the US and UK , Israel , sell the chinese the technology ?


Riceball June 30, 2010 at 11:45 pm

The tech is probably nothing that the Chinese didn't already have, it's not like ballistic missiles are anything new for the Chinese and considering that neither us or the UK rely on ballistic missiles for any form of ant-ship warfare it's probably nothing that the Israeli's sold to China.


Ian June 30, 2010 at 11:20 pm

The Israelis sell nothing we don't already have the plans for.


Donnell June 30, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Before one becomes a top contender he must first prove himself to challenge the title holder. Now that I stated that. Who has China beaten? Last time I checked they got embarrased by there Vietmanese comrades a few years after the end of the Vietnam war. Also during there little border skirmishes with there other communist comrade the old Soviet Union. For those of you who would bring up the Korean War, take a close look and you will that the Chinese military only claim to fame is the human wave assault. How many of you would think that type of thing will be effective in these times against modern American weapons. Now my point is, they say you should never underestimate your enemy, neither should you over-estimated them.


anonymouser July 1, 2010 at 9:12 am

The "missile wave" assault may be just as stupid and wasteful a tactic, but it works.


Matt July 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

u could count the korean war as an american war cause they did do what they said they would do (push back n.korea)…


@Earlydawn July 1, 2010 at 5:37 am

In a wartime scenario, I really doubt the Chinese capability to target these effectively. Using commercial imaging satellites to identify and track battlegroups that don't want to be found is not a setting for success - and that's not even getting into any kind of naval-based satellite shootdown capability we would have at the time.


Marvel July 1, 2010 at 9:45 am

I think people need to come to terms with the fact that much of what China does, for the moment, is aimed at maintaining their image among the people. They are perfectly aware that they are incapable of defeating us in a shooting war for the next decade or so. This is not some grand signal hinting at a new era of Sino-American rivalry. It is just a weapons test, something we conduct all the time. I think we could counter this by 1) establishing air superiority and destroying their airborne recon assets before they spot our fleet 2) blinding, disabling, or destroying their targeting satellites 3) building low observable, long range strike UAVs that can hit the missiles on the ground.


Matt July 3, 2010 at 3:32 pm

so ur thinking:
1) a fleet of planes that can beat chinas (which america has)
2) didnt they test an anti-satillite missle in like the 70/80s?
3) x47


poncho July 3, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Then US satellites wouldn't be safe either.


Robert July 1, 2010 at 10:59 am

One strike on a carrier group should result in an all out nuclear attack on the Chinese hoards.
Obama of course will kiss China's but and bow a few times.

Obama is a clear and present danger to America and needs to be hiking down the road. We can't wait until 2012.


Joseph Tan July 1, 2010 at 11:32 am

Don't be unduly worry of Chinese ASBM. China would not use it for offensive purpose. Quite on the contrary, the US is poking her nose by sending USS George Washington to the Yellow Sea. Guess what would happened if Russia were to sent her aircraft carriers to the Gulf of Mexico and practice military combat readiness with say, Cuba?

Would US just sit down quietly? China is as much a world policeman (or at least imminent) as much as US and so is Russia


``* July 1, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Mr Tan you are obviously a mouth piece for the communist China leadership

-China does not OWN the Yellow Sea (but apparently they think they do).
"Would the US just sit down quietly?," that what all good communist must do when the dear leader speaks
-"China is much a world policeman as the US.." that the funniest thing I've heard all week


LeoC July 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm

What would the US do if a Russian Aircraft Carrier group conducted exercises in the Gulf of Mexico? The US would keep an eye on the exercise, but would do nothing to hinder it if the foreign ships stayed out of US waters. In 2008, 4 Russian warships entered Caribbean waters for joint naval exercises with Venezuela and Cuba. One Russian warship even passed back and forth through the Panama Canal. Nothing was said or done by the US who (unlike China) respects open seas in international waters.


Craig Hooper July 1, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Not to support Mr. Tan, but LeoC says "Nothing was said and done by the US" about the Russian ship visit to the Gulf. He is wrong:

In October 08 State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said this during a briefing, ""Somebody told me that they had a tugboat accompanying them in case they break down along the way," McCormack told a press briefing, according to the State Department's website. "It was very interesting that they found some ships that could actually make it that far down to Venezuela…"

A month later, LPD-17 broke down in the Persian Gulf (and if you read Navytimes.com, you'll find that the poor ship probably will never be fully functional.)

In March 2009, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon Press Secretary mocked a Russian Gulf-bound bomber deployment, saying "That would be quite a long way for those old planes to fly."

Bluster is certainly a useful diplomatic tool, but…it's perilous to indulge in bluster for no particular reason. But I digress. the facts remain…We certainly didn't zip our lips about Russian deployments to our backyard.

And I won't even touch the small matter of the Cuban missile crisis…which kinda was a big deal back in the day. You know, hindering the deployment of certain items…


Locarno July 2, 2010 at 8:07 am

No-one's talking about protests. Regardless of how far off your coast you think your territorial waters extend, no nation is ever going to be happy with another nation that's not on your 'friend list' parking warships within easy striking distance of your shores.

Nor is this suggesting that any US carrier crossing the second island chain would be shot at instantly from this point on, any more than anyone (anyone credible, anyway) suggested throwing more than snitty comments at the russian ships visiting the carribean.

The problem - even with things like the ASAT capability as mentioned above - is that most of the scenarios being looked at probably involve 2nd artillery shooting first. The ability to swat observation satellites is fine in theory, but unless you're going to blow away every chinese satellite in orbit every time there's tension, the risk is still there.


Locarno July 2, 2010 at 8:08 am

This isn't really a wartime weapon, when you think about it, because in an actual war situation, your CV battlegroup comes in cannoned-up and blowing away anything it likes the moment it sees it. This is, as has regularly been mentioned, an Anti-Access weapon - intended to prevent you stationing something nearby in a time of tension, because you risk losing it to a mission kill in an opening strike, and the conflict being over by the time you have a replacement in position.

dan nurnberger July 4, 2010 at 9:27 am

joseph..north korea is a threat to the whole world bud,,,,is cuba? lol


Tony C July 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm

The Chinese are trying to negate the deterrent from the US carrier based battle groups to eliminate that threat for invading Taiwan. This is a very real exercise and it has a very real purpose. The US Navy would respond to any attempted invasion of Taiwan with the USS George Washington battel group, same as was done with the Kitty Hawk battle group in 1996. The Chinese want to build up anti-access capabilities in the region to control the entire Asian theater of operation. The US Navy has not really indicated how it would defend against these new threats, but anti-missile systems seemt to be the main option. There is the problem of the rate of fire for anti-missile systems and how many incoming targets they can engage simultaneously. The US Navy needs to watch the Chinese intently while all this is going on to determine what capabilities they are trying to perfect? If teh US shipbuilding budget keeps dropping, it won't matter anyway, because there will be no carrier battle groups to target by mid century!


David July 1, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Better off to move away from the $12 billion dollar supercarriers that concentrates immense firepower in a few vulnerable platforms and instead build smaller, cheaper, and more numerous fixed-wing carriers of around 50-60,000 tons.

Even the RUMOR of functional Chinese ASBM will be enough for the US Navy to think twice about using their precious (and expensive) carriers to project power off, say, Taiwan in a crisis.


T Wright July 1, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I sometimes ask myself "why bother commenting on these posts'" but here goes. Why do so many of us get all worked up when some other country tests weapon systems? We test them here in the US all the time. If other countries Declared War on us each time we test a new weapons system the madness would never stop.


greg July 2, 2010 at 1:23 am

Well put!


Locarno July 2, 2010 at 7:53 am

In some cases people should be getting *less* concerned when weapons tests are done because you keep seeing how unreliable the technology actually is…

See early US ABM tests, and pretty much every North Korean missile test.

It'll be interesting to see how well the DF-21D does, even if it will probably be a fairly contrived test.

The 'slow moving targets' comment is the one thing that puzzled me - a carrier going at max chat isn't especially slow…although it'd probably have to move fairly predictably whilst doing flight ops, I guess.


sad July 2, 2010 at 8:55 am

This is most probably aimed at India not the US.


Michael July 2, 2010 at 6:07 pm

If China was a normal (not Communist), transparent country, then maybe we wouldn't worry. If they weren't doing it on our Independence Day, then maybe we wouldn't worry. If China wasn't ascending and we weren't descending, then maybe we wouldn't worry.


dan nurnberger July 4, 2010 at 9:31 am

chinese politicians are dangerous,,,anything they test is a detriment to our country,,,wake up!!america


Kto Tam July 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Check out the recently launched Yaogan 9 A, B and C. They're in orbits like the US Navy's early NOSS ELINT satellites used.


Aceshot July 2, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Wow the chinese have a missle that can possibly take out a carrere. I think that would be a definet problem if it works. Taking out a carrere would be very bad on are part cause if that works then look out china is going to build many more and sell them to other countrys that arnt are allies. Just think of the problem we will have i see where 2012 will come in here Obama needs to step up on this and take action. I dont plan on having a large scale war in my time period just yet. If that missile works just imagin what it would do to a battle ship or a city thats some serious fire power to be useing if it can take out a carrere. What ever happend to that laser cannon we have on one of are battle ships. The so called Atlanta isnt she supposed to be are missle defense system and attack system i heard that it would take out a Flet of battle ships in one shot if they where lined up.


blight July 4, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Joke post?


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