China’s Carrier Killer Ballistic Missiles are Operational

It looks like this is the week China’s military rapidly advancing military tech keeps getting the limelight . First, we saw pics of the Asian giant’s new stealth fighter. Now, it looks like China is one step closer to fielding ballistic missiles aimed at holding U.S. forces throughout the Pacific at bay.

Adm. Robert Willard, the top U.S. officer in the Pacific said this week that China’s new DF-21D anti-ship balistic missiles, with their 900-mile range, have reached an early operational status.

Apparently, the missiles, widely fretted over in Washington as one of the most serious threats to the United States’ ability to project power in the Pacific (read here, here and here) have reached the equivalent of initial operational capability, Willard said in an interview with the Japanese Newspaper, Asahi Shimbun.

While the U.S. hasn’t seen an “over water” test of the missile, Willard says that the fact that the system is at IOC, means it can likely hit intended targets.

Typically, to have something that would be regarded as in its early operational stage would require that that system be able to accomplish its flight pattern as designed, by and large.

He goes on to say that while the missiles are not yet as serious a threat to American aircraft carriers as submarines are, they do represent one more layer of a complex anti-access, area denial system ranging from advanced surface to air missiles to submarines and the new ballistic missiles which could strike either U.S. allies or its carriers and bases in the region.

The anti-access/area denial systems, more or less, range countries, archipelagos such as Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, so there are many countries in the region that are falling within the envelope of this, of an A2/AD capability of China. That should be concerning–and we know is concerning–to those countries.

While it may be largely designed to assure China of its ability to affect military operations within its regional waters, it is an expanded capability that ranges beyond the first island chain and overlaps countries in the region. For that reason, it is concerning to Southeast Asia, (and) it remains concerning to the United States.

The rise of this type of anti-access technology has caused the Pentagon to beging reevaluating how it will fight a major war under the aegis of the Air-Sea Battle concept, which calls for the Air Force and Navy to figure out how they will work together to overcome such threats.  That plan is being finalized right now, none too soon in light of these latest developments. It remains to be seen whether the concept will me a highly fleshed out plan for fighting in places like the Western Pacific or if it will be a mere vision statement.

One aspect that will likely feature prominently in the Air-Sea Battle concept is the, so-called, family of long range strike systems being eyed by the DoD.

The family of systems idea was launched after Defense Secretary Robert Gates shelved the Air Force’s plan to build a new long range bomber by 2018. Instead, he told the service to look at what capabilities it could develop along with the other services to best overcome advanced enemy air defenses. While some sort of penetrating bomber/electronic attack/intelligence plane may be part of this family, it will also likely include stand-off cruise missiles lauchded by air or sea, and even land based ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets around the globe on very short notice.

While China insists its military tech is being developed for defensive purposes and that China will always work to safeguard “regional peace and stability,” it’s not always clear what that means. For example, China’s military has dramatically increased its penetrations of Japanese airspace, resulting in Japanese fighters being scrambled 44 times this fiscal year; double the total for 2006, according to a different article in Asahi Shimbun.

45 Comments on "China’s Carrier Killer Ballistic Missiles are Operational"

  1. In other words, don't try to mess with the Red Dragon in it's own back yard. You will regret it. One Pacific power is ebbing, another great power it raising to take its place.

  2. It looks like a modified S-400. Perhaps we need the russian, Israelis scientist help or make our own version like a US modified ballistic RIM-67 missiles to counter the threat.

  3. But China can never beat us because we are so diverse and Diversity is Strength, right? That's what my teachers always say. Nothing is more important than Diversity. Diversity is Strength – it says so right on the school posters.

  4. Japan needs to militarize, and the Navy needs to get serious on BMD. That's all there is to it.

  5. In 2030 China may have the largest economy in the world. They may have most of the high tech manufacturing in the world. They may have more advanced science and engineering than America.

    But we'll still be #1 cause we'll be more Diverse! And nothing can beat Diversity! Yaaay Diversity!

    China just has Chinese. China isn't Diverse at all. Which means they can't possibly be successful at anything because Diversity is Strength. How can they build anything when all their scientists and engineers are only Chinese? That's unpossible! Where's their Diversity? It is not physically possible to develop advanced weapons without Diversity!

    In summary, Diversity! Thank you.

  6. Good Afternoon Folks,

    Before everybody gets excited, I would suggest that they go and read the AP story this was taken from. The conclusion of the AP story is the opposite of what this nameless byline story comes to.

    The phrase "…early operational stages." is just down right false. The AP story says that some problems with the DF-121D are being solved on paper, but the DF-21D is nowhere near operational. The DF21D has yet to even have a successful flight test with all its stages, and is still very problem prone.

    Much of the DF-21's technology is from the Russian Federations Toplo M program, which has been canceled. The GEM problem with stage three couldn't be solved and the solid fueled mobile ICBM program is in the process of being restarted and no results are expected till 2020 earliest.

    The AP story ends saying that the DF-21D "Carrier Killer" is years away.

    Byron Skinner

  7. How does this work? What sensors do the targeting? Wouldn't taking out the targeting sensors make this system moot?

  8. We have nukes.. they have nukes. First combatant to fire a shot on either side will start a chain of events leading up to MAD. Why even bother?

  9. Just means if we get into a shooting war with China, the Satellites are going to be the first targets to go. Once the Chinese are blind in space, these missiles will be worthless as they won't be able to target.

  10. Interesting but given that the USN is already war gaming with the X47 as a done deal, it really doesn't do much for the Chinese.

  11. More reasons not to shrink the defense budget, which is already less than 5% of the entire GDP. And more reasons to step up work on supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles.

  12. If things went far enough south for China to attack one of our carriers with their new missle, I think they would wind up with more problems than they ever imagined.

  13. The Chinese are building their defences at a pace that are keeping others at tenterhooks. They will soon make their 5th Gen plane operational. Their carriers are on their way. I see them as the next super power unless US takes steps to counter it. Am sure they will. But where is the money gonna come from?

  14. Questions we need to answer is what is the projected flight time from a missile silo in China into a target in the Pacific Ocean? Are the conventional approximated numbers for ballistic missiles from the cold war (twenty minutes or less) appropriate? If so, thirty knots isn't very far in miles.

    If there is no nuclear warhead, then it means some vaguely approximate terminal guidance is required. An INS is good to ~50-100 meters: perfect to nail a carrier, and would probably require some luck against a DDG or a CG.

    The key seems to be detection envelope. Launches can be detected fairly easily with Cold War era systems designed to track Russian ICBM launches. It gives you enough warning to change course headings and foil a missile attack, even if you had a targets position and vector when programming the target area.

  15. Whenever china starts saber-rattling over Taiwan the first thing America does is send the carrier task force of the 7th fleet to the Taiwan Straits or The East China Sea depending on who you ask. Also they have developed a Satellite killer (tested and successful). Any one can see they are identifying our main strengths and targeting them. They must see a potential conflict with us in their future!

  16. Anti-missile missiles are to limited and costly to be anything but an interim option.

    Rail guns and lasers are advancing so quickly, they may actually evolve into a reasonable point defense system.

  17. "David Sullivan wrote:
    If the Chinese have large numbers of fixed or mobile sensors on the seabed, they have intelligence superiority over large areas. With seabed based torpedoes, like the one that sank the South Korean ship this year, they can make it too costly for the U.S. fleet to operate in the region. Anti-ship from seabed and ballistic missiles would be a deadly synergism." Aviation weekly

  18. China’s Carrier Killer Ballistic Missiles are gps and radar base guidance missile with approximate 900+ distance flight . It looks like a modified S-400.

  19. Big deal, as long as the US can control the sea lanes it's got China bottled up. Park the carriers 950 miles away and have them fly air superiority missions for lots of smaller vessels (including subs) that are armed with anti-ship missiles. I doubt these anti-ship ballistic missiles are accurate enough to take out subs or even smaller ships such as frigates or even destroyers.

  20. I think China is dependent with GPS nowadays. The technology was copied from us. If there is an engagement with China, I believe the first good defense will be is attacking their GPS satellites, that will be used to guide their missiles against us (USA).


  22. does anybody have any idea what we have been developing to counter alot of china's weaponry or is the pentagon just sitting back and having meetings about it and not doing anything?

    well i did read the other day about this in the washington times and so far obama bin laden hasnt offered any defense plan for this yet.obama is against the weaponazation of space and is on record for saying it while china is pushing further advancement in asats, he retired the navy's nuclear cruise missile and has stopped production of the f-22.

  23. In order for an anti-carrier ballistic missile to work, you have to have accurate targeting data. Even if a carrier's position is fixed before launch, in the several minutes that it would take to fire the missile and land in the area of the carrier, the carrier can move extremely fast if it wants to and escape getting hit by any ballistic missile that uses inertial guidance.

    The only way around this problem is if the warhead has a terminal guidance radar or is able to communicate with a radar satellite to give it constant position updates. Have the Chinese developed either capability?

  24. Opine

    China needs stability domestically. A Anti/Defense Missle IOC like this, adds to the PR for Domestics. IOC stage still has a lot of operational problems inherent. IE can the missle hit the target, etc.

    Again, DOD says, study the problem. Shelve the funds, study, think. A typical Leftist OBAMA response.


  25. If we used all our bullets to cut down the Chinese, we would only stop half of them. They then would be twice as strong as then they only have to feed less people.

  26. China uses our GPS, they do not have their own system.

  27. Wonder if this was the mach 10 missile that china was ragging on about yet is 10 years or more behind us in ram and scram jet technology, therefore we know they couldnt produce it.

  28. If the Chinese hit one of our carriers with this missile wouldn't that be considered a hate crime against our gay sailors?

  29. hahaha…china….

  30. Do u guys know that Russia,China and India is talking abut merging a military allince in SE Asia.

  31. Miguel Sanchez | May 16, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Reply

    Yes.!! with out think twice. USA. most eliminate , China gps, satellites, before it is too late. in case of…………

  32. andrewells134 | July 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Reply

    You people are just dumb, why do you really think we retired the shuttle program? There is better technology available for space command. You are niave in you think that in a real war situation any country who has satellites wont suffer command and control issues pretty damned quick. Unless China wants to take a chance and risk injury to their economy by fighting a war they would loose in more ways that one. First they would loose the American market which means their money, second their ability to wage war beyond their shores at sea or in the air would tantamount to suicide. They could loose 1 million men a day at war but not 100 fighter planes a day. Make no mistake guys if i was Enemy pilot i do not want to have to face any of the top U.S. air superiorty fighter even the upgraded old stuff, but certainly not a YF-22. You can shoot what you cant see or comprehend in terms of super secret Technology.

  33. Sergio San Quentin | December 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Reply

    Listen to me you buck of idiots, the US Navy is developing and is close to bringing to life a gigantic laser that is capable of shooting down anything that threatens its Military…especially their Navy!!!

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