China Debuts ‘Carrier Killer’ Missiles in Military March

Conventional missiles are displayed duirng a parade in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 3, 2015. China on Thursday held commemoration activities, including a grand military parade, to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War. (Xinhua/Pang Xinglei)

China’s military parade on Thursday in Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender during World War II was notable not only for its massive troop formations, but also its missiles.

As expected, the People’s Liberation Army featured several types of missiles from the Dongfeng (“East Wind”) family, including the DF-10 anti-ship missile, DF-15B short-range ballistic missile, DF-16 and DF-21D medium-range ballistic missiles, DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile, and the DF-5B and DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missiles — a handful of which made their public debut.

We know this because the PLA conveniently wrote the names on the sides of the weapon systems — in English, as per the image above. Here’s how Andrew Erickson, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College described it:

“All the major missiles were labeled with their English abbreviations in big white letters, likely to help guarantee that their presence isn’t lost on foreigners.”

Among the missiles making their first public appearances were the DF-21D, shown above and billed as a “carrier killer” for its ability to strike carrier strike groups, including U.S. assets in the Asia-Pacific region. Others included the DF-16, which could threaten Taiwan; DF-26, another carrier killer that could also strike U.S. bases in Guam; and YJ-12, a supersonic, sea-skimming cruise missile, according to Erickson.

Despite the display of military might (and pomp and circumstance), even Chinese President Xi Jinping hinted that the country can’t afford such a large standing army in announcing troop cuts of 300,000 personnel. The PLA is the world’s largest military force, with roughly 2.3 million service members.

“It’s a common practice for Chinese leaders to pledge disarmament after big parades,” Song Xiaojun, a military commentator, told the China Daily newspaper. Though the disarmament announcement isn’t a new practice, it’s in line with Xi’s pledge of never seeking hegemony, Song said.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • IHTFP

    Is the DF-21D radar-guided, or how does it find the carrier?

  • IHTFP

    They paraded some drones but no fifth-gen fighters.

  • Lance

    We know they have these al ready whats the news??

    • IHTFP

      They were publicly displayed for the first time.

  • anonymous coward

    A ballistic reentry for an anti-carrier attack will give little time for maneuverability for the RV and the plasma sheath around the RV will make optical, radar and IR guidance quite hard to acquire. To give the RV more time to lock on to the ship, it will need a less then ballistic reentry path and that gives the opfor (in this case, most likely the Americans) time to target and counter with packages ABM packages such as AEGIS.

  • Iron

    The SM3 likely wouldn’t even have to intercept it. To hit a moving carrier, even with the DF-21, requires a very complicated string of real time intelligence gathering and signals intelligence. China would need to know the position of a carrier in near-real time, and as it moved, continue to track it, and somehow relay this signal to the DF-21 in flight (which means, a patrol boat with a radio isn’t going to do it). It’s a very complicated sequence that can be interrupted in many, many places.

    It’s more likely than needing the SM3 to intercept it – which it could probably do – the DF-21 wouldn’t even get off the ground. The very first thing the US always goes for is the C4ISR capability of any country. China would be blind, deaf and mute before they had the chance to fire off any DF-21s. And if they tried to fire based on even slightly outdated intelligence, the carrier would easily be miles away.

  • Big-D

    I was more scared of the USSR’s real capabilities they had 20 yrs ago with their Backfire bombers and their ASM than I am of the untested DungFeng missile.

  • BlackOwl18E

    The US Navy is actually taking this threat very seriously. They’ve got SM-3 missiles now that are capable of intercepting ballistic missiles to a point, but apparently they’ve proven to be unreliable for hitting maneuvering targets. Now the Navy seems almost possessed to develop an anti-missile laser weapon capable of being mounted on a ship.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Until re-entry creates a plasma sheath around the missile, it should be capable of receiving data from aircraft or satellite or tattletale spy ship, should it not? For that matter, since southern China is now the world’s factory floor, you probably can’t get within hundreds of miles of the coast without being subject to hey-lookit-that chatter from merchant shipping. That isn’t enough for targeting, but if there are enough ears listening, it’s going to provide a nice cue as to where to look.

  • Leo Johnson

    I wonder if they tried this on one of their own “Carrier’s” to find out if it really work’s.

    • DavidT

      They sorta did:
      http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.a

      However, it was against a non-moving target in the Gobi desert and probably didn’t have any countermeasures working against it; conditions that would not exist against the U.S. Navy so I’m not sure how much we can take away from this test other than the DF-21 can fire, which we already knew.

  • 11CP5

    Losing 300,000 soldiers. Wonder what the make up of them are? Don’t think they will get rid of many fighting jobs. IMHO they can afford to lose 300,000 without much stress on the military. Cool looking trucks. LOL

    • Retired Army

      My guess; miltary staffed and managed factories producing goods. Stop taking work away from the civilian sector.

  • Ming the Merciless

    More ships, smaller targets, lots of decoys & countermeasures. These are probably north of 10+ million bucks a pop so they are not just an endless barrage weapon.

    A serious threat but not a game changer.

  • Dan Walsh

    It is good that the US Navy is taking this seriously. Considering the investment in carrier platforms, no threat should be taken lightly. This does, as all things go within the scope of DOD, start with military contractors who have demonstrated that greed is first and developing a system at, or under budget that works as promised.

  • Ed C

    Let’s face it, this is a doomsday missile, if it does manage to penetrate our defenses and sinks a carrier, a nuclear response by us is inevitable. It’ll never be used.

  • wtpworrier

    “China Debuts ‘Carrier Killer’ Missiles in Military March”___________________________________HA!!!. I guess they are trying to scare us, and judging from some of these posts, they succeeded.

  • chuckiechan

    If China and Russia aren’t willing to attack the USA now under Obama, they never will.

    It does concern me that the best way to dissolve the “nine dash” line is to stop doing business with China and bankrupt them, and yet we say we don’t want to do that. I guess we can’t make our own rubber dog crap anymore.

    • Big-D

      China will implode on it’s own given time. Their entire economy is based up excess cheap low skilled labor and stealing IP from others, and when 3D printing comes into it’s own, there will no longer be a need for massive amounts of cheap low skilled labor, so the hungry hordes of millions will rise up.

      • oblatt23

        Ah The New American Dream that China will simply collapse and that the losers in the US will never have to be competitive but will just be given a free ride.

    • Nico

      stop the nine dash talking, you may think .oh yeah, it is so far from china land, how could it be china part? pls think about your Guam。 How far from your main land?

  • Laser satellite imagery . Accurate with in 10 meters .

  • bobbymike

    The US should counter with their own IRBMs by refurbishing retired LHAs so the flight deck carries hundreds of VLS cells sized to carry ATKs proposed prompt strike weapon.

  • C.V. Compton Shaw

    France, during World War II, relied on it’s system of fortifications along it’s border with Germany, the Maginot Line, to defend itself against invasion by Germany. Germany countered by amassing large well coordinated armored units along with a military strategy which compromised the Maginot line by attacking around the same through Belgium which was considered to be an inappropriate and ineffective military strategy for armour at the time. However, of course, this German strategy worked resulting in the fall of France. If France and the UK had appropriately concentrated their armored forces to meet this German strategy, by having an appropriate armored strategic maneuvering force in reserve, this German strategy may have been neutralized. However, the Allied armored forces were dispersed all along the front allowing the Germans to effectively concentrate their armored forces at the weakest point of the French defenses without significant opposition. Likewise, the USA’s carriers may prove to be the USA’s “Maginot Line” such that China and other adversaries may find ways ,such as the DF21-D “Carrier Killer” missile ,to neutralize the same and attack our naval forces at their weakest points. Thus, this implies that the US Navy should have a well thought out and well protect strategic reserve with high mobility, high intelligence gathering ability, with great ability to coordinate with other forces, and with the military means to counter such a strategy. If it is developed, it should be kept secret!

    • Yeah, they’re called submarines!

      • Big-D

        Indeed, the Chinese has ‘huff and puff “I’ll sink your carrier,” but our subs will sink their entire army-navy navy on the first day and that’s ‘why’ the Chinese don’t talk about our subs

    • Steve

      You do a good case of describing the weak points of Anglo/French forces in WWII. However, I do not understand what you believe are the weak points of a Carrier Task Force. Unless you are being semantic in that if the carrier is destroyed the Task force is ineffective.

      I’m also troubled by your logic. The Maginot line was part of a defensive strategy. A CTF is an offensive unit. The French strategy was predictable since offense was not an option. When a force has a will to attack the number of variations the other side must consider multiplies. Thus tailoring a plan to exploit a perceived weak point becomes much more difficult

  • Nico

    It is just a peaceful party.You guys think too much. Our only enemy is Japan.
    They have kill Millions of our people
    YOu will never understand why we hate Japan.

    • Big-D

      You all hate Japan because they are not communists and you can’t control or intiminate them like you can everyone in the region. China is like the 15 yr old bully who’s bigger than all of the neighborhood 12 yrs old, but is secretly scared of the 18 yr old next door i.e. Japan

      • crackedlenses

        Japan did do horrible things to China among others; doesn’t automatically make the Japanese the bad guys today, or China the good guys.

    • blight_

      Wow, depending how far back and how trivial the offense, China could invent a casus belli for many nations today. Perhaps Mongolia is next on the enemies list…

  • Lightingguy

    Amazing how much speculation on this site, with opinions based on no real facts.

    The DF-21 seemingly has a terminal radar guidance system based on the US Pershing II missile that we deployed in Europe in the 80’s. Thus the technology, which was successfully demonstrated ob the Pershing, could certainly work against a carrier, which is why the Navy takes it seriously. As well, the PRC has both real-time photo and radar satellites that could give good initial target data and they have deployed an OTHB radar that could as well give real time target data out a few thousand kilometers (The Aussies have this as well).

    So all of this makes the Navy nervous. AEGIS and RIM 161 Standard can theoretically intercept, which is why all of this capability in in the Pacific.

  • Laker80

    How do you use ballistic missiles conventionally without risking a nuclear response?

    I’d imagine if these weapons were used against carrier battle groups, Guam, and Japan they would be part of a surprise attack to achieve maximum damage…. so how do you ensure that several ballistic missile launchers don’t trigger a nuclear response? Leaving out any possibility of cyber or EMP attacks to blind the enemy during the opening phases of the attack.

    • Lightingguy

      The assumption would be that the only time the US would be in a major shooting match with the PRC would be in support of Taiwan during a PRC invasion of same. In that event, the radar screens will be filled with countless IRBM’s coming out of the PRC and headed towards Taiwan. Assuming none of these attacks are nuclear, then it’s not likely the US would automatically assume that an IRBM headed towards a carrier or Guam would contain a nuke warhead. Would the US planners and command staff be nervous ?, sure. But outside of scenario where the PRC was losing badly due to successful US intervention, the assumption would want to be that there’s no reason for the PRC to escalate to nuclear in the beginning or middle stages.

  • Anonymous

    Google DF-21 Gobi Desert

  • Pat

    The D-21 has never been tested against a real target with advanced, with a fully opetational modern defense in real-time. We could send a nuke up and generate a EMP to wipe out their capabilities. We could revive our ASAT capability. Surface battle groups can go electronically silent and be difficult to locate. We’ve done this numerous times in the past. We could arm a SM-3 or 6 with a nuclear warhead like we did with the Talos.

  • Mark

    If they try to start something hide their fortune cookies.

    • blight_

      You do realize fortune cookies are American, right?

  • Cataldo

    The units of the AEGIS system must cover an area of min 500 km radius around the target defended, to intercept RV. A goal of the Chinese is to dilute the active forces in the area, in order to achieve a great number of less powerful targets.