China Unveils “Carrier Killer” Missiles

As Labor Day passes and the primary season heats up in the United States and the Syrian refugee crisis strains the bounds of European political will, the Chinese – with a great deal of pomp and fanfare – have shown the world what their new carrier killer missiles look like.

Both missiles, the DF-21D “assassin’s mace” anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) and the DF-26 “Guam killer” intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) were on display at the military parade held in Beijing on the 70th anniversary of the Chinese VJ Day celebration. The parade, reminiscent of the old Soviet military parades, and the newer Russian ones, showcased Chinese military strength even as President Xi Jinping spoke of supporting the “noble cause of global peace and development.”

“We Chinese love peace. No matter how much stronger it may become, China will never seek hegemony or expansion. It will never inflict its past suffering on any other nation. The Chinese people are resolved to pursue friendly relations with all other countries,” Jinping continued.

The DF-21D, since its rumored existence in 2010, has had many military strategists concerned. Supposedly, the missile has a range of over a thousand miles and the ability to make a mission kill on an aircraft carrier with one hit. If true, the missile would make it more difficult to deploy aircraft carriers in support of operations against a hostile Chinese force, but there are a number of factors to consider in this claim.

MissileFirst, with that range, the initial guidance phase of the missile will be reliant on forward observation or satellite targeting. Lobbing a missile at a Carrier Battle Group (CVBG) isn’t just pointing and shooting. The ocean is a big place and even a nuclear carrier is relatively small in comparison.

Second, there are defenses to this type of attack. A ballistic missile is harder to defend against than cruise missiles because of the speed of the attack, but Lockheed Martin has secured the contract to upgrade aegis cruisers and destroyers in the U.S. fleet to defend against ballistic threats while protecting the ship and task force against airborne threats.

Third, having these missiles in a parade is not the same thing as having them deployed and operational. The Chinese have claimed that they have been operational for years, but the intelligence doesn’t support that claim.

The DF-26 missile, called the “Guam killer” because it has the range to reach American bases on Guam from launch sites in China, is the PRC’s newest intermediate-range ballistic missile.  The Chinese are claiming that the missile has nuclear, conventional and anti-ship capabilities. The missile has a much greater range than the DF-21D (3500 km vs. 1500 km) and it is rumored to be able to carry a hypersonic glide vehicle instead of a warhead.

Fortunately, the same problems with guidance, defense and deployment that apply to the DF-21D affect the DF-26. The bright spot in all of this is that we finally have the chance to see these missiles and the Chinese military was kind enough to write their designation on them so that we wouldn’t miss them.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

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Matt Towns

Matt is a former military journalist who spent 10 years in the US Navy. He served in various posts during his career, including a couple of deployments on the USS Valley Forge (CG-50). After leaving the Navy, he worked in management for a number of years before opening his own businesses. He ran those businesses until 2012 when he chose to leave the retail industry and return to writing. Matt currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to the US Patriot blog and other websites about political affairs, military activities and sailing.
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2 thoughts on “China Unveils “Carrier Killer” Missiles

  1. This may be a silly question, but how much would such missiles weigh? The reason I ask is that there does appear to be any noticeable tire deformation on the launcher vehicles in either of the photos (nice of the Chinese to provide white wall tires for ready circular reference sake). Wouldn’t a real missile of this size present enough of a load to its launch vehicle to result in noticeable tire deformation? Are these genuine missiles or mere a propaganda exercise? I possess no expertise in this area and therefore pose this as a genuine question.

    1. About 16 tons, according to Wiki, and that sounds about right. I’m not sure about tire deflation under that kind of load, not exactly something I know about. If anyone has an answer, I would like to hear it.
      As far as the possibility that these are dummies or propaganda instruments…sure, it’s possible, but I would not want to be on the ship that was tasked to find out for certain.

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