A new Chinese carrier killer
represents a game changing threat to US Naval forces.
The previously almost invincible U.S.
carrier fleet has become vulnerable to a Chinese made, mach 12 ballistic
missile that can be launched from land at a distance of 1,500 kilometres.
This new capability will revolutionise China's role in the Pacific balance
of power, seriously weakening U.S. ability to intervene in any conflict
over Taiwan or North Korea. The conventionally armed Dong Feng or DF 21D's
uniqueness is in its ability to hit a powerfully defended moving target
with pinpoint precision. Where as a nuclear bomb could sink a carrier,
assuming its user was willing to raise the stakes to atomic levels, the
conventionally armed 21D offers a theatre restricted capability seriously
weakening Washington's ability to intervene in any potential conflict over
Taiwan or North Korea. It could also deny U.S. ships safe access to
international waters near China's 11,200-mile-long (18,000-kilometer)
China has long desired its own carrier
force. But despite recent advances it is likely to take decades to catch
U.S. carrier crews' level of expertise, training and experience. But
Beijing does not need to match the U.S. carrier for carrier. The Dong Feng
21D, smarter, and vastly cheaper, could successfully attack a U.S.
carrier, or at least deter it from getting too close. U.S. Defense
Secretary Robert Gates warned of the threat in a speech last September at
the Air Force Association Convention. "When considering the
military-modernization programs of countries like China, we should be
concerned less with their potential ability to challenge the U.S.
symmetrically -- fighter to fighter or ship to ship -- and more with their
ability to disrupt our freedom of movement and narrow our strategic
options," he said.
Gates said China's investments in cyber
and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, along with
ballistic missiles, "could threaten America's primary way to project
power" through its forward air bases and carrier strike groups. Gates
added China's investments in cyber and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air
and anti-ship weaponry, along with ballistic missiles, "could threaten
America's primary way to project power" through its forward air bases and
carrier strike groups.
"The Navy has long had to fear carrier-killing capabilities," says Patrick
Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the
nonpartisan, Washington-based Center for a New American Security. "The
emerging Chinese antiship 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."
Setting the stage for a possible conflict, Beijing has grown increasingly
vocal in its demands for the U.S. to stay away from the wide swaths of
ocean -- covering much of the Yellow, East and South China seas -- where
it claims exclusivity.
A pseudonymous article posted on Xinhuanet, website of China's official
news agency, painted a scenario where the U.S. dispatched the George
Washington to aid Taiwan against a Chinese attack. The Chinese respond
with three salvos of DF 21D, the first of which pierced the hull,
start fires and shut down flight operations, the second knocked out its
engines and the third wave, the article says, would "send the George
Washington to the bottom of the ocean."
To target the missile there would be several layers of sensors. These
would include over-the-horizon radar, which would help track surface
units. They also have airborne sensors to look out into the Pacific, as
well as space-based satellites to track a strike group and provide a very
accurate snapshot with which to precisely guide a missile.