CHINA-U.S. NAVAL CONFRONTASI china’s ‘carrier killer’ missile

China’s ‘carrier killer’ missile
eastwind journals 169


By Bernie Lopez
Permission is granted to re-publish with credits.
The views in this article are the author’s alone.
when the first nuclear bomb of human history
fell on hiroshima in japan during world war 2
everything was razed to the ground for miles around
except for a jesuit church five blocks from ground zero
where people were praying the rosary
we have the power to avert disasters through prayers
Let us first take a quick satellite view of the last 3 decades. The flash point was the Strait of Taiwan. When China conducted missile tests and military exercises here in 1996, the US sent two aircraft carriers to the South China Sea to remind China of its vast superiority, a ‘deterrence’ to China’s aggressive posture to regain Taiwan. The move backfired. Instead of ‘deterring’, it forced China to embark on a long-term weapons program.


Today, the US cannot just pooh-pooh the Chinese arsenal. More than half of China’s Air Force is inside the mountains, neutralizing any US first-strike option. It has developed the ‘carrier-killer’ Dongfeng 21D missile, with speed of Mach 10 and range of 1,700 km, which can theoretically take out an aircraft carrier surrounded by dozens of warships in minutes before the fleet can react. The US is developing its own Mac 10-15 prototype. Still, five simultaneous Dongfengs may be enough to take out an entire fleet. China has developed a light mobile twin-hulled mini-aircraft carrier proto-type, which can be built overnight, and which can carry dozens of deadly attack drones. It has littered the entire South China Sea with thousands of submarine detectors.


The formidable ‘carrier killer’ Dongfeng 21D. Speed Mach 10. Range 1,700 km. Nuclear-capable.
(Source –


Dongfeng 21D carrier target trajectory data.
(Source –


China’s scheme involved sophisticated but low-cost weapons, such as “anti-ship missiles, short and medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, stealth submarines, and cyber and space arms”. The Pentagon called these ‘asymmetric weapons’, meaning cheap mega-bullets threatening expensive tanks. The Pentagon saw threats against its fixed bases in Japan and Guam, and mobile carriers. When a Song class Chinese sub appeared undetected beside the Kitty Hawk carrier during a US Pacific war game, the US Navy panicked. Six decades before that, the US had “unrivaled naval and air power”. Now, the US can be denied access to Taiwan waters by anti-ship missiles.


The Pentagon labels China’s latest moves as an “anti-access/anti-denial” (A2/AD) capability. The US response is the Air/Sea Battle (ASB). A US Air Force simulation war game called Pacific Vision in October 2008 triggered the conceptualization of the ASB, a massive joint air-sea assault that can execute in-depth attacks to disrupt and destroy the A2/AD. The ASB strategy is a quick blinding first-strike against A2/AD, using land-sea-based missile launchers, surveillance and communication systems, satellite and anti-satellite weapons, and command and control nodes.


The Pentagon’s ASB has four problems. First, a massive attack deep into Chinese territory will trigger a nuclear response. ASB presumes a nuclear risk. Second, China knows about ASB and is getting ready for it. Hence it is no longer pre-emptive. Third, an ASB all-out attack can be implemented only in a crisis situation, a last resort option, not in a non-nuclear or gray area confrontation. Fourth, the civilian government frowns upon this military adventurism. What if a trigger-happy ASB general causes World War III.


In 1986, China shifted its naval strategy from “Coastal Defense” to “Offshore Defense” to control its maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea. ‘Defense’ evolved into ‘Offense’. If China closes the Strait of Taiwan with mines, the last resort of oil ships enroute to Japan is to use the much wider Luzon Strait (160 km.). This scenario radicalized Japan. It is working feverishly to defend this last choke point. In 2013, it deployed surface-to-ship missiles in Miyako Island to choke any China naval break out to the East China Sea. In 2014, it built a radar station in Yonaguni Island to monitor the nearby disputed Senkaku Island. In the same year, it passed a cabinet resolution to reinterpret its post war pacifist Constitution that paved the way to the concept of ‘global military cooperation’. Japan could now come to the aid of foreign forces under attack outside its territory.


This is a hint that the Philippines and Vietnam could forge separate bilateral mutual defense treaties with Japan. The Luzon Strait choke point is critical to Japan’s international maritime trade. It will be willing to build expensive sophisticated defense systems in Batanes, particularly in the strategic Bashi Channel, if a treaty with the Philippines would permit it.


The US is in fact eyeing a broader defense system in the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), identifying eight points – Subic, Clark, Laoag Airport, Batanes, two points in Cebu, and two in Palawan. But if the Supreme Court declares EDCA unconstitutional, Pivot to Asia will have a huge gap in the Philippines in the US encirclement effort of China. If so, a Philippine Japan treaty would be critical. A broad alliance among Vietnam, Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Brunei would form the first Asian version of NATO, an Asia Pacific Treaty Organization (APTO). But that’s a tall order.
China’s reply to a vastly superior US is the use of ‘asymmetric weapons’, cheap intelligent missiles against big armor like carriers. Read more – Philippine-Reply-to-China-missiles-not warships.

The Eagle and the Bear are now eyeball to eyeball in the Spratleys, two giants about to claw and wrestle with each other. Read Inquirer article – Playing-footsy-with-the-bear.

Japan is a ‘third force’ that may tip the balance. Read Inquirer article Philippine-Japan-Mutual-Defense-Treaty.

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