Deadly Chinese Missile Threats Pt 2
The principle argument rising of late is the questioning whether China has the capability to build a missile with the accuracy to strike a large warship maneuvering on the high seas. The idea is that since there is no clear evidence of China even deploying such a missile as the ASBM, the need for concern is evidentially remote. Read the following critique from In from the Cold:
First…there is the nagging issue of demonstrated accuracy. The DF-21D is still in testing, and so far, it has not proved its ability to strike a carrier-sized target over the horizon. True, the problem could be solved by placing a nuclear warhead on the missile, but that “solution” would invite a massive U.S. response, one reason that China emphasizes the conventional capabilities of the DF-21D.
It’s also worth remembering the first rule of precision strike: devastatingly accurate weapons require intelligence of comparable precision. Beijing is working hard to improve its intel, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, but (once again) there is inconclusive evidence regarding the PRC’s ability to develop–and deliver–such information for a time-sensitive target like an aircraft carrier at sea.
Yet the question should not be does China possess this technology but is there a possibility the technology could work. In fact there is clear proof in the viability of the ASBM. The following conclusion comes to us from Geoff at Arms Control Wonk:
(My) rather simple calculations have shown that both types of guidance and control for an anti-ship ballistic missile are possible. But both would be pushing China’s technology considerably.
But what if China didn’t rely on its own technology, and the perhaps decades of testing required to deploy such a system. Recall that the US has advanced guidance systems of missiles and bombs for decades, and they have been proved dramatically workable in combat. Here is Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a very famous recent speech at the US Navy League:
At the higher end of the access-denial spectrum, the virtual monopoly the U.S. has enjoyed with precision guided weapons is eroding – especially with long-range, accurate anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles that can potentially strike from over the horizon. This is a particular concern with aircraft carriers and other large, multi-billion-dollar blue-water surface combatants, where, for example, a Ford-class carrier plus its full complement of the latest aircraft would represent potentially a $15 to $20 billion set of hardware at risk.
As the story goes, the Chinese have reverse engineered, reinvented or stolen the 1970s technology that went into the U.S. Pershing ballistic missile. This 7.5 ton U.S. Army missile also had an 1,800 kilometers range, and could put its nuclear warhead within 30 meters of its aim point. This was possible because the guidance system had its own radar…This kind of accuracy made the Russians very uncomfortable, as it made their command bunkers vulnerable. The Russians eventually agreed to a lot of nuclear and missile disarmament deals in order to get the Pershings decommissioned in the 1980s.
Also, it is reported that Tomahawk cruise missiles, some of our most accurate and again well-proven weapons have fallen into Chinese hands:
China also continues developing long range cruise missiles, and adapting them to operate from aircraft. The latest missile to get this treatment is the DH-10. This weapon is similar to early U.S. cruise missiles, and has a range of 1,500-3,000 kilometers and uses GPS, along with terrain mapping. The DH-10 was first shown publicly in the recent 60th anniversary of the communists taking control of China, on October 1st.) The aircraft carried version is called the CJ-10. This is believed to be based on some American cruise missile technology.
So the precision technology which has dominated American warmaking since the 1990s is now out of the box. Soon this proliferation of advanced targeting will be joined to the widespread ballistic missile stocks, if the history of warfare is any guide. The following info is via the DoD and American Forces Press Service:
(The director of the Missile Defense Agency) pointed out a proliferation of Scud missiles that originate from the old Soviet Union. According to intelligence, he said, more than 6,000 missiles are in countries other than NATO, the United States, China and Russia, as well as more than 1,000 launchers.
The United States has witnessed many failures in the development and testing of these systems. However, O’Reilly cautioned against complacency in the face of other countries’ efforts. The United States experienced failures as well in the 1960s and in missile defense in the 1990s, he noted.
“History shows that if they are persistent, they will be successful,” he said. “But history also shows that it is extremely challenging to be precise on when they will be successful.”
From yesterdays and today’s post, you can gather at least two conclusions concerning the Chinese missile threats:
- Their launch systems would be extremely difficult to find and target.
- Their own targeting and guidance systems, plus numbers might be a game-changer blunting our traditional tactic of power projection from the sea.
So what can be done to defeat the upcoming missile threats from China and her like-armed clients? I am a firm believer in fighting fire with fire. In other words, instead of seeking technological breakthroughs to maintain enormously expensive last century naval airpower viable, to use missiles to combat the enemy missiles. For instance, in the recent AirSea Battle by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments came the following idea:
The Navy should consider investing in conventionally-armed, relatively short-range sea-based IRBMs to further complicate PLA planning. Depending on missile technical characteristics, both submarines and surface ships (not necessarily combatants) could serve as potential firing platforms. Ballistic missile striking power should be distributed across a large number of platforms similar to the way Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles distributed Navy strike power that had previously been concentrated in a small number of aircraft carriers. An ASBM variant should also be considered.
The Navy then should proceed post-haste to strengthen its guided missile fleet, with more subs, including SSGNs and perhaps many surface arsenal ships. Another equalizer could come from land-based airpower such as USAF bombers and the new P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft, arming the latter with stand-off cruise missiles. Long-endurance UAVs such as the J-UCAS would also be necessary, which can loiter for extended periods and watch for missile launches. This to me sees the best way to counter mobile missile launchers, other than a land-based invasion which may be extremely difficult and could lead to escalation.
- Ding Dong, Dong-Feng! (hotair.com)
- New anti-ship ballistic missiles deployed from Guangdong – Wendell Minnick (chinaherald.net)
- China ups military edge over Taiwan, Pentagon says (reuters.com)
- China Slams Pentagon Report (newsy.com)