The US has sent ships to the waters around Taiwan in the wake of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to that country. China may have the largest navy in the world, but it falls short of the US in terms of might. For this reason, it has been concentrating on creating “carrier-killers.”
Beijing is aware that its navy cannot directly compete with the US Navy and is particularly outmatched when it comes to carriers. Despite reports of several Chinese planes flying close to the median line of the delicate Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning and several Chinese warships remaining close to the unofficial dividing line since Monday.
And for precisely this reason, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has worked to create its “carrier-killer” anti-ship ballistic missiles.
A previously unidentified missile was seen being fired from a Type 055 guided-missile cruiser in a video clip that was published in April by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
The YJ-21 hypersonic anti-ship missile, which offers a larger threat to US aircraft carriers than the DF-21D and DF-26B road-mobile anti-ship ballistic missiles, was reportedly launched by the PLA Navy from a Type 055 heavy destroyer, according to the UK newspaper The Times.
Let’s look more closely at these weapons and why they might have altered how carriers operate on the high seas:
DF-21D and DF-26B
It is believed that the warheads on the DF-21D and DF-26 are both sufficiently manoeuvrable to strike huge, rather slow-moving ships like aircraft carriers.
China launched both of its test platforms into the South China Sea a day after accusing Washington of sending a U-2 spy plane into a “no-fly zone” during a PLAN live-fire naval exercise in the Bohai Sea off China’s northern coast.
The DF-21D is thought to carry a conventional payload and has an estimated range of 1,200 kilometres. It can manoeuvre dynamically during its reentry phase, giving it the capacity to engage moving warships.
Warship captains face a particularly difficult challenge from the DF-21D missile, which travels at the typical ballistic missile hypersonic terminal velocity.
Most conventional naval defensive systems would be useless when a ship is hurtling toward a surface combatant at hypersonic speed and at a sharp angle of descent.
With a range of up to 4000 km, the DF-26B anti-ship model, a DF-26 version, could engage ships as far away as Guam.
China successfully tested both missiles two years ago during a launch at what might have been moving targets between the Paracel Islands and the Hainan Province in the South China Sea. After the tests, China issued a warning to its enemies “not to intervene in China’s core interests.”
What Exactly Is a DF-26B?
The DF-26B is an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), a class of weapons with noticeably longer ranges that can reach targets up to a range of 2500km to 5500km away.
In September 2015, according to the report, China displayed the DF-26B (Dong Feng-26) during a military parade. It is suitable for both conventional and nuclear attacks on both land and sea targets.
Because it may be used to attack the fleet of nuclear-powered supercarriers of the Nimitz and Ford classes of the US Navy, it has also been referred to as a “carrier-killer.”
Since the YJ-21 can travel anywhere in the world’s oceans aboard ships, it can be thought of as the DF-21D of the sea. This gives Chinese naval warfare a significant capability boost.
As a result, China became the first nation in the world to use such a missile from a military vessel in operational service.
The new Chinese weapon has small fins and a bi-conic snout, as seen in the April video footage. Small control surfaces on the missile indicate it is not a surface-to-air missile (SAM), a type of missile that must be exceedingly manoeuvrable to attack quickly moving aircraft.
The Wuxi’s stern vertical launch system (VLS) was used to launch the YJ-21, which was gas-expelled from the launcher cell before the missile’s own engine fired once it was in the air and away from the ship. The YJ-21 must fit between these limits since Chinese VLS cells can house missiles up to 9 metres long and with an 850 mm diameter.
The YJ-21’s performance characteristics are not yet known, however its theoretical range could vary from 1,000 to 1,500 kilometres. The YJ-21 is said to have a terminal velocity of Mach 10, or ten times the speed of sound, according to the South China Morning Post, which is not always reliable in its reporting on the PLA.
The YJ-21’s origins are still unknown, however it is possible that it was derived from the Chinese CM-401 missile, which is comparable to Russia’s Iskander short-range ballistic missile that has recently been employed against Ukraine. When the CM-401 made its debut in 2018, it was predicted that it will eventually be installed on warships. However, as compared to the CM-401, the YJ-21 adds a significant booster.
It is obvious that the short rocket booster and extended and tapered manoeuvring re-entry vehicle have been designed to fit into a ship’s small VLS cell. It is not entirely unexpected, nevertheless, that the YJ-21 has suddenly surfaced. China may equip its Type 055 cruisers with this kind of weaponry, according to a 2020 suggestion from the US Department of Defense (DoD).
According to the Pentagon’s most recent annual report on China’s military, “the Renhai (Type 055) has 112 VLS cells and can carry a large loadout of weapons, including anti-ship cruise missiles, SAMs, torpedoes, and anti-submarine weapons, as well as likely land-attack cruise missiles and anti-ship ballistic missiles when those become operational.”
The PLA Navy (PLAN) is attempting to expand its reach to “distant seas.” Now, its ships frequently go across the oceans surrounding Europe. The next nautical frontier, the Arctic (Polar Silk Road), is another area of focus for PLAN. Although it lags behind the US in terms of capacity, China already has the largest fleet in the world in terms of numbers with more than 350 ships. PLAN intends to have more than 450 ships by 2035. The Chinese Coast Guard, which has more than 100 oceangoing platforms, is the biggest in the world.
“China has almost 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the DF-41, which has a range of more than 12,000 km and can carry up to 10 warheads. Over the past few years, the number of DF-21 and DF-26 medium-range missiles has expanded from 16 to 200. According to Dwivedi, China is also reported to have produced “Hypersonic Glide Vehicle” and “Hypersonic Cruise Missile.”
Between 2000 and 2022, China’s defence spending will have climbed by over 10 times, from $22.93 billion to $230 billion. The actual expenditures is thought to be far greater given that Beijing has habitually understated its military budget, he noted.
“The largest military transformation seen in generations is being carried out in China. It closely resembles the goals and objectives of the country. Beijing’s military actions against India in the South China Sea, across the Taiwan Strait, and on the LAC show how hostile the Chinese capital has become, especially since Xi took office.”