China’s “Game-Changing” Carrier-Killing Missile Incites Navy Panic

08.05.09

Categorie: Asia, David Axe, Naval |

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by DAVID AXE

A rumored anti-ship variant of China’s DF-21 ballistic missile, pictured, combined with recon satellites, is one of the major perceived threats driving U.S. naval thinking. One of the reasons the Navy gave for truncating the DDG-1000 stealth destroyer program to just three ships, was that it can’t shoot down ballistic missiles, whereas the older DDG-51 can.

The U.S. Naval Institute devoted several pages to the DF-21 in the current Proceedings magazine. The Institute even put artist Tom Freeman’s alarmist “missile-hits-aircraft-carrier” painting on the cover. Writers Andrew Erickson and David Yang call the missile “a game-changer, with profound consequences for deterrence, military operations and the balance of power in the Western Pacific.”

It is, but only if the U.S. Navy intends to attack China. The DF-21 carrier-killer, if it exists, is a defensive weapon, presumably meant to ward off the world’s most powerful, mobile attack weapon, the American aircraft carrier — plus the carriers of close U.S. allies such as India, France and the U.K.

Other nations have carrier-killing weapons. British and Australian submarines are perhaps the most potent carrier killers in the world. India has its Brahmos supersonic anti-ship missile. We don’t worry about them because we don’t perceive these nations as enemies. We fear China, so much so that our military intellectual establishment spins even defensive weapons as serious threats to our interests.

Let’s be clear on this point: China has every right to defend itself, and to influence its waters and its neighbors. As the world’s third-biggest economy, highly reliant on sea trade, we must expect China to have a powerful navy and lethal naval weapons. And considering that U.S. warships currently range all over the world, at their will, while carrying a high proportion of the entire planet’s weaponry, it would be frankly surprising if China didn’t take some steps to ensure it had the means to kill attacking warships.

We need fear China’s carrier-killers only if we intend to attack China. But we don’t, and shouldn’t, for attacking China would be the height of folly.

Tom Barnett is right: China will be, and must be, one of our closest allies in the emerging globalized world order, for only China has the resources and the will to be our partner in taming the world’s under-governed wilds. Let’s not spoil this evolving partnership with a lot of hand-wringing over a missile.

(Photo: via Air Power Australia)

Related:
Navy Takes China Harassment in Stride
U.S.-Chinese Confrontation at Sea: Everybody Take a Deep Breath, Now
U.S. Struggles to Adapt to Chinese Economic Strategy
Ten Reasons Not to Worry about Six Chinese Carriers
(Pretend) Annual Report: Military Power of the United States of America
Military Balance with China Depends on Indian Carriers

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16 Responses to “China’s “Game-Changing” Carrier-Killing Missile Incites Navy Panic”

  1. BF6 says:

    Once again you miss the point – the same point that holds true for their increase air defense weaponry. It’s not so much the fact of thier building powerful defenses as a hedge against potential attack from the US (although unless you are Nostrodamus, I’m not sure how you can say with certainty that this will NEVER happen), it is China’s propensity to proliferate such technologies to other countries (or non-state actors) who the US might need to attack at some point in the future that causes great concern!

  2. Galrahn says:

    BF6 is right. The proliferation history of China is the serious concern here.

    This weapon is remarkably simple, more so than what Andrew or my own blog has explained in the past. The other problem is it cannot be defeated with AEGIS BMD either, contrary to many assumptions otherwise.

    The concern is legit.

  3. Just An Australian says:

    Proliferation? Selling weapons. It’s a good thing USA doesn’t sell weapons overseas then.

    As for: “We need fear China’s carrier-killers only if we intend to attack China.” But that doesn’t matter. USA has moved into a special space reserved for the worst of school yard bullies: it doesn’t have friends any more, only countries it can thrash. So it must be able to beat everybody all at once, or will run itself into the ground doing so

  4. [...] China’s “Game-Changing” Carrier-Killing Missile Incites Navy Panic | War is Boring [...]

  5. Brutal Honesty says:

    Other countries are getting uppity because they think we can’t beat Iraq & Afganistan. What they don’t realize is that the scumbags contractors for our military are getting richer every day by dragging the wars out forever. If push came to shove, we’d just hit the lights and be done with it. And there’s no way we’d have a land war with China until we roll out the robots.

    It would just be nukes.

  6. Saturn5 says:

    In order to use DF-21 efficiently China is also developing an intensive C4ISR network according to DoD report. The oceans are vast and an American carrier group is small.
    Yes China has a bad proliferation history and even if China exports DF-21 to other countries or to non-state actors, these will not have the necessary C4ISR network (or means to protect their existing sensors from US attacks) to locate the carrier group to attack.

  7. nb says:

    “fear China’s carrier-killers only if we intend to attack China” — or if China wants to attack someone else and take out the only threat to their plans…

  8. Daverino says:

    Wow that was terrible. In all of that ‘telling us how it really is’ blog posting, did the word Taiwan ever come to mind? You might as well have declared that the V2 rockets of WW2 were strictly defensive, which of course it could have been… depending on your perspective.

  9. David Axe says:

    Daverino,

    The China-Taiwan spat is one that can, and should, be resolved slowly, peacefully, through dialogue. But for us, Taiwan is not worth fighting China over. Tell me, what is the U.S. interest in siding with Taiwan?

  10. [...] Time and again, warnings about the real world seem to slip through the media’s fingers. China’s new anti-ship ballistic missile is dismissed by War is Boring. “China has every right to defend itself, and to influence its waters and its neighbors.” quips David Axe. Yet CBS News headlines the threat of china using these missiles to attack all shipping in the missile’s “1,500 km+ range could hold ships at risk in a large maritime area, far beyond Taiwan into the Western Pacific. “ [...]

  11. [...] Related: China Fear-Mongering Raises Tensions China’s “Game-Changing” Carrier-Killing Missile Incites Navy Panic Navy Takes China Harassment in Stride U.S.-Chinese Confrontation at Sea: Everybody Take a Deep Breath, Now U.S. Struggles to Adapt to Chinese Economic Strategy Ten Reasons Not to Worry about Six Chinese Carriers (Pretend) Annual Report: Military Power of the United States of America Military Balance with China Depends on Indian Carriers No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  12. Judge says:

    What’s the use in defending Tawian? What’s the use in standing by any of our allies or treaties. We should just cut and run if it’s a fight we’d rather not have. That would be great for American interests, defense and reputation.

    With strategic thinking like this….

  13. Concerned UK says:

    The USA is the biggest threat to life and liberty on this little planet of ours. Failing capitalist socio-economic system, troops on six continents, barely disguised corporate initiated genocide for oil and resources, massive militarization, aggressive bullying political and economic stances, constant provoking of China and Russia, warmongering political agendas in peripheral countries, dramatically increasing domestic surviellance and repression…

    Add to this the statistical evidence of the USA’s responsibility for the extermination of more people than the Nazis, through either direct slaughter or political, financial and military support for brutal proxy regimes. Factor in also the world’s dramatically increasing anti-American hostility and the growing ability of some to directly attack the US and we have the foundations of war.

    China has the industrial capacity for a prolonged land-based war. The US doesn’t. Corporate greed has farmed production out to the slave-wage Third World and US industrial capacity has atrophied.

    Perhaps the openly arrogant posturing, the aggression towards militarily weak states and the very public bragging about the US’s ‘advanced’ technological warfare capability is partly designed to deflect attention from this distinct disadvantage and attempt to create a false impression of strength?

    Bravado hiding a crumbling economic structure and military weakness?

    US foreign policy is at best underhanded and always puts corporate profit before human life. If corporate America deems it necessary for an economically rising China to be neutralized before it overtakes the US and Europe the US ‘government’ will have no option but to go nuclear. Does the US have enough soldiers to take on the world’s largest standing army? Enough to occupy a country as large as China? Not if it can’t even decisively take control of peasant countries like Iraq & Afghanistan.

    US control of NATO will crumble as participant countries refuse to sacrifice their populations to strengthen the US corporate strangle-hold on the planet and America may well have its Judgment Day.

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  15. [...] Chinese Blog Proposes Giant, Submarine Aircraft Carrier China Fear-Mongering Raises Tensions China’s “Game-Changing” Carrier-Killing Missile Incites Navy Panic Navy Takes China Harassment in Stride U.S.-Chinese Confrontation at Sea: Everybody Take a Deep [...]

  16. Curmudgeon50 says:

    The Cold War was economic. The US was able to outspend the USSR. They collapsed trying to keep up. China can do the same to the US.

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