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Chinese missile could shift Pacific power balance

By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press Writer Eric Talmadge, Associated Press Writer – Thu Aug 5, 5:43 pm ET

 

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON – Nothing projects U.S. global air and sea power more vividly than supercarriers. Bristling with fighter jets that can reach deep into even landlocked trouble zones, America's virtually invincible carrier fleet has long enforced its dominance of the high seas.

 

China may soon put an end to that.

 

U.S. naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China — an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles).

 

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EDITOR'S NOTE — The USS George Washington supercarrier recently deployed off North Korea in a high-profile show of U.S. sea power. AP Tokyo News Editor Eric Talmadge was aboard the carrier, and filed this report.

 

___

 

Analysts say final testing of the missile could come as soon as the end of this year, though questions remain about how fast China will be able to perfect its accuracy to the level needed to threaten a moving carrier at sea.

Click photo to see slideshow of (nearly) invincible U.S. supercarrier

 

 

 

AP

 

The weapon, a version of which was displayed last year in a Chinese military parade, could revolutionize China's role in the Pacific balance of power, 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 (18,000-kilometer) -long coastline.

 

While a nuclear bomb could theoretically sink a carrier, assuming its user was willing to raise the stakes to atomic levels, the conventionally-armed Dong Feng 21D's uniqueness is in its ability to hit a powerfully defended moving target with pin-point precision.

 

The Chinese Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to the AP's request for a comment.

 

Funded by annual double-digit increases in the defense budget for almost every year of the past two decades, the Chinese navy has become Asia's largest and has expanded beyond its traditional mission of retaking Taiwan to push its sphere of influence deeper into the Pacific and protect vital maritime trade routes.

 

"The Navy has long had to fear carrier-killing capabilities," said 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.

 

It strongly opposed plans to hold U.S.-South Korean war games in the Yellow Sea off the northeastern Chinese coast, saying the participation of the USS George Washington supercarrier, with its 1,092-foot (333-meter) flight deck and 6,250 personnel, would be a provocation because it put Beijing within striking range of U.S. F-18 warplanes.

 

The carrier instead took part in maneuvers held farther away in the Sea of Japan.

 

U.S. officials deny Chinese pressure kept it away, and say they will not be told by Beijing where they can operate.

 

"We reserve the right to exercise in international waters anywhere in the world," Rear Adm. Daniel Cloyd, who headed the U.S. side of the exercises, said aboard the carrier during the maneuvers, which ended last week.

 

But the new missile, if able to evade the defenses of a carrier and of the vessels sailing with it, could undermine that policy.

 

"China can reach out and hit the U.S. well before the U.S. can get close enough to the mainland to hit back," said Toshi Yoshihara, an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College. He said U.S. ships have only twice been that vulnerable — against Japan in World War II and against Soviet bombers in the Cold War.

 

Carrier-killing missiles "could have an enduring psychological effect on U.S. policymakers," he e-mailed to The AP. "It underscores more broadly that the U.S. Navy no longer rules the waves as it has since the end of World War II. The stark reality is that sea control cannot be taken for granted anymore."

 

Yoshihara said the weapon is causing considerable consternation in Washington, though — with attention focused on land wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — its implications haven't been widely discussed in public.

 

Analysts note that while much has been made of China's efforts to ready a carrier fleet of its own, it would likely 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.

 

The Pentagon has been worried for years about China getting an anti-ship ballistic missile. The Pentagon considers such a missile an "anti-access," weapon, meaning that it could deny others access to certain areas.

 

The Air Force's top surveillance and intelligence officer, Lt. Gen. David Deptula, told reporters this week that China's effort to increase anti-access capability is part of a worrisome trend.

 

He did not single out the DF 21D, but said: "While we might not fight the Chinese, we may end up in situations where we'll certainly be opposing the equipment that they build and sell around the world."

 

Questions remain over when — and if — China will perfect the technology; hitting a moving carrier is no mean feat, requiring state-of-the-art guidance systems, and some experts believe it will take China a decade or so to field a reliable threat. Others, however, say final tests of the missile could come in the next year or two.

 

Former Navy commander James Kraska, a professor of international law and sea power at the U.S. Naval War College, recently wrote a controversial article in the magazine Orbis outlining a hypothetical scenario set just five years from now in which a Deng Feng 21D missile with a penetrator warhead sinks the USS George Washington.

 

That would usher in a "new epoch of international order in which Beijing emerges to displace the United States."

 

While China's Defense Ministry never comments on new weapons before they become operational, the DF 21D — which would travel at 10 times the speed of sound and carry conventional payloads — has been much discussed by military buffs online.

 

A pseudonymous article posted on Xinhuanet, website of China's official news agency, imagines the U.S. dispatching the George Washington to aid Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

 

The Chinese would respond with three salvos of DF 21D, the first of which would pierce the hull, start fires and shut down flight operations, the article says. The second would knock out its engines and be accompanied by air attacks. The third wave, the article says, would "send the George Washington to the bottom of the ocean."

 

Comments on the article were mostly positive.

 

___

 

AP writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing and National Security Writer Anne Gearan in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100805/ap_on_re_as/as_china_us_carrier_killer

 

 

First post in this part of the forum, so I don't know how you handle sources.

 

This new ASBM sounds incredibly formidable. I'd like to see how it handles newer generation defense systems.

 

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Imagine the devastation that would occur if the US went to war with China. Cheap shit vendors everywhere would be out of business!

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Some guy in one of the forums I participated in(he supposedly served), made this response:

 

 

Sounds a touch hoaky to this Navy vet. Here's some things that stand out to me though that make the DF-21D not as formidable as the article would want you to believe.

 

First is the Mach 10 figure. That is trucking even for a missile, but when you're talking ballistic missiles is kind of a misnomer. Since it's sub-orbital the missile will reach Mach 10 (the Space Shuttle in a full orbit hits Mach 18), but once it re-enters the atmosphere it starts to slow down. Once re-entry starts (usually much sooner) the engines are either completely shut down or out of fuel so the missiles terminal velocity (right before impact) is much less than it's top speed.

 

Next point of contention is the whole 3 salvo thing, and their intended effects. I can buy the whole penetrator warhead, but a warhead that can specifically target the engine room on a moving carrier is another thing all together. Engine rooms on carriers aren't on the very bottom of the ship, but they're close. Starting at the flight deck there's another 9 decks (or so) to go before you get into the engine room. The engine rooms themselves are shielded (due to the reactors) so it would take a lot to go through the 6" armor flight deck, another 8 or 9 decks of steel and equipment, and then punch through the engine room wall. As far as sinking a carrier that is much easier said than done. Even with a hole punched through it completely from the flight deck to the bottom of the hull a carrier isn't going down. There are literally thousands of compartments all of which are shut with watertight doors. With all those compartments holding air it would take hundreds of breaches to sink a carrier. An experiment was conducted after WWII when a decommed carrier (the USS Franklin I think) was completely shut up and then targeted by bombers. They wanted to see how many hits it would take to sink her. Well 98 bombs later it was still floating and it took several more torpedo hits to take her down.

 

But wait there's more. The article claims that one of the best defenses of a carrier is it's ability to move with speed. That is a good trick for a vessel of it's size, but it's not the only one up ol' George's sleeve. Carriers are crammed full of the latest electronic hardware including detection and jamming equipment. They also carry a full complement of decoys, and of course has some of the best combat aircraft in the world at it's disposal. You may ask yourself (thanks David Byrne) what could aircraft do vs. a ballistic missile? The U.S. inventory includes the ASAT or anti-satellite missile which the F-18 is qualified to carry and fire. When a launch is detected the fleet commander could attack the satellites overhead and Mao can kiss his mid-course guidance goodbye. Also as a last resort the aircraft could be ordered to fly directly above the carrier in the hopes that they would physically interfere with the warheads flight path. The carrier air wing could also attack the launch sites themselves, along with command and control sites which would stop further attacks.

 

Finally there's the carriers buddies. U.S. Carriers are never alone and more escort fleets are being equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System

wikipedia_icon.gif Aegis_Ballistic_Missile_Defense_System

. It is the only ship-bourne missile system that has successfully hit a live-fire ballistic missile. Way back when Aegis first came out in the 80's it was known that the radar was so powerful that it could detect low level satellites. Then when Desert Storm came about and the Scud made it's debut on the world stage the Aegis developers started a program to adapt Aegis to a anti-ballistic missile role.

 

The Dong-Feng is very fearsome, but I'd like to remind those that think the U.S.S. George Washington is a sitting duck of this ancient Chinese proverb. Those who underestimate the flattop will soon kiss the JDAM.

 

So far, I'm pretty meh on this. This should stimulate U.S. development of ABM technologies, and probably not laser technologies as energy-based ABM technologies were rendered useless by the Russian TOPOL-M anyways.

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That carrier sure could take a load of punishment. Note that torpedoes do far more damage than bombs, and are also under the waterline. Most smaller, but not tiny, vessels would break when hit with a single torpedo. Witness the Cheonan (displacement 1200 tonnes). The carrier taking several proves how damage resistant they are.

 

Rather than sink a carrier it is easier to disable it by damaging its screws. Very hard to conduct flight ops on a stationary carrier. A ballistic missile can't achieve this - which is why AIP diesel-electric subs give carrier groups the willies.


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Oh and on a second note, Russia, THIS IS WHY WE NEED ABM CAPABILITY. NOW STFU!!!!

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Oh and on a second note, Russia, THIS IS WHY WE NEED ABM CAPABILITY. NOW STFU!!!!

 

What RIPTIDE said. Besides, we already have a Patriot battalion in Morag, Poland. Not sure why it wasn't reported on or why Russia didn't respond, but anywho, Russia sold surface-to-surface anti-shipping missiles to China before, and to great protest from Washington. ASM's such as the 3M80 Moskit or the 3M54 Klub were noted for their theoritcally capabilities to infilitrate the defensive systems of a U.S.N. Carrier battle group and strike the carrier. It was also claimed that those missiles were "carrier-killers".

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lol? ABM attack fomr China to US naval forces will be going East and South East.

 

Right, and wasn't Russia whining about our ABM Aegis cruisers? They were opposing us developing any kind of ABMs if I remember right.

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With a modern carrier you just need to punch some holes in the landing area, then it is a mission kill for the vessel and in need for a refit, a MIRV or in this case MaRV will have extrene kinetic energy so there should be no problem, also the story about the space shuttle only doing Mach 1 in orbit, that would kind of shrink the earth since it does one orbit in about 90 minutes.

there is another thread on this and Skater does quote some disturbing figures for the AEGIS ships and not very flattering, from under crewed to under maintained, and at least 4 not servicable. plus on top of that the SM-3 is not ready for IOC yet.

 

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What RIPTIDE said. Besides, we already have a Patriot battalion in Morag, Poland. Not sure why it wasn't reported on or why Russia didn't respond, but anywho, Russia sold surface-to-surface anti-shipping missiles to China before, and to great protest from Washington. ASM's such as the 3M80 Moskit or the 3M54 Klub were noted for their theoritcally capabilities to infilitrate the defensive systems of a U.S.N. Carrier battle group and strike the carrier. It was also claimed that those missiles were "carrier-killers".

If the Patriots are in Poland, then Iskander-M is in Kalliningrad. IIRC that was the general posturing and intents at the time. I think the Patriot itself is reported as unarmed... lolol... but I don't believe that.


Edited by RIPTIDE

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Right, and wasn't Russia whining about our ABM Aegis cruisers? They were opposing us developing any kind of ABMs if I remember right.

Not sure. But can anyone tell me what is the maximum angle above horizon the aegis complex can range and Track at? Its probably classified, but my point is that ASBM will be screaming in at a very high angle form above. If this is above the SPY-1 horizon look up, then it simply won't track it. And I think this is where the risk lies.

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SPY-1 will track it. That is its job - to track ballistic missiles/warheads and blast them out of orbit. There's nothing magical about DF-21D, and frankly I believe its capabilities are blown way the hell out of proportion.

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SPY-1 will track it. That is its job - to track ballistic missiles/warheads and blast them out of orbit. There's nothing magical about DF-21D, and frankly I believe its capabilities are blown way the hell out of proportion.

I'll ask again. How high above horizon in degrees will the AEGIS complex track it? If the range of this missile is as reported, that means its very possible for it to have a very high apogee and come down at a high angle.

Bad news.

 

IN short you'll need a upward looking radar array to compliment the 360 side ones to be secure. On land systems... sure. No problem. On naval systems... that's a problem.


Edited by RIPTIDE

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55 degrees minimum, plus I recall SM-3 capable ship tracking sattelites nearly directly above it ... but perhaps that was using a data-link. Who knows. Isn't AEGIS wonderful? ;)

 

I'll ask again. How high above horizon in degrees will the AEGIS complex track it? If the range of this missile is as reported, that means its very possible for it to have a very high apogee and come down at a high angle.

Bad news.

 

IN short you'll need a upward looking radar array to compliment the 360 side ones to be secure. On land systems... sure. No problem. On naval systems... that's a problem.

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55 degrees minimum, plus I recall SM-3 capable ship tracking sattelites nearly directly above it ... but perhaps that was using a data-link. Who knows. Isn't AEGIS wonderful? ;)

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Funny that until now, the main problem was dealing with sea-skimmers ... I've seen papers as far back as '53 regarding that issue.

 

Great, now get me a cup of tea. No sugar, I'm sweet enough as it is.

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...

also the story about the space shuttle only doing Mach 1 in orbit, that would kind of shrink the earth since it does one orbit in about 90 minutes.

...

 

It actually reads Mach 18, but 8 and ) was interpreted as the 8) smiley by the forum ;)

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Yep, having a couple clues as to how Phased Array radar works, I would think that doesn't really resemble reality - you cannot point the beam past a certain amount of deflection without severe distortion. Note that in some cases these radars are mounted with a few degrees deflection up already.

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Yep, having a couple clues as to how Phased Array radar works, I would think that doesn't really resemble reality - you cannot point the beam past a certain amount of deflection without severe distortion. Note that in some cases these radars are mounted with a few degrees deflection up already.

Exactly. If the arrays were somehow more versatile and been able to steer electronically across larger arcs you wouldn't need the same number of planar arrays that are present on ship installations nowadays for 360 all around. A sharper installation angle would do it on the present arrays for that critical top cover. But that's a lot of work on a lot of ships and it may cause a deterioration on the horizon lookout, which.. frankly, is where most threats will come from.

 

The other solution is of course to spatially disperse Aegis equipped destroyers within a carrier group by enough distance so that at anyone time, at least one unit has a track. << That seems like the winner.

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