Why China Fears (And Plans to Sink) America’s Aircraft Carriers


USS Ronald Reagan conducts rudder checks. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

USS Ronald Reagan conducts rudder checks. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

Kyle Mizokami February 19, 2017

More than twenty years ago, a military confrontation in East Asia pushed the United States and China uncomfortably close to conflict. Largely unknown in America, the event made a lasting impression on China, especially Chinese military planners. The Third Taiwan Crisis, as historians call it, was China’s introduction to the power and flexibility of the aircraft carrier, something it obsesses about to this day.

The crisis began in 1995. Taiwan’s first-ever democratic elections for president were set for 1996, a major event that Beijing naturally opposed. The sitting president, Lee Teng-hui of the Kuomintang party, was invited to the United States to speak at his alma mater, Cornell University. Lee was already disliked by Beijing for his emphasis on “Taiwanization,” which favored home rule and established a separate Taiwanese identity away from mainland China. Now he was being asked to speak at Cornell on Taiwan’s democratization, and Beijing was furious.

The Clinton administration was reluctant to grant Lee a visa—he had been denied one for a similar talk at Cornell the year before—but near-unanimous support from Congress forced the White House’s hand. Lee was granted a visa and visited Cornell in June. The Xinhua state news agency warned, “The issue of Taiwan is as explosive as a barrel of gunpowder. It is extremely dangerous to warm it up, no matter whether the warming is done by the United States or by Lee Teng-hui. This wanton wound inflicted upon China will help the Chinese people more clearly realize what kind of a country the United States is.”

In August 1995, China announced a series of missiles exercises in the East China Sea. Although the exercises weren’t unusual, their announcement was, and there was speculation that this was the beginning of an intimidation campaign by China, both as retaliation against the Cornell visit and intimidation of Taiwan’s electorate ahead of the next year’s elections. The exercises involved the People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery Corps (now the PLA Rocket Forces) and the redeployment of Chinese F-7 fighters (China’s version of the MiG-21 Fishbed fighter) 250 miles from Taiwan. Also, in a move that would sound very familiar in 2017, up to one hundred Chinese civilian fishing boats entered territorial waters around the Taiwanese island of Matsu, just off the coast of the mainland.

According to Globalsecurity.org, redeployments of Chinese long-range missile forces continued into 1996, and the Chinese military actually prepared for military action. China drew up contingency plans for thirty days of missile strikes against Taiwan, one strike a day, shortly after the March 1996 presidential elections. These strikes were not carried out, but preparations were likely detected by U.S. intelligence.

In March 1996, China announced its fourth major military exercises since the Cornell visit. The country’s military announced a series of missile test zones off the Chinese coastline, which also put the missiles in the approximate direction of Taiwan. In reality, China fired three missiles, two of which splashed down just thirty miles from the Taiwanese capital of Taipei and one of which splashed down thirty-five miles from Kaohsiung. Together, the two cities handled most of the country’s commercial shipping traffic. For an export-driven country like Taiwan, the missile launches seemed like an ominous shot across the country’s economic bow.

American forces were already operating in the area. The USS Bunker Hill, a Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruiser, was stationed off southern Taiwan to monitor Chinese missile tests with its SPY-1 radar system. The Japan-based USS Independence, along with the destroyers Hewitt and O’Brien and frigate McClusky, took up position on the eastern side of the island.

After the missile tests, the carrier USS Nimitz left the Persian Gulf region and raced back to the western Pacific. This was an even more powerful carrier battle group, consisting of the Aegis cruiser Port Royal, guided missile destroyers Oldendorf and Callaghan (which would later be transferred to the Taiwanese Navy), guided missile frigate USS Ford, and nuclear attack submarine USS Portsmouth. Nimitz and its escorts took up station in the Philippine Sea, ready to assist Independence. Contrary to popular belief, neither carrier actually entered the Taiwan Strait.

The People’s Liberation Army, unable to do anything about the American aircraft carriers, was utterly humiliated. China, which was just beginning to show the consequences of rapid economic expansion, still did not have a military capable of posing a credible threat to American ships just a short distance from of its coastline.

While we might never know the discussions that later took place, we know what has happened since. Just two years later a Chinese businessman purchased the hulk of the unfinished Russian aircraft carrier Riga, with the stated intention of turning it into a resort and casino. We know this ship today as China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, after it was transferred to the PLA Navy and underwent a fifteen-year refurbishment. At least one other carrier is under construction, and the ultimate goal may be as many as five Chinese carriers.

At the same time, the Second Artillery Corps leveraged its expertise in long-range rockets to create the DF-21D antiship ballistic missile. The DF-21 has obvious applications against large capital ships, such as aircraft carriers, and in a future crisis could force the U.S. Navy to operate eight to nine hundred miles off Taiwan and the rest of the so-called “First Island Chain.”

The Third Taiwan Crisis was a brutal lesson for a China that had long prepared to fight wars inside of its own borders. Still, the PLA Navy deserves credit for learning from the incident and now, twenty-two years later, it is quite possible that China could seriously damage or even sink an American carrier. Also unlike the United States, China is in the unique position of both seeing the value of carriers and building its own fleet while at the same time devoting a lot of time and resources to the subject of sinking them. The United States may soon find itself in the same position.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

Source: National Interest “Why China Fears (And Plans to Sink) America’s Aircraft Carriers”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


US Aircraft Carriers Doomed Facing China’s J-20 Fleet


A J-20 climbing up. Credit: Dingsheng.com/1562

A J-20 climbing up. Credit: Dingsheng.com/1562

According to Russian military observation website, China is producing J-20 faster than US F-35B and F-35C to ensure China’s air superiority in long- and super long-range air battles.

A regiment of 30 J-20s is enough to quickly and effectively intercept US early warning and manned and unmanned reconnaissance aircrafts, turning US military blind in areas near China.

With the production capacity of making 36 J-20s a year, China will have a regiment of J-20s by mid 2018.

In addition, 2 J-20 regiment (60 planes) plus dozens of DF-21D are enough to drive away US and Japanese navies. The US may develop better missiles to intercept DF-21D and even DF-26 as US AN/SPY-1A/D multi-function radar can detect the ballistic missiles. However US radar cannot detect a fleet of 10 J-20s conducting stealth attack at US navy with their radars turned off. The 20 YJ-91 supersonic anti-ship missiles carried by those J-20s are enough to sink a US aircraft carrier.

China is now developing hypersonic microwave electromagnetic warheads and stealth warheads even more difficult to intercept. China will have 500 J-20s by 2026, which will enable it to have advantages over others’ navy in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Russian media: US aircraft carrier battle group doomed facing fleet of J-20s” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)


US Cannot Rely on 3 ‘awesome missiles’ to Stop China’s ‘carrier killer’


Lots of DF-21D erected for volley

Lots of DF-21D erected for volley

I reblogged Logan Nye’ article “The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’” on December 23. Of the 3 missiles Nye mentioned, THAAD is land based and has limited range about 200 km so that US Navy cannot rely on it. SM-6 has to intercept the missile at terminal stage. Even if it hits the missile, the explosion may still cause damage to the carrier.

Only SM-3 is capable of intercepting the missile but according to a mil.eastday.com article, it is no defense against saturate attack of DF-21Ds. An Aegis destroyer can be armed with only 90 Standard-3 Block1B missile defense missiles that cost $10 million each and $900 million in all. With their maximum interception rate, the defense of all those missiles can be broken by the volley of China’s anti-ship ballistic missiles that cost less than $20 millions in all. As China’s anti-ship missiles are based on land, their launch system costs much less than an Aegis destroyer that costs $2 billion.

Therefore, due to the much lower costs, according to previous reports, China has 7 anti-ship missile brigades each with the capabilities of launching 24-32 anti-ship ballistic missiles simultaneously from their mobile launch vehicles. Together, they can attack with the volley of 168 to 224 missiles capable of sinking an entire aircraft carrier battle group. Moreover, they can reload for a second round of volley within hours as China has a large stock of the missiles due to its low cost. US fleet, if not sunk, cannot reload in such a short time and will be defenseless.

China has conducted a drill of firing dozens of DF-21Ds at the same target simultaneously from sites far away from one another and reloading the mobile launch vehicles within hours after the launch. Can US Navy rely on its limited number of SM-3s on a US aircraft carrier battle group in defending such saturated attacks?

Moreover, is the US rich enough to fight a war with expensive weapons against much cheaper but more effective weapons?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on WE ARE THE MIGHTY’s article, full text of which was reblogged here on December 23.


The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’


China’s Dong Feng-21D medium-range ballistic missile — otherwise known as the “carrier killer” — looms large in people’s minds as a weapon of ultimate destruction.

It’s designed to do exactly what the name implies: kill American and allied carriers, sending thousands of sailors to a watery grave.

But the Navy has been working to protect carriers from enemy ballistic missiles for decades. Here are three missiles that could stop a DF-21D in its tracks.

1. The Standard Missile-3

The Japanese navy ship JS KONGO launches a Standard Missile-3 against a ballistic missile during a Dec. 18, 2007, test. (Photo:

The Japanese navy ship JS KONGO launches a Standard Missile-3 against a ballistic missile during a Dec. 18, 2007, test. (Photo:

The SM-3 is the Navy’s preferred tool for defeating an incoming ballistic missile. The system is deployed on Aegis ballistic missile defense ships in the U.S. Navy and KONGO-class destroyers in Japan’s navy.

These missiles primarily engage their targets in space at the height of the ballistic missile’s flight path. To hit a DF-21D, the Aegis system will need to be on or near the projected flight path. Keeping carriers safe may require keeping an Aegis ship equipped with SM-3s permanently co-located with the carrier.

2. Standard Missile-6

The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) launches a Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) during a live-fire test of the ship’s aegis weapons system. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) launches a Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) during a live-fire test of the ship’s aegis weapons system. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The SM-6 is really designed to take down cruise missiles and perhaps the occasional jet, but the Navy has been testing its capability when pressed into an anti-ballistic missile role. In a Dec. 14 test, an updated SM-6 fired from an aegis destroyer successfully struck down a medium-range ballistic missile.

These are much cheaper than SM-3s, but the SM-6 is a final, last-ditch defense while the SM-3 is still the first call. That’s because SM-6s engage targeted missiles during their terminal phase, the final moments before the incoming missile kills its target. If the SM-6 misses, there isn’t time to do anything else.

3. The Army’s THAAD missile

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from a THAAD battery located on Wake Island during Flight Test Operational (FTO)-02 Event 2a, conducted Nov. 1, 2015. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency Ben Listerman)

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from a THAAD battery located on Wake Island during Flight Test Operational (FTO)-02 Event 2a, conducted Nov. 1, 2015. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency Ben Listerman)

The Terminal, High-Altitude Air Defense missile is a radar-guided, hit-to-kill missile that engages ballistic missiles either in the edge of space or soon after they enter the atmosphere. It might be capable of engaging a DF-21D after it begins its descent to the carrier.

The system is rapidly deployable and the Army has already stood up five air defense artillery batteries with the new missiles. One battery is deployed to Guam and plans are ongoing to deploy another to South Korea.

The main problem for the Navy when using THAAD to protect its ships is that the THAAD system is deployed on trucks, not ships. It’s hard to keep land-based missiles in position to protect ships sailing on the open sea.

Source: WE ARE THE MIGHTY “The Navy relies on these awesome missiles to stop China’s ‘carrier killer’”

Note: This is WE ARE THE MIGHTY’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


PLA unveils new weapons for air and sea combat following Hague tribunal ruling


China's DF-16 ballistic missiles displayed at September military parade last year. Photo from SCMP report

China’s DF-16 ballistic missiles displayed at September military parade last year. Photo from SCMP report

Fan Changlong visits troops. Photo from SCMP report

Fan Changlong visits troops. Photo from SCMP report

Rare disclosure of arsenal seen as warning to US not to provoke military confrontation

The Southern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army unveiled a series of new weapons for sea and air combat during a visit by top military officers.

In a rare revelation, the weapons were shown on state television in the wake of a landmark international tribunal rejecting Beijing’s claims to almost all of the South China Sea.

Military experts said the disclosure was intended to show that the newly formed Southern Theatre Command, which covers the South China Sea, was well-prepared for any potential military confrontation with the US.

In an inspection tour after the ruling, General Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, which oversees the PLA, called on troops to train hard to meet any challenges, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

“Air and sea patrols should be tightly organised to handle all kinds of emergencies to ensure security of sea and air borders,” said Fan, who was accompanied by General Ma Xiaotian, commander of the PLA Air Force, and General Wei Fenghe, chief of the army’s Rocket Force, which operates the country’s missile arsenal.

Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said Fan’s visit indicated that the southern command could carry out joint combat operations of land, rocket, naval and air forces as well as other strategic support forces.

“All the weapons showed on state media are defensive arms of short to medium range within 1,500km, meaning China so far is using restrained deterrence to warn the US not to challenge Beijing’s bottom line in the South China Sea,” Li said.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of troops in the southern theatre handling the DF-16 missile, which has a range up to 1,000km. The missile, which was first displayed on September 3 in a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war, could strike US military bases in Okinawa.

Earlier reports said the southern theatre was equipped with DF-21Ds, or “carrier-killer” anti-ship ballistic missiles, which have a range of 1,450km.

The CCTV footage also showed new H-6K bombers. A division of the jets has been deployed to the southern theatre to patrol Scarborough Shoal.

Source: SCMP “PLA unveils new weapons for air and sea combat following Hague tribunal ruling”


China’s 5 Anti-ship Missiles US Has No Effective Defense for 10 Years


Lots of DF-21D erected for volley

Lots of DF-21D erected for volley

China's YJ-12 anti-ship missiles

China’s YJ-12 anti-ship missiles

China's YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile

China’s YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile

Launch of China's YJ-18 from a warship

Launch of China’s YJ-18 from a warship

China’s DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missiles have already been well-known. In my post “Volley of China’s DF-21D Missiles Kills US Aircraft Carrier at Very Low Cost” on June 6, I said China was able to launch a volley of at least 168 DF-21D missiles simultaneously from its six DF-21D rocket brigades to kill an entire US aircraft carrier battle group in no time.

In addition, the launch vehicles can be reloaded in hours for a second volley.

DF-26 is said to be more powerful, but there is no information about its number and the number of DF-26 China is able to launch in a volley.

According to Depth Column of mil.news.sina.com.cn, to ensure that no US warships can escape China’s annihilation counterattack, China has, in addition, developed three kinds of anti-ship cruise missiles that the US has no effective defense: YJ-12, YJ-18 and YJ-100.

YJ-12 weighs between 2-2.5 tons. It has a terminal speed of Mach 4.0 as it uses a scramjet engine. It has a range of 400 km. As it is carried by fighter jets, fighter/bombers and bombers such as Su-30MKK, J-16 and H-6G/K, the range of attack of YJ-18, including that of the warplane, can be 2,000 km and longer. Its high speed makes it difficult to intercept. One such heavy missile can kill one US Aegis destroyer while more than 2 can neutralize an aircraft carrier.

YJ-18 is another powerful anti-ship cruise missile that the US has no effective defense. It is but supersonic at its terminal stage but it flies with a zigzag trajectory difficult to intercept. It is mainly launched from the VSL of China’s Type 052D destroyers and 093A/B attack nuclear submarines.

According to mil.sohu.com, Britain’s Jane’s Defense Weekly says that the anti-radiation function of YJ-18 is so powerful that it destroys 60% of an Aegis warship’s electronic system even if it explodes 50 meters away from the warship.

Compared with YJ-12 and YJ-18, YJ-100 is not well-know as it is a new missile disclosed by foreign media not long ago. Its greatest advantage is its long range of 800 km for beyond visual range attack with a low trajectory. It is said to be used by China’s new large Type 055 destroyer.

According to mil.news.sina.com.cn, the simultaneous attack by two of the above five kinds of missile will be surely lethal.

Source: mil.news.sina.com.cn “Depth Column: The five Chinese Missiles that the West will have no effective defense for a decade” and mil.sohu.com “Foreign media regards YJ-18 as one of the best anti-ship cruise missiles, one of which can paralyze a US warship” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the reports in Chinese)


Here Is Why the US Military Is Not In Panic Mode Over China’s Carrier-Killer Missiles


USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier. Image: Creative Commons.

USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier. Image: Creative Commons.

By Dave Majumdar June 20, 2016

The United States Navy will have to live with the proliferation of anti-ship ballistic missiles that have the potential to threaten an aircraft carrier. However, the threat from such weapons is not insurmountable, and in many cases, the danger might be overblown.

“I think there is this long-range precision strike capability, certainly. Everybody says A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial],” Adm. John Richardson, the U.S. Navy’s chief of naval operations, told an audience at the Center for a New American Security’s annual conference on June 20. “A2/AD is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution it’s much more difficult.”

While U.S. Navy officials—and many Washington, D.C., think tanks—have talked about the potential threat to the service’s aircraft carrier fleet from weapons such as the Chinese DF-21D and DF-26, the difficulty of developing a true A2/AD capability is seldom discussed.

As Richardson pointed out, A2/AD strategies have existed since the dawn of warfare. What makes the new Chinese capability different is the combination of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability with long-range precision weapons. “The combination ubiquitous ISR, long-range precision strike weapons take that to the next level,” Richardson said. “It demands a response.”

But the threat is not just contained in the South China Sea, Richardson said. The anti-ship ballistic missile threat is increasingly found around the world and will continue to proliferate. Indeed, the hermit kingdom of North Korea has apparently acquired anti-ship ballistic missile technology. As such, the Navy will have to get used to living with the threat of anti-ship ballistic missiles and other similar threats.

“I think that the proliferation of anti-ship ballistic missiles is just a fact of life we’re going to have to address,” Richardson said. “That fact that it’s in the hands of North Korea—a leader who has been less predictable than many others brings another dimension to that equation.”

However, that does not mean that the aircraft carrier is obsolete or that the carrier air wing is unable to conduct its mission. As Navy officials have mentioned repeatedly in private conversations—weapons such as anti-ship ballistic missiles require an extensive “kill chain”—including ISR sensors, data-networks, command and control and other systems—in order to be effective. That extensive kill chain can be attacked and disrupted through electronic attacks, cyber warfare or some other kinetic means. “Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system,” Richardson said—disrupting the enemy kill chain.

Indeed, when A2/AD zones are discussed, often the entire radius of where an enemy missile can attack targets—such as an aircraft carrier out at sea—is marked as a no go zone. But in the Navy’s view, it can operate inside those zones, but the service would have to use different tactics. Moreover, the assumption that an area defended by a weapon such as a DF-26 is a no-go zone makes the implicit assumption that the Chinese—or other enemy—has the ISR assets and networks to make their weapon work perfectly. “That’s just not the reality of the situation,” Richardson said.

Nonetheless, anti-ship ballistic missiles and China’s growing A2/AD capabilities will remain a potential threat. But that threat is not insurmountable and will not render America’s mighty super carriers or their air wings obsolete in the near future.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.

Source: National Interest “Here Is Why the US Military Is Not In Panic Mode Over China’s Carrier-Killer Missiles”