Reliability of China's New Antiship Ballistic Missile Under Scrutiny

Issue experts are questioning how great a threat China's recently deployed antiship ballistic missile might pose to U.S. aircraft carriers, given that the weapon has yet to be demonstrably tested against a moving target, reports Air Force Magazine.

The U.S. Defense Department earlier this year said it assessed that China had begun fielding the two-stage Dongfeng-21D missile, which is thought capable of having a top traveling distance of between roughly 1,000 and 1,700 miles. Some in the United States see the conventionally armed precision-guided weapon's advent in the Asia-Pacific region as a direct challenge to the U.S. Navy's ability to project force in waters of commercial and security interest to Beijing.

However, ex-U.S. Navy Capt. Jan van Tol said it was not clear how big a threat the Dongfeng-21D currently poses to deployed U.S. warships, when there is no available evidence that the weapon has ever been tested successfully against moving targets at sea.

"I have seen no [publicly available] stories of any kind that China has successfully tested the system, first, against any mobile targets; ... secondly, mobile targets at sea; and thirdly, mobile targets at sea amid clutter," such as the array of Navy vessels that travel in a carrier battle group, said van Tol, who is now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Unverified news reports from Taiwan appeared in March asserting that the Chinese military had tested the anti-ship missile in the Gobi desert against a target, which appeared to be a replica of the deck of an aircraft carrier.

"Perhaps the most salient observation regarding this system is that the Chinese have yet to conduct an end-to-end test of it against a moving target at sea," CSBA analyst and ex-Air Force fighter pilot Barry Watts wrote in an August report.

December 4, 2013
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Issue experts are questioning the how great a threat China's recently deployed antiship ballistic missile might pose to U.S. aircraft carriers, given that the weapon has yet to be demonstrably tested against a moving target, reports Air Force Magazine.

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