A new 'smart missile' threatens to tip the balance of power towards China, US military analysts say.
The latest generation of the Dongfeng 21D (DF-21D) [Photo] is a supercarrier killer according to experts on China's armaments. The missile can be launched from land and strike an aircraft carrier 900 miles away.
China has 11,200 miles of coastline. That fact coupled with the range and accuracy of the new missile could spell doom for any US or allied carrier fleet.
Designed to kill carriers
Patrick Cronin, a senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program that is part of the Washington, DC Center for a New American Security organization admits the DF 21D is designed to kill carriers--specifically US Naval carriers. "The Navy has long had to fear carrier--killing capabilities. The emerging Chinese anti-ship 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."
The new Chinese military's 96166 Unit will be outfitted with DF 21C medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) and possibly the DF-21D ASBM as well.
For more than a decade Pentagon strategists, analysts and war-gamers have worried about a new super missile that could pierce America's invincible carrier fleet. The carriers maintain the dominant American influence in the East Asian waters and counterbalance the threat of the globally emerging China.
With the potential loss of carrier superiority, the US faces the prospect of a very real Chinese move on Taiwan. It also could potentially greatly weaken the US leverage on North Korea and expose South Korea to greater military risk.
Other than a nuclear attack, American carriers are well shielded with defensive weaponry, high-tech machinery of war and of course state-of-the-art jet fighter aircraft and jet bombers. All US carriers are also equipped with conventional cruise missiles and nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.
US carrier fleet neutralized?
"The Chinese now have a weapon that can potentially neutralize our 21st Century carrier fleet," a USN admiral said under conditions of anonymity. "If the Chinese decide to deploy it and launch against us we'd be backed into a corner. We'd have to respond with our nuclear arsenal."
The Chinese were floundering in attempts to build effective missiles until the Clinton administration agreed to sell China three Cray supercomputers as part of a trade deal. Intelligence analysts agree that China immediately put the superior computing power to work for their military, especially nuclear and missile development.