08 September 2010

More on China's ASBM

What kind of wunderwaffen is it, exactly? THe Asia Times fills us in.

The DF-21D, as the missile is commonly called, is a modification of a solid-propellant, single-warhead medium-range ballistic missile that China has been working on since the late 1960s. The newest version, also going under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization reporting name CSS-5 Mod-4, is believed to come with the unique feature that it can target a moving aircraft carrier as far away as 3,000 kilometers from a land-based mobile launcher.

Enabled by this new weapon, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) hopes to gain the option to control the West Pacific from land, as opposed to engaging with the US Navy in sea battles that China would be unlikely to win. If the DF-21D is really as sophisticated as has been widely speculated, the US would have to risk its neck when coming to South Korea's, Japan's or Taiwan's aid in the event of Chinese military aggression.

It can safely be assumed that a fair portion of Washington's military strategies would be rendered useless it the US were to lose the ability to securely travel anywhere using aircraft carriers from which jet fighters start their devastatingly precise bombing campaigns - as has been seen in the wars against Serbia and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Like the DF-21D's earliest predecessor, the German V-2, a long-range World War II ballistic missile that the Nazis called a Wunderwaffe, China's anti-ship ballistic missile remains shrouded in mystery. Military experts from Washington to Taipei have been left guessing its exact capabilities. It is suggested that the missile's high-angle re-entry into the atmosphere, as well as its speed, make it almost impossible to defend against.

What further worries American defense analysts is that the Chinese apparently have the advantage of being able to screw on almost anything that's found in the PLA's warhead arsenals, such as HEAT shells, which are extremely efficient at penetrating steel, as well as cluster bombs, which eject smaller sub-munitions.

The Chinese could even destroy their opponents' electronic control systems - critical to the operation of ground vehicles and aircraft - by producing damaging current and voltage surges with the help of electromagnetic pulse bombs loaded into the DF-21D. Yet another option would be to fit a missile with a thermobaric fuel-air bomb. This warhead produces a blast wave of a very long duration, a feature that is useful in military applications where the attacker aims to increase the number of casualties and cause greater damage to infrastructure.

By: Brant

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