? Led Zeppelin: Kashmir | Main | Charles Mingus: Moanin' ?

April 01, 2009

Kill system

That a report translated by naval affairs blog Information Dissemination has got the attention of the U.S. Naval Institute suggests said report is cause for alarm. The Peoples Liberation Army Navy is said to have developed an operational anti-ship ballistic missile "kill system" intended to knock out United States aircraft carriers. If so, so much for American grand strategy and - by extension - Pax Americana.

The range of the modified Dong Feng 21 missile is significant in that it covers the areas that are likely hot zones for future confrontations between U.S. and Chinese surface forces. The size of the missile enables it to carry a warhead big enough to inflict significant damage on a large vessel, providing the Chinese the capability of destroying a U.S. supercarrier in one strike.

Because the missile employs a complex guidance system, low radar signature and a maneuverability that makes its flight path unpredictable, the odds that it can evade tracking systems to reach its target are increased. It is estimated that the missile can travel at mach 10 and reach its maximum range of 2000km in less than 12 minutes.
If operational as is believed, the system marks the first time a ballistic missile has been successfully developed to attack vessels at sea. Ships currently have no defense against a ballistic missile attack.

Lest this ruin anyone's breakfast, I hasten to remind everyone of China's proven anti-satellite capability. That should put a damper on your first cup of coffee as well.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at April 1, 2009 08:24 AM


One thing that's in our favor is the ability to strike those BM sites more or less with abandon. Stealth capabilities are pretty significant

If they start tossing Ballistic missiles in a tactical role they'll be in for a rude awakening as we still hold the high ground in both BM capabilities from submarines AND in terms of being able to hunt them down with our attack boats.

I doubt they want the US using Ballistic missiles in a tactical role, I'm sure we could. The problem of course being how do you tell the difference between a conventionally oriented BM and a nuclear armed one?

Posted by: Montieth [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2009 12:07 PM

As SecDef gates would say, you have been blinded by the dreaded next-war-itis!

The key is to focus on funding and winning the asymmetric war you have now, and avoid all thought about countering potential OPFOR capabilities that are above the level of the Taliban. That's not helpful.

A decade or two down the road, when Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have all been pacified, then it will be time to think about how to counter near-peer threats. Because they will patiently sit and wait for the United States to rearm, instead of seizing the moment of weakness.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2009 01:56 PM

I am not so sanguine about the ability to find and kill mobile BM systems, as every attempt we have ever made (Gulf War 1991, Iraq Ear 2003) has been under conditions of complete air dominance.

Having ISR birds or UCAVs loitering about is only possible if the enemy lacks the capability to sweep them from the skies. I'm not sure the PLAAF is going to make it that easy.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2009 02:02 PM

A functional ASBM system would give the USN pause to risk not only a carrier but with it the entire concept of carrier based power projection and deterrence. In other words, there is a risk such a system could reduce the USN to the status of a "fleet in being"; totally insufficient to the task of dominating the South China Sea or, for example, the seas around Taiwan.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2009 02:11 PM

Every weapon system's dominance comes to an end someday. I don't think carriers are headed for the battleship dustbin just yet, but they are definitely edging a lot closer to it.

If anything it demonstrates the continuing importance of CG/DDG missile defence platforms, especially the AEGIS/SM-3 combination. Once "the left" figures out that cheap BMs can loft platform-neutralisers of any stripe—not just nukes—then BM-countering systems will get a lot more supporters.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2009 02:35 PM

I fear much of "the left" would be delighted by a widely available technology that would neutralize the US high seas fleet. These days "the left" actively supports a mixed bag of Nazism, nihilism and medieval barbarism; the USN stands in the way of these ideologies and consequently has to go. If budget cuts won't do it then a Red Chinese weapons system will suit their purposes just as well.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2009 02:40 PM

As SecDef gates would say, you have been blinded by the dreaded next-war-itis!

That is in fact a fallible concept. People keep thinking that hte next war will be radically different from what we just did. That may or may NOT be the case. History has shown that it is in some cases less different than you expect and in some cases is exactly like a previous war.

Look at Gulf War I (Desert Storm) and II (Iraqi Freedom) both bear a striking resemblance to North Africa campaign tactics in gross form and were VERY much battles of large force maneuver. Very different from Vietnam. Asia is about naval battles, part of it is in space now, but ships, aircraft and weapon systems are needed. We're not going to defeat china in a Shooting battle with COIN, Global hawks and a bunch of umbrella danglers and Snake eaters.

If the balloon goes up and we DO get into a shooting war with china it'll be, a gut busting navy war with a LOT of USAF and space assets thrown on top. Cutting back on the Navy now or the USAF is a BAD idea. About as bad as cutting back on tank development after WWI was and cutting back on the armour forces and land forces in general was right up to WWII. Both cases saw the use of stop gap measures that meant we spent lives instead of technology and just material. In both cases we had not enough great tanks and worse in Korea, it meant we had barely trained and equipped constabulary forces pushed into combat against fully equipped conventional forces.

A combination of BM kill systems won't be a panacea, however they WILL offer something we didn't have before. Who knows, perhaps it'll push the submersible carrier concept up again.

Posted by: Montieth [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2009 06:45 PM

That was sarcasm on my part. Of course a war with China will not be won with a lot of Muslim-friendly COIN tactics. But your SecDef is not at all concerned about the capabilities of the OPFOR he might have to fight. He's only interested in the ones he's fighting right now.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2009 09:31 PM