Will China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” ballistic missile and J-20 stealth fighter give Beijing an advantage over the US in the Indo-Pacific?
East Asia is considered the next global hotspot. With the two superpowers, the US and China flexing their military muscles in the East and South China Seas; this could very well turn into a conventional war, an outcome the world must fear.
The region has hotspots that could spark an all-out war in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, and the Taiwan Strait. Each area claim by China and the US on the opposing side, where any minor skirmish can lead to conflict.
According to military analysts, it is prudent to look at an overview of how countries are up against each other and which country has the upper hand, in order to have an objective assessment of this issue.
Experts say that China is holding a “home-field advantage” in the East Sea compared to the US, when China is occupying a number of islands in the East Sea, under Vietnam’s sovereignty. And if the war with the US takes place in the East and South China Seas , China will be more favorable than the US in securing logistics.
Second, China’s doctrine of “Anti-Access/Area Blockade (A2/AD)”, has directly influenced the development of China’s ultra-long-range weapon systems, aimed at preventing foreign from a distance and prevent the US from close combat. Based on the concept of “not allowing the enemy to come close to land”, China has developed missiles with a longer range than any US weapon in that class. For example, the YJ-18 and YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles (540 km range) and PL-15 air-to-air missiles (300 km), far surpassing the US 240 km subsonic Harpoons missile and 161 km of the AIM 190D.
YJ-18 cruise missiles are mounted on Type 052D and Type 055 guided-missile destroyers, while the US Navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruiser and Arleigh Burke-class destroyer are armed with anti-ship missiles Harpoons ranges between 230 and 250 km. and SM-6 surface-to-air ships.
The Chinese Air Force will take advantage of the stealth capabilities of the J-20 fighter, combined with the long range PL-15 air-to-air missile, to shoot down bombers, early warning and transport aircraft. and refueling aircraft instead of confronting American fighter jets in close combat.
China’s pride the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile or carrier killer, with a range of 1,500 km, can threaten US aircraft carriers. This missile has a ballistic missile like a strategic nuclear missile, with a very fast speed and a high ceiling to fly beyond the edge of space. China’s anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) is the world’s first (and perhaps only) warhead of this type; however, its accuracy has not been verified.
Admiral Harry Harris, the former commander of US naval forces in the Pacific, admitted that currently, US has “no equivalent missile” like the DF-26 ballistic missile, which has a range of 4,000 km, that can strike. US bases in Guam. According to Pentagon estimates, it is possible that US bases in South Korea and Japan are threatened by the CJ-10 ground attack cruise missile, which has a range of up to 1,500 km, equivalent to the range Tomahawk cruise missile of the US Navy. While experts believe, the DF-21D will not be able to hit the target, without a good reconnaissance and guidance system. And in these systems, China is currently very weak.
However, the US Navy’s flagship guided-missile ships are surpassing China in missile-carrying capabilities. For example, the Arleigh Burke and Ticonderoga-class destroyers are equipped with 96 and 122 vertical rocket launchers (VLS), compared with 64 and 112 VLS of the Type 052 and Type 55.
Experts also warn that the US must not only increase its force presence in the Western Pacific, but also have to strengthen it with surrounding countries. Because without a base in the region, the US would have a lower rate of aircraft sorties, slower progress in repairing naval ships and redeploying troops.
This makes the South China Sea even further away for the US military, which will have to move from US bases on Japanese territory. Japan itself is also witnessing the people of Okinawa protesting against the placement of a US military base there, demanding that US forces leave the island.
According to former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Ochmanek, China can dominate in terms of forces, ahead of the US and Taiwan with thousands of warships and aircraft of all kinds thanks to “home-field advantage” and long range weapons. However, the US always knows how to get ahead of its opponents, by investing in developing high-tech weapons, far ahead of China.