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The United States has been eyeing China’s development of the DF-21D Carrier-Killer ballistic missile for years, concerned with the possibility of a multi-billion-dollar aircraft carrier sinking to the ocean floor in a broken pile of steel.The media has added to the hype (BI Military & defence included), but Harry Kazianis at The Diplomat reports that hype could very well be overblown.
Kazianis points to several accounts of the missile that may not be as accurate as originally believed, starting with a recent Focus Taiwan post saying a new ballistic missile base is being installed on the South China Sea.
From The Diplomat:
For one, the report states that “Military experts said the new missile base is equipped with DF-21D anti-ship missiles that have a range of 2,000-3,000 km and are potentially capable of hitting moving targets with pinpoint precision.” U.S. Department of defence reports suggested the DF-21D missile has a range that “exceeds 1500km.” The article could be citing a widely panned estimate from the English Language China Daily that declared a 2,700km range, which more than likely was citing the DF-21A’s range in error.
The range of such a missile is very important. With rampant speculation that U.S. forces may or may not be able to defend against it, American commanders could be wary of bringing billion dollar naval assets within its sights. In an interview I conducted with RAND Corporation Analyst Roger Cliff back in January, he noted that “solid fuel rocket motors are difficult to shut off, so the amount of energy the missile uses will be the same regardless of what trajectory it is sent on, and it would be difficult for China to deceive the United States about the range of the missile.” Unless the Chinese have made advances to the missiles that are not public knowledge, the range the report cited seems overblown.
Taken together the stories have the perfect mix of rumour and fact that make them appear credible, and we’ll continue to bring updates as they develop.
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