- China offered an unprecedented look at its new DF-26 “carrier killer” missile in a video seen by military experts as warning that US aircraft carriers are sitting ducks.
- The footage showed the missile in an unprecedented way, offering a treasure trove of military intelligence to the US.
- The video revealed a capable weapon with several strengths and features that seriously threaten the US Navy’s entire operating concept.
China offered an unprecedented look at its new DF-26 “carrier killer” missile in a video seen by military experts as a direct warning to US aircraft carriers that they’re in danger of being sunk.
The footage of the DF-26 broke with norms in several ways. China strictly controls its media, and any data on a its ballistic missiles or supporting infrastructure amounts to military intelligence for the US, which considers China a leading rival.
And a close look at the video reveals a capable weapon with several strengths and features that seriously threaten the US Navy’s entire operating concept.
Analysts who spoke with the South China Morning Post about the video concluded that the video sought to strike fear into the US by showing a fully functional, confident Chinese rocket brigade loading and firing the missile that the country said can sink US Navy ships as far away as Guam.
China has increasing its threats against the US Navy for sailing in international waters near its territory, with a rear admiral even calling for China to sink US aircraft carriers.
Many in the US dismissed the Chinese naval academic’s talk as bluster, but China went through with deploying the missiles and showed them off in the video.
“This is the first time, to my knowledge, the DF-26 has really been materially visible in any video,” Scott LaFoy, an open-source missile analyst at ArmsControlWonk.com tweeted in response to the video. “This sort of imagery wasn’t released for literally decades with the DF-21!” he continued, referencing China’s earlier, shorter-range “carrier killer” missile type.
What we know about the missile
The DF-26 has a known range of 1,860 to 3,500 miles, putting much of China’s near periphery in range, along with much of the US military’s Pacific basing and infrastructure.
With at least a 2,500-pound throw weight, China can use the missile to carry conventional, nuclear, or anti-ship warheads.
First off, the missile is road-mobile, meaning that if the US sought to kill the missiles before they’re fired, they’d likely be able to run and hide.
Second, the missile is solid-fuelled. This means the missile has fuel already inside it. When North Korea launched its intercontinental-ballistic-missile prototypes in 2017, it used liquid fuels.
Liquid-fuelled missiles must take fuel before the launch, which for road-mobile missiles, requires a large team of fuelling and support trucks. The long convoy makes the mobile missiles easier to track and would give the US about 30 minutes to hunt the missile down.
Third, the missile is cold-launched, according to LaFoy. This makes a minor difference, but essentially allows the missile to maximise its range by relying on compressed gas to eject it from the tube to get it going, rather than a powerful blast of fuel.
Submarines, for example, shoot cold-launched missiles near the surface before letting their engines rip.
Finally, according to LaFoy’s close analysis of the launch, the DF-26 may carry field reloads, or essentially get close to rapid fire – which could allow China’s batteries to overwhelm a carrier’s robust defensive systems.
If the DF-26 units carry with them additional rounds and operate as portrayed in the video, China may truly have a weapon that they can confidently show off knowing the US can scrutinize it but likely not defeat it.