But the real threat to the US from China comes from its anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), Lyle J. Goldstein writes for the National Interest.
Goldstein, an associate professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College, cites Chinese military analysis that showcases how Beijing has massively upgraded its ability to carry out aerial strikes against maritime targets due to a combination of updated planes and two new models of cruise missile.
“The first [cruise missile] is the Mach 3 YJ-12. This supersonic ASCM is capable of ranges up to 300 km,” Goldstein notes. “The second is a sub-sonic ASCM with a range of up to 800 km that is designated as YJ-100. Such capabilities imply that, as least for the near future, US forces may be ‘outgunned’ by China’s emerging ASCM inventory.”
Beijing is also set to continue testing ASCMs that would be capable of going up to Mach 6, Goldstein writes, based on Chinese military sources. This combination of speed and increased range would allow China to project its power deep into the South China Sea and towards Japan.
Ultimately, the ASCMs would allow China to build an aerial maritime strike force that could control all of the maritime territory surrounding China. Enemy vessels could quickly be sunk by the Chinese military and Beijing would be able to counter the US’s naval presence in the region if the two ever came to blows.
There’s recent evidence that Beijing may believe that its new capabilities will allow it to take a more aggressive stance in the region’s territorial disputes.
Recent satellite photos show that China has militarised an island 186 miles northwest of the Senkakus, an island chain claimed by Japan and believed to contain vast deposits of natural gas, as well as high-value fisheries. The island has at least 10 helicopter landing pads which would hypothetically allow for an assault on the Senkakus.
Japan has also said it is scrambling planes at record rates so far to intercept a combination of Russian and Chinese warplanes that fly in or near its airspace
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