By Bill Gertz, The Washington Times
China’s military is deploying a new anti-ship ballistic missile that can sink U.S. aircraft carriers, a weapon that specialists say gives Beijing new power-projection capabilities that will affect U.S. support for its Pacific allies.
Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, disclosed to a Japanese newspaper on Sunday that the new anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) is now in the early stages of deployment after having undergone extensive testing.
“An analogy using a Western term would be ‘initial operational capability (IOC),’ whereby I think China would perceive that it has an operational capability now, but they continue to develop it,” Adm. Willard told the Asahi Shimbun. “I would gauge it as about the equivalent of a U.S. system that has achieved IOC.”
The four-star admiral, who has been an outspoken skeptic of China’s claims that its large-scale military buildup is peaceful, said the U.S. deployment assessment is based on China’s press reports and continued testing.
The new weapon, the “D” version of China’s DF-21 medium-range missile, involves firing the mobile missile into space, returning it into the atmosphere and then maneuvering it to its target
Military officials consider using ballistic missiles against ships at sea to be a difficult task that requires a variety of air, sea and space sensors, navigation systems and precision guidance technology – capabilities not typical of other Chinese missiles.
Asked about the integrated system, Adm. Willard said that “to have something that would be regarded as in its early operational stage would require that system be able to accomplish its flight pattern as designed, by and large.”
The admiral said that while the U.S. thinks “that the component parts of the anti-ship ballistic missile have been developed and tested,” China’s testing has not gone as far as a live-fire test attack on an actual ship.
“We have not seen an over-water test of the entire system,” he said.
Adm. Willard said he did not view the new missile as a greater threat to U.S. and allied forces than China’s submarine forces, which also have been expanded greatly in the past decade.
“Anti-access/area denial, which is a term that was relatively recently coined, is attempting to represent an entire range of capabilities that China has developed and that other countries have developed,” he said.
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