Harry J. Kazianis
Or are they just a myth?
Question: how much should America or anyone else fear China’s supposed super missile, the DF-21D or DF-26?
The “carrier-killer” has been a favorite topic of mine for some time now. The weapons are launched from a mobile truck-mounted launcher into the atmosphere, with most likely over-the-horizon radar, satellite tracking and possibly unmanned aerial vehicles each providing guidance to a target in the open oceans. It also incorporates a maneuverable warhead, or MaRV, to help find its target.
The DF-21D would be instrumental in striking a vessel in the open ocean or denying access to a potential opponent in transiting to a conflict zone, like in the East or South China Seas. An August 2011 report by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense warned that: “A small quantity of the missiles [was] produced and deployed in 2010.”
(This first appeared in September 2015).
When looking at this weapon, there are really two basic questions I have been asking for years: How capable is it? And if capable, can U.S. Navy vessels defend against it?
First, to its capabilities. According to the most-recent and up-to-date open-source materials I can find, the weapon indeed has been tested, however, never against an ocean-going, noncooperative target. As frequent TNI contributor Andrew Erickson pointed out in his 2013 study of the DF-21D (the best open-source resource on the “carrier-killer” to date):