There has been much hand-wringing in the press of late regarding the DF-21D ASBM. Pundits from across the media spectrum are decrying this new Chinese capability and positing it as a “game-changer” and the “end of the Aircraft carrier”, yadda yadda yadda. AW1 Tim is not impressed, and neither should you.
The Chinese are to be commended for this potential advance in weaponry, but unless and until they actually demonstrate this capability, it is all theoretical propaganda, with a bark worse than it’s bite.
This weapon system has more than one target. First and foremost, it’s main target isn’t a US Carrier at sea, or anywhere else. It’s main target is the US Economy. The Chinese have taken a few pages from the playbook these United States used to take down the Soviet Union. They are building and displaying all sorts of interesting weapons systems because they know it will cost a lot of money and resources to develop a counter-measure to each of them. Why is this important? Because China holds a significant part of US Debt. China intends to replace these United States as the primary political force in Asia and to take dominance over the Pacific Ocean. By further weakening the US Economy, it makes China’s rise to prominance that much easier. Why go to actual war when you can bankrupt your enemy into submission?
Having said all of this, we still don’t need all the whining and posturing that’s going on. First and foremost, the United States Navy has a demonstrated capability of intercepting and destroying both missiles and warheads in flight. We will need to expand that capability through construction of both new Aegis vessels, and other, purpose-designed platforms to provide sufficient Anti-ASBM protection for Carried Battle Groups, as well as other important facilities.
A simple solution, however, would be to change our nuclear response policy in regards to the DF-21D and other such systems. The problem with an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile is that it is indistinguishable from any other ICBM. It has virtually identical signatures from launch through impact. In that regard, it is impossible to know whether the warhead(s) onboard are nuclear or conventional. Even if the Chinese were to sign a treaty that these missiles would ONLY be armed with conventional warheads, we could never be certain that they were, and even then, whether it was an actual DF-21 or some other ICBM being launched.
Thus, this nation should, at once, make it known that ANY Ballistic Missile launched against ANY United States vessel, station, territory or any other possession, will be judged to be a nuclear attack and responded to in a similar manner at the time and place of our choosing.
Commander Salamander, a GREAT blogger has a good article up today regarding this situation. You should read his piece. Actually, you all should read his stuff every day. I do. He’s responding to this, and this which are good, but miss the point.
Money quote from the good CDR:
There is an evolution and survival of the fittest in warfare. It is only a problem if ignored. It is only a reason to panic if you lack a historical perspective and a lack of confidence in your military to effectively meet a new threat … at threat that is yet to be fully formed.
The only thing needed here is to ask the CNO – what is your plan to address this possible threat? Are your priorities aligned with preserving your nation’s ability to project power into the future?
He is absolutely correct.
DF-21 system here.
Update: I meant to add a Hat Tip to my good friend and fellow AW, Scott for bringing this to my attention last week. Thanks Shipmate!