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12 novembre 2013 2 12 /11 /novembre /2013 13:35
How A2/AD Can Defeat China


November 12, 2013 By  J. Michael Cole - thediplomat.com


Most of the debate that has surrounded the emergence of China as a major military player in the Asia-Pacific has focused on the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) development of an anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) strategy and its potential impact on a U.S.-led regional security architecture that remains anchored to old concepts.

As China expands its military capabilities and, alongside those, its claims to various territories within the region, the PLA has developed and fielded a variety of platforms that are intended to deter and delay external intervention by U.S. forces in, say, an armed conflict in the Taiwan Strait. The much-discussed Dong Feng 21D (DF-21D) anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), which could theoretically threaten a U.S. carrier battle group on its way to the region, is at the core of such a strategy.

Far less discussed, however, is the fact that China’s A2/AD strategy, or the likelihood that it will directly affect the course of a conflict, is contingent on a U.S. or allied response along conventional lines. In other words, China’s deterrence/denial efforts assume two things: first, that outside forces would seek to deploy closer to China in order to conduct operations; and second, that such deployments would involve traditional warships, aircraft carriers, fighter aircraft and bombers — in other words, everything that the ill-defined Air-Sea Battle strategy promises to include.

This “asymmetrical” approach provides China with a relatively inexpensive way to counter an opponent’s superior platforms: the PLA can afford to build and deploy several DF-21D launchers, while the U.S. would be loath to risk losing modern surface combatants, let alone a multi-billion-dollar aircraft carrier.

Now a new report by the RAND Corporation proposes turning the tables on China by creating a regional A2/AD alliance, relying principally on anti-ship missiles (ASM), to impose a “far blockade” on China should the latter threaten regional security. Under the plan explored in Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific, U.S. forces and partner countries would respond to Chinese aggression by deploying land-based anti-ship cruise missiles with operational ranges of between 100 km and 200 km at various chokepoints — among them the Strait of Malacca, the Straits of Sunda and Lombok and the Java Sea Routes, waters between Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines, as well as sea areas between Japan and South Korea — to keep the PLA Navy (PLAN) vessels (and presumably merchant ships) bottled inside the first island chain.

The presence of such missiles, the report argues, would undermine the ability of PLAN warships, transport vessels, and amphibious craft to safely carry out sea operations in those areas while denying them access into the West Pacific. In addition, the size of the aggregate territory involved in the proposed alliance (optimally Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and perhaps Australia) as well as the number of islets on which ASM launchers could be dispersed, would severely challenge the PLA’s ability to locate such systems and render them inoperable using ballistic missiles, air strikes or sabotage.

By resorting to such a plan, small regional powers would be in a position to wage their own A2/AD strategy against China and to threaten, at a relative low cost, more formidable and far more expensive Chinese naval platforms such as warships, landing helicopter docks, and carriers.

However, creating a multinational ASM strategy would not be without its challenges, nor can its formation be taken for granted. Although a number of ASM systems are currently available and their acquisition within the financial means of even the weakest of the partners involved, their effectiveness would depend on the ability of member states to also receive cueing and targeting data from U.S. sensors, which creates challenges (by no means insurmountable) in terms of ensuring that all the platforms involved can communicate.

Moreover, to avoid fostering the impression in Beijing that the U.S. and regional countries are seeking to keep it bottled in, ASM units probably could not be deployed permanently, and instead should be pre-positioned (presumably on U.S. territory) for rapid deployment amid rising tensions resulting from Chinese aggression or threat thereof. Access to heavy lift capabilities and operational airfields in partner countries would therefore be crucial elements for the success of this strategy.

For obvious reasons, proposing such an alliance would be controversial. Nor can it be assumed, as the report notes, that countries in China’s periphery would be willing to risk Beijing’s ire by joining the effort, unless conditions in the region deteriorate dramatically and the PLA’s posture becomes more aggressive than it is currently.

Moreover, an ASM component alone would be insufficient to ensure the ability of a member country to counter a Chinese attack. While “far blockade” would make the operations of the PLAN more difficult by denying its surface combatants the ability to expand beyond the first island chain or to approach enemy waters, it would have little value against other branches of the Chinese military, such as its air force and the Second Artillery Corps.

That said, as an instrument of deterrence, a flexible multinational ASM partnership could achieve much more, and at a much lower cost, than the longstanding approach of sales by the U.S. of highly expensive (and oftentimes vulnerable) conventional platforms like fighter aircraft and warships to regional allies

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12 juin 2013 3 12 /06 /juin /2013 16:35
Why China May Limit “Carrier-Killer’s” Range

June 12, 2013 By Harry Kazianis - Flashpoints


Recently, the U.S. Department of Defense released its annual report on China's military entitled Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2013. While last year's report was panned by some as being short on details and substance compared to prior years, the new 2013 version is much more comprehensive and offers a balanced analysis concerning China's rising military might.

In reading over the report, there was a line that struck me, but at the time was more a passing thought than a true revelation. A recent report detailing China's highly touted DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) or "carrier-killer" deserves credit for highlighting the significance of the passage (hat tip to Andrew Erickson).

From the DOD report:

"Current trends in China’s weapons production will enable the PLA to conduct a range of military operations in Asia well beyond Taiwan, in the South China Sea, western Pacific, and Indian Ocean. Key systems that have been either deployed or are in development include ballistic missiles (including anti-ship variants), anti-ship and land attack cruise missiles, nuclear submarines, modern surface ships, and an aircraft carrier."

While the wording is far from definitive, there is the possibility that China could in the future develop its ASBM into a weapon with a much greater range. While most estimates (including the DOD's own report) place the range of the ASBM at "1,500+ km," as China is able to develop the weapons system and solve the challenge of hitting a moving ocean going vessel (not easy), Beijing's missile forces may begin to experiment with the idea of increasing the system’s range.

As Erickson recently noted in his report for China Brief:

"Now that the initial challenge of deploying an operational ASBM is completed, China has the option of developing other variants with different, likely complementary, characteristics. As China slowly builds the intelligence infrastructure to guide ASBMs toward their targets, future variants can be integrated more quickly into the force at higher levels of readiness. The advanced nature of ASBM development may become less the exception than the rule for future Chinese weapons programs."

China's possible mastery of ASBM technology with the added possibility of later fielding new variants with increased range would have wide-ranging regional consequences not only in the Asia-Pacific, but in the wider Indo-Pacific theatre. As many scholars have noted, China's anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) missile-centric forces are at their strongest off the coast of China extending out to about the range of the DF-21D, approximately 1,500 km. While growing stronger in recent years, Beijing does not possess a navy or air force that can project power into the mid-Pacific. True, Chinese naval forces have deployed into the Indian Ocean, but the PLA Navy can hardly be considered a force to be reckoned with alongside India in that theatre.

Having an ASBM that could again, in theory, reach such important regions would allow Beijing to project power to areas of the globe that would have taken it years via more conventional methods. If China were able to field an ASBM that could put in play the navies of India, Indonesia, and possibly Australia, the regional security environment could shift dramatically.

There would also be dramatic consequences for the United States. Currently, U.S. naval forces are largely secure in the mid-Pacific with no peer competitor challenging its mastery. An ASBM with a longer range could take away a potential safe zone for U.S. forces and possibly push combat forces out even further away from areas of tension like the South and East China Seas, and further endanger commitments made to Taiwan. Taking an even longer view, picture this: a U.S. Navy no longer safe when docked at Pearl Harbor? Scary thought.

Considering all this, China may want to give pause in creating such an ASBM variant. Nothing unites nations with competing interests like a shared threat.  While India-U.S. ties have warmed, New Delhi has not fully embraced America's pivot to the degree Washington would like. Would India reconsider and push for stronger military ties, perhaps even purchasing advanced American missile defense systems? Would New Delhi strengthen ties even further with Japan or others who share security concerns regarding China? Such ideas are not out of the question.

Would other nations in the region make similar calculations and consider stronger relations with Washington, express greater interest in American made missile defenses, or consider responding by developing their own missile forces or building up their own conventional forces? Would Japan and South Korea put to rest recent tensions and forge stronger military ties out of shared concern that Washington may not be able to come to their aid as easily in a crisis?

Truth be told, such considerations could be a long ways off. China may not see the need for expanding the range of its "carrier-killer," and instead remain content with increasing its military power across multiple domains along its coast. There is also the argument that Beijing may not have yet even mastered the technology of its existing ASBM. Yet, it is clear missile technology, cruise or ballistic, will create more problems for the surface fleets of the future, "carrier-killer" or not.

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1 juin 2013 6 01 /06 /juin /2013 11:35
Is China’s “Carrier Killer” Already Operational?

June 1, 2013 By Zachary Keck - Flashpoints


Every Friday, The Diplomat looks out across the net to find the best articles and analysis involving defense, strategic affairs, and foreign policy. From America’s pivot to Asia, China’s growing military power, important defense trends, to the various territorial spats across the region, The Diplomat has you covered with what you need to know going into the weekend.

Here is our top ones this Friday. Have we missed something you think should be included? Want to share an important article with other readers? Please submit your links in the comment box below! Happy Friday!

Several nuclear and missile experts are accusing the U.S. Air Force of exaggerating the nuclear threats posed by North Korea and China’s cruise missiles in order to gain funding for its own nuclear modernization ambitions. Global Security Newswire has the story.

In a new occasional paper for the Jamestown Foundation, Andrew Erickson says that “China’s anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), the DF-21D, has reached the equivalent of Initial Operational Capability. Although it probably has been deployed in small numbers, additional challenges and tests remain.”

The Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College released a new strategic assessment of the Asia-Pacific. Written by Dr. David Lai, the studies major conclusions include “The U.S. strategic shift toward Asia-Pacific is… not a choice but a necessity” and “the most dangerous blind spot [in the U.S. pivot] is that the Asia-Pacific nations disputing with China can misread U.S. strategic intention and overplay the ‘U.S. card’ to pursue their territorial interest.”

Similarly, the Center for National Defense Policy (CNDP) under the Academy of Military Sciences of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) released its own strategic assessment this week, which concluded that the Asia-Pacific has become a “new global center" of competition.

Taiwan plans to launch a fourth cyberwarfare unit on July 1st that will try to counter cyber-attacks on government websites. 

Plus, the BBC looks at how you scrap an aircraft carrier.

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25 avril 2013 4 25 /04 /avril /2013 07:35
Strategic Weapons : Chinese Carrier Killer Works


April 24, 2013: Strategy Page


The U.S. Navy believes that China has already begun deploying the DF-21D ballistic missile, which was designed for use against the U.S. Navy, particularly aircraft carriers. In response the Americans are developing defenses and countermeasures against the DF-21D. Details of this effort are, for obvious reasons, kept secret.


The basic DF-21 is a 15 ton, two stage, solid fuel missile that is 10.7 meters (35 feet) long and 140cm (4.6 feet) in diameter. Range varies (from 1,700-3,000 kilometers) depending on model. The DF-21D is believed to have a range of 1,500-2,000 kilometers. While the 500-2,000 kg (.5-2 ton) warhead usually contains a nuclear weapon, there are also several types of conventional warheads, including one designed for use against warships. Some of these conventional warheads are for use against targets in Taiwan. This is because the DF-21, as a longer range ballistic missile, comes down on the target faster than the 1,200 shorter range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. That means that the DS-21 is too fast for the Pac-3 anti-missile missiles Taiwan is installing around crucial installations.

Strategic Weapons : Chinese Carrier Killer Works

Until recently there was no evidence that the complete DF-21D system had been tested. But recently satellite photos showed a 200 meter long white rectangle in the Gobi Desert (in Western China) with two large craters in it. This would appear to be a “target” for testing the DF-21D and two of the inert practice warheads appear to have hit the target. American carriers are over 300 meters long, although the smaller carriers (amphibious ships with helicopter decks) are closer to 200 meters long. It appears China is planning on the using the DF-21D against smaller warships, or perhaps they just wanted to see exactly how accurate the missile could be.

Over the last three years various components of the DF-21D were tested, but until these satellite photos showed up there was no evidence that there had been any tests of the complete system against a carrier size target. In the last two years there have been photos of DF-21Ds on TELs (transporter erector launcher vehicles), and announcements of the first units activated three years ago. Now we have the tests. What has not been tested, apparently is a “dress rehearsal” test against a large ship (an old tanker or container ship would do) at sea and moving. That might yet happen.

Meanwhile China has three "remote sensing" satellites in orbit, moving in formation at an altitude of 600 kilometers, across the Pacific. Equipped with either radar (SAR, or synthetic aperture radar) or digital cameras, these three birds can scan the ocean for ships, even though the Chinese say their purpose is purely scientific. A typical SAR can produce photo quality images at different resolutions. At medium resolution (3 meters) the radar covers an area 40x40 kilometers. Low resolution (20 meters) covers 100x100 kilometers. This three satellite Chinese posse looks suspiciously like a military ocean surveillance system. This is the missing link for the Chinese ballistic missile system designed to attack American aircraft carriers.

China has been developing the DF-21D for about a decade. Most of the development effort was devoted to targeting systems that would enable them to seek out and find aircraft carriers. On the DF-21D warhead itself sensors would use infrared (heat seeking) technology for their final approach. This sort of thing had been discussed for decades, but China appears to have put together tactics, sensors and missile systems that can make this all happen. The key was having multiple sensor systems which would include satellites, submarines or maritime patrol aircraft, that could find the general location of the carrier, before launching the ballistic missile. Those sensors appear to be operational, as is the DF-21D itself.

The Chinese Second Artillery Force (sometimes called Corps) operates all land based long range ballistic missiles. Its units operate over several provinces it has been expanding over the last few years. This includes adding two brigades armed with theDF-21D. This gives the Second Artillery Force ten DF-21 brigades, plus brigades with several other types of missiles. Each of the DF-21 missile brigade has six missile battalions (with two mobile launchers each), two maintenance and repair battalions, a site management battalion, a signal battalion and an electronic countermeasures (ECM) battalion. The other eight DF-21 brigades in the Second Artillery Corps are the older models.

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28 janvier 2013 1 28 /01 /janvier /2013 13:35
La Chine a testé avec succès un missile destructeur de porte-avions


27/01/2013 par Nicolas Laffont - 45enord.ca


Want China Times rapporte que la Chine a coulé un porte-avions américain grâce à son missile DF-21D… dans une simulation de jeux de guerre.


Une image satellite révèle deux grands cratères sur une plate-forme de 200 mètres de long utilisé pour simuler le pont d’envol du porte-avions dans le désert de Gobi.


La photo a été posté sur SAORBATS, un forum Internet basé en Argentine. Les analystes militaires pensent que les cratères ont été créés par le missile anti-navire chinois DF-21D, surnommé le «tueur de transporteur.»


Tout en affirmant que le missile a la capacité de frapper les porte-avions dans un rayon de 2 000 km, des officiels chinois ont déclaré que l’arme a été conçue uniquement pour l’auto-défense, que le DF-21D ne sera jamais une menace sérieuse pour la sécurité nationale américaine, car il n’est même pas en mesure d’atteindre Hawaï, bien que parfaitement au courant du déploiement de la marine américaine dans le Pacifique occidental.


Pour l’analyste Roger Cliff «la chose à garder à l’esprit est que, pour que la Chine réussissent à attaquer un navire de la marine américaine avec un missile balistique, il doit d’abord détecter le navire, l’identifier comme un navire de guerre américain d’un type qu’il veut attaquer… [puis] des radar trans-horizon utilisés pour détecter les navires peuvent être brouillés, trompés ou détruits, de la fumée et d’autres obscurcissant peuvent être déployés… et quand le missile se verrouille finalement sur la cible, sa tête chercheuse peut être bloquée ou trompée.»


L’amiral Jonathan Greenert, chef des opérations navales américaines, estime qu’il ya un certain nombre de méthodes que l’US Navy pourrait utiliser pour se défendre contre la Dong Feng 21D:


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27 septembre 2011 2 27 /09 /septembre /2011 17:45



Anti-ship missile development and testing - including that of the Dong Feng 21 –

has remained a high priority for the PLA. Image: vostokstation.com.au


09/27/2011  Contributor:  Nick Young - Defence IQ


Since the introduction of the contemporary anti-ship missile (ASM) by the Soviet Navy, ASMs have been developed to come in all shapes, sizes and guidance methods. Without a doubt, the largest contributor to this field is the former Soviet Navy (now the Russian navy), which developed no fewer than 12 systems of varying delivery methods (submarine, air or surface launched), only two of which have been combat tested.  So far, the Russian ASMs include some of the most feared systems to threaten naval platforms due to a varying combination of velocity, manoeuvrability, warhead and physical size. 


To date, the conventional ASM threat has focused on three key integers - high velocity, high manoeuvrability, low signature - that have concerned various navies around the globe. Now, a newer, potentially more potent anti-ship capability has been developed by the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The challenge remaining, then, is to explore this system in detail - its validity and potency in the current naval environment - with access only to information within the public domain. 


Many press outlets have reported the development of the ‘D’ variant of the Dong Feng 21 (DF-21D) anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), (NATO reporting name CSS-5), which is a missile equipped with what is believed to be a single manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle (MaRV), with the sole mission of striking ships at sea.  DF-21 is a mobile, medium range ballistic missile that has reportedly achieved its initial operating capability (IOC). 


The Department of Defence (DOD) believes that the system has a range in excess of 1500km (>800nm), while Chinese sources claim a 2700km (1400nm) range. This latter range could  potentially provide a sea denial ability against any navy within range of the system.  For the purpose of analysis, 2000km will be assumed. It is reported that total flight time is around 12 minutes (720 seconds). It boasts a reported maximum velocity of between 3000 and 3500 ms-1, assumed to be during ballistic descent and re-entry.


The reported use of MaRVs will provide a capability to perform midcourse ballistic correction manoeuvres and this compounds the problem of intercepting a ballistic target. Such manoeuvrability coupled with any number of countermeasure capabilities makes a successful intercept difficult. 


System detection, classification & identification


To achieve this goal, the DF-21D system has to go through a standard sequence: detection, classification, identification and engagement. While sounding relatively straightforward, the technicalities of engaging a fleet of ships at sea is never quite that easy. Detection of ships at sea can be achieved by several methods including, patrols, over the horizon (OTH) radar (like the Australian Jindalee operational realisation network JORN system) or by satellite.  Each of these has advantages and disadvantages. 


Patrols are long and expensive and have coverage limited to the sensor range of the platform (airborne or surface). OTH radars are a much cheaper alternative long-term; however, their resolution is generally measured in hundreds to thousands of miles, hence not providing the level of quality to launch such a weapon.  Satellites, while initially expensive do offer an immediate long-term wide coverage, which is exactly how the DF-21D weapon system is reportedly targeted.


The detection of ships at sea from space is not new; the Soviet Union used ‘radar ocean reconnaissance satellites’ (RORSAT) from the late 1960s onward. Since then, technology has progressed and the capabilities of such systems are much greater. While it is possible to hide naval platforms or a fleet of naval platforms from satellites, such manoeuvres severely restrict movement, thus reducing their utility. Detection from space can be augmented with more locally based systems such as OTH radars and patrols or other assets such as electronic surveillance measures (ESM) that may help reduce the ability to hide from a targeting system. 


Classification, or even determining that the detected ship is a naval platform rather than a large merchant vessel such as super tanker or cruise liner, becomes a little more difficult. While the size of the ship can be estimated based on wake size and velocity, many oil tankers and cruise liners are as large as (or larger than) many warships, including aircraft carriers. 


The typical fleet composition (i.e., many ships in a small area) may give away the nature of the detected vessels since many fleets (especially the US Navy) sail with several ships surrounding the high value unit (HVU) - usually the aircraft carrier. Choke points may confuse the issue since many ships may be passing through such areas at once, although choke points provide an advantage to the DF-21D system to be augmented by other intelligence sources. Fleets could disperse more widely and this could cause problems for classification issues, although tracking all objects in a specific area should filter out fleet composition. 


Identification of the correct target for the DF-21D system can only reasonably be confirmed electro-optically, although contextual information may assist. Once a ship or set of ships have been classified as potential targets, an electro-optic satellite can be tasked to carry out specific identification reasonably easily. The use of visual or passive milli-metric wavelength (mmW) systems could perform this quite adequately, however precipitation (clouds, fog etc.) may be a concern. Once identification has occurred, the DF-21D missile can be launched. 


Initial threat flyout


Throughout the boost phase, it is likely that target positional data is continuously supplied to the warhead from the targeting and guidance sensors.  Whether a single communications link provides this data or whether the warhead performs organic data fusion is unknown. In terms of complexity, the former is less complex, requiring less on board processing. However, it potentially becomes a single point failure and opens up the potential for electronic attack. Organic data fusion, while overcoming the communication single point failure, will require the ability to receive multiple signals and process them, thus requiring more hardware and increasing overall launch weight. When initially exploring this missile’s capability, digging into the actual methodology is largely irrelevant, the only caveat being vulnerability to electronic attack to any communications link. 


Once the DF-21D is exo-atmospheric, it is assumed that various booster separations occur and the payload continues until it reaches its apogee -reportedly around 500km. Around the apogee, the MaRV is likely to separate from the main body (decoys could also be deployed at this stage to attempt to confuse any surveying sensors). The MaRV then begins its ballistic descent, rapidly accelerates to the peak speeds discussed earlier, taking around 155 seconds to reach the intercept point from the apogee. 


Warhead guidance & target acquisition


Only on its decent is the MaRV able to unmask its sensor and attempt to detect the target. The nature of the sensor is unknown; however, it is likely to be a radio frequency (RF), either passive or active. While an electro-optical sensor is feasible, it would not be usable due to the nature of the re-entry phase. The size of the MaRV will dictate the frequency of the sensor, which will probably require that it is small enough and light enough to fit into the MaRV, making it likely that it is no lower than J-band (10-20GHz) and maybe as high as M-band (94GHz). If we assume the seeker head is approximately half the size of the missile diameter, then the beamwidth for these two frequency bands will be between 1.64 and 0.26 degrees, respectively. Ignoring atmospheric absorption and other losses, at these beamwidths, the available coverage - at 500km - is between 820km and 130km. If a target, travelling at 30 knots, is located at the ballistic intercept point, (i.e. the ideal ballistic arc intercept with the sea surface), assuming the MaRV does not manoeuvre, then the target will remain inside the beamwidth of the sensor throughout its decent. 


Generally, the higher the sensor frequency, the greater the atmospheric absorption limiting the effective range of the sensor. Active sensors, as would be required for J and K bands, would suffer from two-way absorption. M-band could be passive, suffering only one-way absorption; however, the absorption levels at this frequency are much greater than for J and K bands. Since the sensor is likely to be limited in physical size, it is unlikely that it incorporates the level of output power necessary to overcome the absorption. Hence, it is unlikely that the sensor, in any of the probable frequencies, will detect the target if it is unmasked at an altitude of 500km. The nature of the Earth’s atmosphere means that the thickest part of the atmosphere will be nearer to the target, meaning that the sensor is unlikely to detect the target until quite late in the re-entry phase, requiring continuous updates from the surveillance and targeting system. 


As the MaRV hits the Kármán line, at an altitude of 100km, it would be expected that a communication blackout might occur. This is caused by the signals being reflected and absorbed by free electrons making up the plasma shield that envelopes the re-entry vehicle, created by the extreme heating of air by a strong shock wave created by the MaRV leading edges.  The attributes of this plasma shield will vary according to the altitude and shape of the re-entry vehicle. However, assuming the re-entry velocity equates to the maximum velocity of 3500ms-1, then, by coincidence, the re-entry temperature can be estimated as ~3500°K. The Saha equation may be used to determine the frequency cut-off for penetration of the plasma shield, which, for the MaRV, is around 0.5GHz, meaning that it is likely that communications can continue at this frequency and higher, further indicating that the DF-21D surveillance and targeting system can maintain contact with the MaRV during the re-entry phase. 


While relevant frequencies are able to penetrate the plasma shield, the MaRV still has to protect any seeker from the heating effects. This requires specialised materials to allow the RF energy to penetrate the heat shield. A composite material comprising boron nitride, silica and boron nitride yarn able to withstand temperatures of up to 4000°K, would also facilitate RF transmissions. As the MaRV begins to undergo negative acceleration, the electron density, and therefore plasma shield, decreases allowing the reestablishment of communications at frequencies below 0.5GHz. 


Summarising the re-entry phase - the phase of most concern from the DF-21Ds perspective - any onboard sensor will be limited until quite late in the re-entry phase (potentially 100km or less). However, the surveillance and targeting system can maintain contact with the target and the MaRV, providing uninterrupted targeting data. 


Destructive capability


The nature of MaRV has not been widely reported, but given that other DF-21 versions can carry a 600kg warhead, it probably is safe to say that DF-21D should be able to carry a similar weight. The amount of kinetic energy this would produce while travelling at 3500ms-1 is 3.6 terra joules, or about 5% of the power of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, without the use of an explosive warhead. 


This is more than enough to destroy any naval platform up to destroyer size and enough to significantly damage or destroy something as large as a US Navy super carrier. If the MaRV contained a warhead, when coupled with the kinetic energy, it is likely that it would destroy something the size of a US Navy aircraft carrier. 


Defensive measures


The DF-21D will be at its most vulnerable during its boost phase. This is the phase from engine ignition until it is exo-atmospheric. During the boost phase, it is relatively easy to engage the missile with conventional hardkill effectors (surface-to-air missile) to achieve this. The launch must occur within the range of the hardkill effectors, which, for most systems, is around 80-120km. Placing such a SAM system in such a position exposes that platform to a pre-emptive attack. Hence, it is likely that the majority of the boost phase will occur relatively unhindered. Another possible solution is the use of something similar to the recently abandoned airborne laser (ABL); however, the limitation identified by the ABL programme would need to be overcome to develop a viable system. 


Intercepting the MaRV during the descent phase presents a number of difficulties. First among these is having suitable sensor coverage to detect and track the MaRV with fire control quality. Systems like SPY-1 are limited in their zenith coverage by the physics of the antenna, which can only electronically scan to 60° off the antenna boresight, (a characteristic of physics that afflicts all phased array antennas). Given that the SPY-1 scans at an angle of no more than 10 or 15° from the horizontal, this results in a cone shape blind spot of around 30-40° around the zenith. 


The reported range of the SPY-1 is approximately 200km. There are two aspects to this figure: the instrumented range, defined by the selected waveform known as instrumented range; and that of the basic physics, which is dependant on the effective radiated power (ERP) and the radar cross section of the target (RCS). Modification of the waveform, increasing the spacing between pulses, will change the instrumented range to encompass any particular range. The angle at which the MaRV descends means that there is very little clutter to interfere with the detection of the target. Hence, a normal radar, single pulse system can be utilised, rather than a complex waveform that requires processing such as Doppler filtering often used in high clutter environment (e.g. littoral regions). 


Based on physical size, the estimated MaRV RCS is around 2.2m2, meaning it is probable that SPY-1 could detect the MaRV at between 150km and 200km, or between 43 and 60 seconds, assuming the sensor is not distracted by any potential decoys. Giving a second or so for a targeting process, an intercepting missile can be launched travelling at a typical velocity of 1000ms-1, resulting in an intercept range of around 18km (or 18 seconds to go), with a combined velocity of 4500ms-1. This Mach 15 combined intercept speed would make it incredibly difficult for even an optimised fusing mechanism and blast fragmentation warhead to detect, initiate and distribute fragments against the MaRV. 


This suggests that using an ordinary SAM effectively against the MaRV would be near impossible - even a vaunted SM-2. Hence, intercepting the MaRV in the terminal phase is unlikely, so once the MaRV is in its ballistic fall, the likelihood of it hitting its target is very high. Guns are of little use against this type simply because of their limited range and accuracy, not to mention the lack of effect. 


A viable defensive solution


Once exo-atmospheric the DF-21D is potentially susceptible to attack from systems such as the US Navy’s standard missile (SM)-3, typically based upon a Ticonderoga cruiser. As the threat breaches the horizon, the platforms sensors (SPY-1) will acquire the rising target and commence tracking, facilitating the calculation of an engagement solution. The solution will incorporate a ‘window’ of opportunity, bounded by the very first time the missile can launch and achieve a suitable probability of intercept and a very last time. Once the threat enters this window, the SM-3 can be launched. 


The SM-3 is a three-stage missile comprising:


    Initial stage: A Mk72 booster that incorporates a four-nozzle thrust vector control, providing pitch, roll and yaw control for the missile - used for the initial launch

    Second stage: A Mk104, dual thrust rocket motor (DTRM)

    Third stage: A Mk136 third stage rocket motor (TSRM)


The initial stage propels the SM-3 from the launcher, accelerating it to around 1000ms-1. On burnout, the booster separates and is discarded and the DTRM ignites, accelerating the missile further. After MK 104 burnout and separation, the TSRM ignites, propelling the third stage out of the atmosphere, which includes the kinetic warhead (KW). The TSRM contains two separate propulsion pulses allowing optimisation of the engagement. 


Throughout its flight, the SM-3 receives in-flight target information, constantly updating the predicted intercept solution. During the third stage, approximately 30 seconds prior to intercept, the TSRM pitches over and ejects the nose cone, exposing the KW which starts its search for the target using its long-wave infra red (LWIR) seeker, augmented with received target data. The KW uses the solid divert and attitude control system (SDACS) to manoeuvre the KW to enable a hit-to-kill intercept. 


As the KW closes on the target, the LWIR seeker tries to determine the area where the MaRV is located, shifting its aim towards this area to increase the probability of a successful intercept. The KW collides with the target with a reported 130-mega joules of kinetic energy, equating to a 10 tonne truck travelling at 600 miles per hour. Such a strike is highly likely to destroy the target. 


While the Aegis/SM-3 anti-ballistic missile solution seems viable, and indeed tests have demonstrated its capability, it seems to need to engage the target prior to MaRV separation. This is not an issue in itself; however, to achieve this, it is likely that the SM-3 launch platform must be in a specific range to allow the SM-3 to reach the target prior to MaRV separation. Based on maximum reported range of SPY-1, this suggests the system must be within ~200km of the launch point to allow detection.  Even if this range is incorrectly reported, then the launch platform needs to be within 500km of the trajectory. Simply put, this is necessary to ensure that the operating envelope of the SM-3 suitably covers the trajectory path of the DF-21D while it is exo-atmospheric. The need for the launch platform to be in a suitable location to engage the DF-21D potentially exposes it to a pre-emptive attack since the intercept geometry dictates the launch position. 


Assessing threat viability


Based on available information and on first inspection, the DF-21D concept is viable. Whether the fully integrated system is effective – and what the concept suggests - is not something that can be easily verified.  Given the likely low cost of a DF-21D relative to naval platforms (especially the US carriers), the introduction of the DF-21D system is a game changer in terms of strategic naval warfare. The economical offset gives these weapons an unmatched potency almost equivalent to the introduction of the submarine and torpedo combination in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Without a doubt, US Navy aircraft carriers are susceptible to attack by these weapons. 


As this paper has explored, the vast majority of contemporary in-service SAM systems are unable to defend against this threat, while the information on the only potentially viable system suggests that the launch platform has to be exposed to achieve a successful engagement.  However, the Aegis/SM-3 combination is the only known naval system that can possibly negate this threat. Hence, any US moves towards the areas guarded by DF-21D would likely be preceded by the deployment of a Aegis/SM-3 platform. This potentially makes the Aegis/SM-3 platforms strategic assets, worthy of significant defence, themselves, to prevent a pre-emptive attack. 


Even if the Aegis/SM-3 combination is systemically capable of defeating the DF-21D, there is always potential for system failures in any stage of the engagement. While this applies equally to the DF-21D, as usual, the threat will always have the advantage. Given the tight engagement timeline for the SM-3, depending on the system element, failure would be potentially catastrophic. While the launching of multiple SM-3s may overcome some of the potential failures, it is not clear if the Aegis/SM-3 combination can manage multiple engagements of this nature. 


The only assured method of defence against the DF-21D is one of offense.  The DF-21D system relies heavily on its targeting and guidance elements that primarily consist of satellite-based sensors (although probably not exclusively). Hence, were the US to initiate a move into a DF-21D protected area, its best defence would be to incapacitate the targeting and guidance elements, which may be politically unacceptable. Fortunately, the Aegis/SM-3 combination can also engage satellites as demonstrated by operation BURNT FROST, the shooting down of the USA-193 satellite.  Even if the DF-21D system is not as capable as reports suggest, or does not work at all, PLAN has presented a difficult problem for the US in which any move could risk the US losing either political capital (going for the assured route of defence) or losing a significant asset - a US Navy aircraft carrier. This could immediately put the US on the back-foot before any combat occurred. 


In the final analysis, even the threat of introducing the DF-21D, let alone the actual introduction, changes the balance of power in huge areas of strategic importance around Asia. While systems do exist to mitigate this threat, none provides an ideal defence in either concept or execution, but they do form the basis of limited defence ability.

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16 juillet 2011 6 16 /07 /juillet /2011 16:50
China Details Anti-ship Missile Plans


Jul 15, 2011 By Bradley Perrett aviation week and space technology


Beijing - For more than a century, surface warships have been struggling to survive against mines, submarines, aircraft and, more recently, cruise missiles. Now China’s rapid development of a sophisticated anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) raises the threat to a new level.


The U.S. Navy, mindful of the threat and no less focused on advancing its technologies to protect its fleet, remains confident in its ability to project naval power globally on the surface as well as under water. But for less technologically advanced navies of the Asia-Pacific region, it is becoming difficult to see how in the decades ahead they can stand up to an opponent that can target surface ships with hypersonic homing warheads that can range more than 1,500 km (900 mi.)—and perhaps much farther.


China Daily is citing a range of 2,700 km for the revolutionary missile, the DF-21D, presenting the crucial data point in a report based on comments by the chief of the Chinese general staff, Gen. Chen Bingde. The Pentagon said last year the DF-21D’s range is “in excess of 1,500 km.”


If not a journalistic error, the statement means that U.S. aircraft carriers launching strike missions while keeping clear of DF-21Ds would need aircraft with even longer ranges than thought. It means that the DF-21Ds can be safely kept further inland. And, for Asian navies, it means the whole South China Sea can be covered from Guangdong, a Chinese province where DF-21Ds are based.


China’s second key revelation about the DF-21D is that it is still in development, though the U.S. has said it is in service.


“The missile is still undergoing experimental testing and will be used as a defensive weapon when it is successfully developed, not an offensive one,” says Chen. “It is a high-tech weapon and we face many difficulties in getting funding, advanced technologies and high-quality personnel, which are all underlying reasons why it is hard to develop this.”


Adm. Robert Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said in December that the DF-21D had reached the equivalent of initial operational capability. Taiwan has also said China has begun to deploy the missile. Yet Chen’s comments, made after a meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Adm. Michael Mullen, imply that any DF-21Ds that have been deployed are not regarded as fully developed.


“It’s possible that an initial ASBM variant could be more basic,” says Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, an Asia-focused think tank in Arlington, Va. “Then maybe a follow-on variant could integrate some of the more sophisticated technologies, such as a high-altitude radar system.”


U.S. Naval War College Prof. Andrew Erickson says the tone of Chen’s remarks “could be interpreted to reflect a high level of uncertainly and ambivalence about the missile’s immediate prospects, directed at a Chinese audience through Chinese media.


“Viewed in this light, the three factors Gen. Chen outlines—funding, technology, talent—may be viewed as serious constraints, even bottlenecks, in the challenging task of successfully maturing and integrating an ASBM system of systems.”


China’s idea of “operational” may be closer to the U.S. concept of full operational capability, adds Erickson.


The appearance of Chen’s statement in China Daily, an English-language newspaper acting as a government mouthpiece directed at the outside world, is itself meaningful. The paper’s reports on sensitive subjects often appear to be carefully written to deliver Beijing’s message.


The DF-21D is one such sensitive subject, as the U.S. considers how it would counter Chinese attempts to dominate nearby seas and forcibly regain control of Taiwan. In the view of some analysts, surface warships—above all, aircraft carriers—are fundamentally too vulnerable to such a weapon, because their signatures are so large and the missile is very difficult to intercept.


In the May 2011 issue of the U.S. Naval Institute journal Proceedings, two Pentagon strategists, Navy Capt. Henry Hendrix and Marine Corps Lt. Col. Noel Williams, urge immediate cessation of U.S. aircraft carrier construction. Noting such threats as the DF-21D, they write, “the march of technology is bringing the supercarrier era to an end, just as the new long-range strike capabilities of carrier aviation brought on the demise of the battleship era in the 1940s.”


Skeptics respond that the DF-21D’s kill chain can be broken in several places—for example, in target detection and tracking before launch, communication of targeting data or final homing descent. Still, considering the crews and costs of surface ships, especially carriers, the stakes are high.


“Yes, the [U.S.] Navy would want to have a high degree of confidence that they could break a link in the kill chain, but there are no certainties here,” says Eric Hagt of the World Security Institute. “It’s a game of measures, countermeasures, counter-counter-measures, et cetera. Having said that, the U.S. remains a superior, technologically capable fighting force, so it stands to reason they are able to conceive of and develop sophisticated countermeasures to the ASBM.”


However, there are no guarantees, he stresses, adding that the real mission of the DF-21D is deterrence. “It could and probably will give the U.S. Navy much more pause for concern when getting involved in any potential scenario in the western Pacific closer to China’s shores.”


The views from China’s neighboring countries and Australia are even more sobering. From there, attacking the DF-21D kill chain must look like a challenge ranging from enormous to unthinkable. Over the past few years, the Asia-Pacific-region navies have increasingly shifted their resources to submarines. Japan intends to enlarge its submarine fleet to 24 from 18 and Australia, to 12 from six.


Recounting Chen’s remarks, China Daily says: “He did acknowledge . . . that Beijing is developing the Dongfeng-21D [DF-21D], a ballistic missile with a maximum range of 2,700 km and the ability to strike moving targets—including aircraft carriers—at sea.”



The range of 2,700 km has previously been attributed to earlier DF-21s built to attack fixed targets, raising the possibility that the figure has appeared in the paper only as a result of sloppy journalism. That would be quite an error, however, considering that the report was supposed to convey a message abroad.


China’s military, with a seemingly atavistic aversion to public statement, tends to reveal its capabilities by just letting the world see them. Examples include its demonstration of anti-satellite technology in 2007, when it blasted away an old weather spacecraft, and the seemingly casual rolling out of the so-called J-20 fighter prototype in view of an airfield fence at Chengdu in December 2010.


“My impression is that an ASBM range requirement is driven by the maximum range of U.S. weapon-delivery platforms associated with a carrier battle group,” says Stokes. “The 2,700-km requirement seems a bit more than what’s needed.”


Nonetheless, it is clear that extra range, whether immediately available or in a future version of the DF-21, would give China greater flexibility in basing and targeting. Hagt notes that fixing targets becomes more difficult and increasingly reliant on vulnerable satellites as the range rises.


China itself evidently sees a continuing role for aircraft carriers. In the same report, China Daily says the incomplete carrier China bought from Ukraine in 1998, Varyag, “is expected to serve primarily as a training vessel for pilots and deck crews.” Such training has always been assumed as the initial role of the ship, since China has little or no experience in the difficult business of operating fixed-wing aircraft at sea.


“China is a big country and we have quite a large number of ships, but they are only small ships,” Chen says. “This is not commensurate with the status of a country like China.” The U.S. is “a real world power” because it has 11 aircraft carriers, he adds. The general also says much Chinese military technology is at the level of U.S. equipment used 20-30 years ago.

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