2008: Rumors continue to come out of
China that the DF-21 ballistic missile is being equipped with a high-explosive
warhead and a guidance system that can find and hit a aircraft carrier at sea.
The DF-21 has a range of 1800 kilometers and normally hauls a 300 kiloton
nuclear warhead. It's a two stage, 15 ton, solid fuel rocket that could carry a
half ton penetrating, high-explosive warhead, along with the special guidance
system (a radar and image recognition system).
story goes, the Chinese have reverse engineered, reinvented or stolen the 1970s
technology that went into the U.S. Pershing ballistic missile. This 7.5 ton
U.S. Army missile also had an 1,800 kilometers range, and could put its nuclear
warhead within 30 meters of its aim point. This was possible because the
guidance system had its own radar. This kind of accuracy made the Russians very
uncomfortable, as it made their command bunkers vulnerable. The Russians
eventually agreed to a lot of nuclear and missile disarmament deals in order to
get the Pershings decommissioned in the 1980s.
Chinese have long been rumored to have a system like this, but there have been
no tests. If the Chinese do succeed in creating a "carrier killer" version of the
DF-21, the U.S. Navy can modify its Aegis anti-missile system to protect
carriers against such attacks. There are also electronic warfare options, to
blind the DF-21 radar. Another problem the Chinese will have is getting a
general idea of where the target carrier is before they launch the DF-21. This
is not impossible, but can be difficult.