December 29, 2010 09:01
China is getting closer to building a ballistic missile designed to sink aircraft carriers, the chief of the U.S. Pacific Command claimed Monday.
Adm. Robert Willard told the Asahi Shimbun he believes that the Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile program has reached "initial operational capability." This means that "a workable design" has been settled on and is being developed further.
The missile, dubbed Dongfeng-21D, is expected to be a ship-to-carrier ballistic missile capable of carrying six 450 kg warheads and have a range of 1,300-2,000 km. It has been described as an "aircraft carrier killer" because it can sink a carrier with a single stroke by penetrating the hull and then exploding inside. A prototype was first shown during a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army in April 2009.
China apparently plans to deploy the missile warfare ready in 2012. Military experts say it poses a threat to the U.S. ambitions to control the Pacific. If it is deployed, U.S. aircraft carrier fleets will have to stay out of range in waters more than 2,000 km from the Chinese coast.
In a report in August 2009, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence said China's development of the missile would create a "no-access zone" for the U.S. military.
But Willard raised doubts about the capability of the Dongfeng-21D, saying it will not pose a more serious threat to the U.S. and its allies than China's submarines.
Beijing has neither denied nor confirmed the development, but the official Chinese media on Aug. 13 said the PLA "will test-fire a weapon under an important state weapons project."
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