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New Advanced Variant of China's DF-21D 'Carrier Killer' Missiles Completes Pre-Deployment Tests

February 04th - 2018

Reports have emerged that a specialist brigade of the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force have carried out successful pre-deployment tests of a new and more capable variants of the DF-21D 'carrier killer' anti ship missile. The new missiles are according to Chinese media 30% more powerful than the previous generation, though whether this power refers to range, speed, accuracy, payload or a combination of the four was not stated. The new missile has also amended one of the key weaknesses of its predecessor, which was only able to operate from roads due to its launch vehicle's lack of off road capabilities. The launch vehicle for the new missile is expected to have off road capabilities, allowing it to deploy from rough terrain, take unpredictable routes overland in times of conflict, and thereby significantly increase its survivability. China appears to have taken a leaf from the North Korean military's book in this regard, which in 2017 inducted the KN-19 anti ship missile system with more survivable tracked launchers capable of operating from almost any terrain. Previous iterations of the Chinese DF-21D required several support vehicles and needed to deploy to a huge solid surface prior to a launch, and overcoming this constraint goes a long way to improving survivability.

The DF-21D poses a significant threat to hostile warships operating near Chinese coasts, with the platform capable of targeting ships over 1,450km away. It represents the first ever missile system capable of targeting moving warships from land based mobile launchers at long range, employing manoeuvrable reentry vehicles and making use of satellite guidance guidance and over the horizon radars. The missile can carry either a nuclear or a heavy conventional warhead, which combined with the high impact speed could neutralise any known warships in a single strike. According to the United States Naval Institute the missile could destroy a supercarrier in a single strike, and the U.S. Navy lacks any form of defence against it. This restricts U.S. warships to operations further from Chinese coasts, beyond the range of most of their strike capabilities including the range of F-18E and F-35 carrier based fighters. The missile has thus proven to be a significant asset in China's defence, an anti access area denial system aimed denying hostile forces access to the seas surrounding China and an excellent complement to the country's growing surface to air missile capabilitiesInvestment in the DF-21D and development of more capable successors is therefore expected to continue. 

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