|DF-21 road-mobile launchers|
There’s no doubt that China’s Dong Feng 21D (DF-21D) anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) is, in theory, a formidable anti-access weapon. Since its alleged deployment circa 2010, many defense analysts have argued that the so-called “carrier killer” would be a game changer in any armed conflict in Northeast Asia and prevent the participation of U.S. carrier groups in regional contingencies, such as war in the Taiwan Strait. But is the missile really that much of a threat, or is all the hype part of an asymmetrical campaign by China to defeat its enemies without a fight?
If last week’s statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee by Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael T Flynn is any indication, the U.S. military is buying into the capabilities of the DF-21D. The unclassified version of Flynn’s annual threat assessment even states that China has augmented its 1,200 conventionally armed short-range ballistic missiles deployed opposite Taiwan with “a limited but growing number of conventionally armed, medium-range ballistic missiles, including the DF-21D.”
But ever since the People’s Liberation Army then chief of general staff General Chen Bingde gave the first official confirmation in July 2011 that the PLA was developing the DF-21D ASBM, specifics about the missile have been few and far between, with officials refraining from discussing the program in detail.
My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.