Tuesday, October 5, 2010

China's new anti-ship missile is a paper-tiger

A while back Yahoo published this little story:


This is sensationalism, because they did not ask any REAL experts, or something who actually has a brain.

First of all, what exactly is Dong Feng 21? or "East Wind 21"? It is a "ballistic anti-ship missile".

Or to describe it... it goes up OUT of the atmosphere, like an ICBM, then dives at the the target at hypersonic speeds from above.

Sounds impressive, until you consider the problem of such an idea.

ICBM only works against FIXED targets... such as CITIES. Do you know why? Because once the warhead enters the atmosphere, it can no longer communicate. It is surrounded by ionized air caused by the re-entry. Every spacecraft suffers through this "blackout" period upon re-entry. No matter what the size. Which basically means once the weapon enters atmosphere, it is BLIND and can no longer make course corrections. It can MAKE some, but it would not know where to go. It may as well not make any. That way it cannot be jammed.

Which also means it is a sitting duck when coming back down through the atmopshere. And there's no disguising it. It's visible for hundred miles. You can't hide it. People will see you coming. 

Which basically means if the target moves, changes course once the missile enters the atmopshere, the missile is virtually GUARANTEED to miss, because it takes several minutes for the missile to come back through the atmosphere. 

Also, how is the missile going to get the course correction? From satellites. Yes, China has a series of radar satellites to keep track on things, and they can be used to keep tabs on the US CVBG... and perhaps, pass final target corrections to a DF-21. However, how many of those do China have?

You have to also keep in mind that a ballistic missile is visible for HUNDREDS of miles, as it reaches up, WAY UP, and there are plenty of satellites on ALL sides that are keeping track of any sort of ballistic launches.

Does China have anti-satellite capabilities? Yes, but so does the US. And any attempt at hitting the satellites is pretty much declaration of war.

So in conclusion, DF-21 is, at best, a one-shot weapon, and will never work again... sort of like the Al Qaeda attack against the US on 9/11, and that's the BEST case.

What's the worst case? It's a paper tiger that will never work, and is an empty threat.

Finally... consider this fact... Soviet Union had been working on how to kill US CVBG's for DECADES... until fall of Berlin Wall. They never bothered with a ASBM. Instead they just work on faster regular super-sonic anti-ship missiles... and better bombers.

And the physics around this problem has NOT changed. So, does China actually have a chance in making DF-21 work? Only against a FIXED target.  Maybe they can hit CVBG while it's in port in Japan, but they can sneak a nuke near the ship much easier.

Enhanced by Zemanta


Dan said...

Awesome article. It’s really interesting that BrahMos is going hypersonic in the new version. I wonder how it will compare to X-51 Waverider. Here are some amazing videos of both hypersonic missiles at http://hypersonicmissile.com

Kasey Chang said...

Everybody is going hypersonic. It's relatively simple, but the faster it moves, the less it can evade.

What's going to be really interesting is... (this is my imagination)

Imagine something like the stealth Manta Ray UAV... that is also a UUWV (unmanned underwater vehicle). It flies via stealth into the area, say, 100 miles near its naval target, and gently drops into the ocean and sinks. Then it becomes a sub, getting updates from ULF transmissions. Once it acquires the target... it comes up from below, and blows up against the keel...

I have to admit this is not an original concept. It's from the novel "Storming Intrepid", except I took out the ballistic phase of the "Kingfisher". :)