Chinese People's Liberation Army Rocket Force Dong-Feng 21 DF-21 Medium-Range Ballistic Missile

Chinese People’s Liberation Army Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Launches Saturated Attack Capability

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Wednesday launched multiple anti-ship ballistic missiles into the South China Sea in a military exercise. The missile launches demonstrated the PLA’s ability to hit maritime targets with powerful ballistic missiles from multiple directions in coordinated, saturated attacks against which there is no defense. The People’s Liberation Army launched four medium-range ballistic missiles into the South China Sea. the missiles landed in the sea in an area between South China’s Hainan Island and the Xisha Islands. according to a navigation restriction notice released by the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration on Friday, The People’s Liberation Army exercises are being held in the waters from Monday to Saturday, which did not provide further details regarding the drills.

This military exercise is the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea. Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to easing tensions and maintaining stability. The PLA’s actions, including missile tests, further destabilize the situation in the South China Sea. Such exercises also violate PRC commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, and call into question its motivations with ongoing negotiations for a Code of Conduct between China and ASEAN.

Dong-Feng 26 (DF-26) intermediate-range ballistic missiles appear in the Sept 3 parade in Beijing. (China MoD file photo)

The South China Morning Post claimed that China launched a DF-26 missile from Northwest China’s Qinghai Province and a DF-21D missile from East China’s Zhejiang Province. The PLA had not confirmed the launches as of press time. The U.S. Department of Defense alerted the PRC in July that would continue to monitor the situation with the expectation that the PRC will reduce its militarization and coercion of its neighbors in the South China Sea. On Wednesday morning, the time of the reported missile launches, the US sent an RC-135S ballistic missile-detection plane to the South China Sea. In July, a US dual aircraft carrier strike group featuring the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Nimitz conducted exercises in the South China Sea. The USS Ronald Reagan again entered the South China Sea on August 14 after sailing in the East China Sea.

The Dong-Feng 26 (DF-26) is an intermediate-range ballistic missile produced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The DF-26 has a range of 4,000 km (2,500 mi) and may conduct precision nuclear or conventional strikes against ground and naval targets. It is China’s first conventionally-armed ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam and the American military installations located there; this has led to the missile being referred to by netizens as the “Guam Express” or “Guam Killer”. The Dong-Feng 21 (DF-21; NATO reporting name CSS-5) is a two-stage, solid-fuel rocket, single-warhead medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) in the Dong Feng series developed by China Changfeng Mechanics and Electronics Technology Academy.

Soldiers in Mission-Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gears withdraw after erecting a DF-21A medium-range ballistic missile system during a training exercise on September 10, 2018. They are assigned to a launching detachment of the PLA Rocket Force. (China MoD file photo)