China airs footage of aircraft carrier killer nuclear missiles ‘in warning to US’

Minnie Chan, South China Morning Post

Posted at Oct 05 2022 08:02 AM

China's DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. GREG BAKER / AFP
China's DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. GREG BAKER / AFP

CCTV showcases PLA’s most powerful strategic nuclear-capable weapons in eight-part documentary to mark National Day

Dual-capable Dongfeng missiles likely to pose a great threat to US aircraft carrier strike groups, military analyst warns

Chinese state media aired footage of the country’s most powerful strategic nuclear-capable weapons, including anti-ship “carrier killers”, to mark National Day, a move seen as a warning to the US as tensions escalate between the rival powers.

Anti-aircraft carrier DF-21D and DF-26B ballistic missiles as well as new-generation DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) – all part of the Dongfeng series – were on display in the new footage for state-owned China Central Television, as part of an eight-part documentary series.

The two anti-ship missiles would pose a threat to US carriers, while the DF-41 ICBM was capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads with a range of over 12,000km (7,450 miles) to hit any target on the US mainland, noted defense experts, who see the documentary as aimed at strategic deterrence.

At least a dozen DF-26B missiles with launchers, equal to an entire missile brigade, were on show in the CCTV series which aired over the past week to mark the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic.

"Showcasing Dongfeng series strategic weapons is a subtle warning to the United States, which is instigating other countries to put on pressure on Beijing over the Taiwan issue, as the fierce Ukraine war also poses a dilemma for China," said Song Zhongping, a former People's Liberation Army instructor.

"The PLA Rocket Force's strategic weapons were supposed to be displayed in National Day military parades, but China organises such big events only once a decade or once in five years, which makes such video footage another option for the PLA to show its muscle to its American counterpart."

The dual-capable missiles - able to carry both conventional and nuclear warheads - would pose a great threat to the US aircraft carrier strike groups, Song warned.

"When dealing with US warships, conventional warheads on the dual-capable DF-21D and DF-26 missiles are powerful enough to deter them from entering Chinese waters because of their precision strike capability," he said.

In August 2020, the PLA Rocket Force launched the two "aircraft carrier killer" missiles in the South China Sea to hit a designated target, a moving ship. This came just a day after Beijing claimed a US U-2 spy plane had entered a no-fly zone without permission during a Chinese live-fire naval drill off the country's northern coast.

The DF-21, with a range of around 1,800km, is described by state media as the most advanced in the series, while the DF-21D, capable of carrying multiple warheads, is billed as the world's first anti-ship ballistic missile.

The DF-26 has a range of 4,000km and can be used in nuclear or conventional strikes against ground and naval targets.

TV footage aired earlier by the PLA channel 81 TV showed nearly two dozen DF-26B missiles and launchers, or at least two such missile brigades, as being combat ready. Chinese social media platform posts indicate one of the DF-26B brigades is based in the northeastern city of Dalian, under the Northern Theatre Command.

A military source close to the PLA said China had also set up new missile brigades based in its eastern and southern theatre commands, which focus on the security of the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.

The first episode of the eight-part CCTV series, titled Forging Heroes to Revival, also showcased the DF-15 and DF-16 short-range ballistic missiles.

These were part of the unprecedented live-fire military exercise surrounding Taiwan launched by the PLA on August 4, in a dramatic escalation of tensions following a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi despite Beijing's repeated warnings against such a trip.

Beijing sees self-ruled Taiwan as part of China and has never ruled out the use of force to take control of it. Most countries, including the US, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state. Washington, however, opposes any attempt to take the island by force.

US President Joe Biden has reiterated that America would defend Taiwan against any PLA attack. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, however, said he saw no imminent chance of such aggression by Beijing, which was trying to establish a "new normal" with its military activities around the island.

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