Finally, China has launched the ‘Eagle Strike 21’ also known as the ‘YJ-21’. It is China’s much-awaited hypersonic, ship-borne anti-ship missile. It is currently on display at the Zhuhai Air Show.
YJ-21 is known as the world’s first anti-ship, carrier-based ballistic missile. It was displayed alongside the two air-to-surface anti-ship Tianlei (TL) missiles. It was reportedly marked ‘YJ-21E’, wherein the ‘E’ indicates the missile’s export variant.
The YJ-21 is considered one of China’s most lethal weapons, wholly hidden from the public until now. In April 2022, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy published a video showing a Type 055 cruiser firing an unseen missile that was understood to be the YJ-21.
From the video clip, it is understood that the missile had a bi-conic nose and small fins, and its control surfaces show that it isn’t a surface-to-air missile (SAM).
The YJ-21E appears to be similar in dimensions and shape to the one fired from the Type 055 cruiser this year in April.
While specifications concerning its performance remain unknown until now, its range is between 1000 and 1500 km. Per the South China Morning Post, the anti-ship missile boasts a terminal velocity of Mach 10, which is ten times the speed of sound.
In a video released in April, the YJ-21 appeared to be cold-launched from the stern’s vertical launch system (VLS) (of Type 055), which tells us that the missile was sent out from the launcher cell with gas before the engine ignited.
Most importantly, the ultra-fast YJ-21 is part of China’s arsenal of missiles designed exclusively to take out aircraft carriers of enemies. It has an unpredictable flight path capable of penetrating through the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and eliminating it super fast.
China Focuses on ‘Carrier-Killer’ Missiles
Beijing has long been worried about the abilities of American aircraft carrier groups to travel worldwide and exert unparalleled military dominance.
The US Navy now plans to have a fleet of 12 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. On the contrary, China boasts three aircraft carriers, while the fourth is currently in the pipeline.
Recently the EurAsian Times discussed the capability to destroy an aircraft carrier as the mission of China’s strategy to counter US military actions off the country’s eastern coast. Eurasian Time reported on a target range in the Taklamakan desert. The targets were designed precisely as one Ford-class US aircraft carrier and two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
The targets were designed for China’s military to get better at anti-ship attacks with land-based Dong Feng-21D missiles, also dubbed the ‘carrier killer’, with a range of about 1,500 km.
The US Navy does not (at the moment) boast an anti-ship ballistic missile like the ones operated by China. The service is now associating with the US Army on a hypersonic Conventional Prompt Strike missile system that can seamlessly be launched from ships, submarine platforms, and land.
While the Tomahawk Block Vb and Va cruise missiles deployed by the US Navy have a benefit regarding range, as the projectiles can easily engage targets at approximately 1800 kilometres, they are subsonic and, hence, easier to intercept using advanced air defence systems.
A report published by the US Congressional Research Service about the naval capabilities of China in March 2022 highlighted the concerns top US military officials had. It mentioned that China’s stockpile of anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) could successfully block the US Navy from accessing almost a thousand miles off the coast of China.
References: Eurasian Times, Pakistan Defence
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