CHINA'S ANTISHIP BALLISTIC MISSILE: Developments and Missing Links by ProQuest

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                   Developments and Missing Links

                   Eric Hagt and Matthew Durnin

              C                   hina’s pursuit of an antiship ballistic missile (ASBM) has been called a po-
                                  tential “game changer,” a weapon that could single-handedly shift the stra-
                           tegic balance with the United States. A retired U.S. Navy rear admiral asserted as
                           early as 2005 that an ASBM capability could represent “the strategic equivalent
                           of China’s acquiring nuclear weapons in 1964.”1 Whether or not this is accurate,
                           an effective ASBM capability would undoubtedly constitute a formidable anti-
                           access weapon against the U.S. Navy in the western Pacific, particularly during a
                           conflict over Taiwan.2 However, as the Chinese literature demonstrates, it would
                           mean more than that. Fully operational ASBM capability along with essential
                           C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveil-
                           lance, and reconnaissance) support would be a barometer of China’s greater
                           military modernization effort, a potential instrument for regional strategic am-
                           bitions, and perhaps an important element in tipping the long-term maritime
                                                        strategic balance with respect to the United States.
Eric Hagt is the director of the China Program at the
World Security Institute in Washington, D.C., and           Given China’s overall inferiority in long-range air
chief editor of China Security. His research includes   and naval power, an ASBM would afford a power-
traditional and nontraditional security issues in
China with an emphasis on space, the defense in-
                                                        ful asymmetric means that could help deter the U.S.
dustry, energy security, and crisis management.         forces on their way to a zone of conflict near China’s
Matthew Durnin is a visiting researcher at the          littoral borders. However, the ASBM represents more
World Security Institute’s China Program and asso-      than just a single weapon platform. Rather, it is seen
ciate editor of China Security. His research interests
include security policy and applications of defense     as “a system of systems” and a key step in achieving
technologies.                                           high-tech and information war capabilities.3 This is
                                                        because the ability to launch a land-based ballistic
© 2009 by Eric Hagt and Matthew Durnin
Naval War College Review, Autumn 2009, Vol. 62, No. 4   missile at a moving target thousands of kilometers

     away requires a wide range of support and information technologies far beyond
     just the missile itself. Certainly, the medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) is
     the core component of this system, and the technological demands in maneu-
     vering, guidance, and homing to defeat defenses and find its moving target at sea
     are formidable. However, an effective ASBM would also require the ability to de-
     tect, identify, and track the target using some combination of land, sea, air, and
     space-based surveillance assets. Aside from the immediate software and hard-
     ware, all of these functions would have to be highly integrated, fast reacting, and
     sufficiently flexible 
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