(CNN) Ballistic missile can hit moving ships, China says, but experts remain skeptical

(CNN) Ballistic missile can hit moving ships, China says, but experts remain skeptical.  An earlier article, “China’s reaction to US Navy operation: We have missiles, quotes Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center:

“Remember, the Soviet Union never successfully developed an ASBM (anti-ship ballistic missile) and no country in the West has one,” Schuster said.”

The simplest reason of several is geometric. The aim of a cruise missile, which flies at low altitude towards the target, is principally a matter of azimuth angle, which you could think of as a direction. The DB-26 missile flies high and approaches the target in a steep dive. This means that as it dives, it must use its fins to control two angles, the “direction”, and the steepness of the dive. (This description is  for the nonspecialist reader.)  It is much harder for the DF-26 to land on target than for a cruise missile to do the same.

And with the missile coming from the far west desert of Xinjiang, it’s a challenge to tell the missile where the target is, requiring a distributed system architecture. The software is hideously complex.

But casting this as a weapons match up is wrong.  With effort to muster force, which might take some time to arrange, and be visible to intelligence assets,  China has a good chance to sink ships on similar missions. They have at least three options:

The reason China doesn’t do it is that it would scare all the money out of China. Hence caution, while they debate the proper moment. For the oldest  civilization, there’s plenty of time.

For us, it’s important to understand the game.




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