China is showcasing its powerful new hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile, which could raise the stakes as tensions flare between China's military and the U.S. Navy.
China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) unveiled the CM-401 short-range anti-ship ballistic missile at Airshow China in Zhuhai, the country's largest military and commercial aviation exhibition.
"The system is intended for rapid and precision strikes against medium-size ships, naval task forces, and offshore facilities," a CASIC representative told IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
The Chinese state-affiliated Global Times, citing a press release from the company that produced the weapon, reported that the missile can travel at speeds roughly six times the speed of sound.
The speed and unpredictable flight patterns made possible through mid-flight changes to the trajectory make the missile much more difficult, if not impossible, to intercept.
The CM-401s are assumed to fly on a "skip-glide trajectory," The War Zone reported, citing graphics detailing the capabilities of the new system.
"The weapon has the potential of destroying a hostile vessel with one hit," the paper reported, citing a Chinese military expert. The CM-401 is believed to include an independent phased array radar in the nose for terminal targeting.
The missile, which has a maximum range of 180 miles, can be launched from a shore-based launcher or from a ship-based launch-canister. The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy's new Type 055 destroyers could potentially carry the CM-401 missiles, The National Interest reported, although it is possible the vessel will carry a longer-range variant.
"The country will possess greater deterrence against hostile sea attacks, especially from large vessels like aircraft carriers," a military expert told the Global Times.
Other Chinese anti-ship systems include the DF-21D and DF-26 ballistic missiles, as well as the YJ-12 and YJ-18 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile and a handful of subsonic cruise missiles. The development of a hypersonic strike platform represents a potentially-alarming advancement in stand-off anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) technology, a consistent challenge for the US military.
In September, the US Navy had a tense encounter with the PLAN when a Chinese warship challenged a US destroyer in the South China Sea. US and Chinese military officials anticipate additional confrontations in the future.
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