In what is being seen as a subtle message to the United States amid rising tensions, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has publicly endorsed its sophisticated YJ-21 anti-ship hypersonic missile capabilities.
The unmatchable capabilities of the YJ-21 or Eagle Strike 21 missile were highlighted in an article published by the official Weibo account of the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force on January 30, the South China Morning Post reported.
The article that was widely read on the Chinese social networking site Weibo highlighted that China’s YJ-21 has a terminal speed of Mach 10, cannot be intercepted by any anti-missile weapons systems in the world and can launch deadly strikes against enemy ships.
Analysts have characterized this development as a direct message for the United States.
Over the past year, tensions between the two rivals have risen, mainly due to China’s increasing aggression in the Taiwan Strait. These tensions reached an all-time high last month when a US carrier strike group triggered a series of combat drills by the Shandong aircraft carrier group of the PLA Navy.
Further, PLA’s endorsement of the YJ-21 missile system comes days after US Four-Star General Mike Minihan warned his troops that the country will likely fight with China in 2025.
Minihan said: “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025.” The Pentagon has distanced itself from these views, but Beijing has expressed “concern.”
The Weibo article claims that due to the missile’s public premiere at the air show in November, the Chinese navy has started to develop a deadlier combat system for the offshore defensive system, strengthening its denial warfare capabilities to a greater level.
It has been noted that anti-ship missiles are an important part of China’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities. In case of a conflict in the region, these missiles can give the PLA a “home advantage” and prevent hostile navies from entering disputed waters along China’s coast.
The US and its regional allies have officially recognized China’s hypersonic missile capabilities. The US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on China’s naval capabilities had earlier noted that “China reportedly is also developing hypersonic glide vehicles that, if incorporated into Chinese ASBMs, could make Chinese ASBMs more difficult to intercept.”
Currently, the US does not have a credible defense against hypersonic missiles, which are near impossible to intercept owing to their incredible speeds and unpredictable trajectories.
PLAN’s YJ-21 Could Rattle The Chinese Enemies
The YJ-21 made a grand debut last year and has mostly remained mysterious. In April 2022, the PLAN released the first video footage of a Type 055 cruiser firing a YJ-21 hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missile. These anti-ship missiles can also be fired from H-6 bombers of the PLA Air Force.
According to an article published on Weibo, the missile hits the target at a speed of 3,400 meters per second (11,155 feet per second) after traveling at a speed of Mach 6 during its entire trajectory and then at Mach 10 at its terminal velocity.
“Any anti-missile weapon system cannot intercept such a terminal speed at this stage. Even if it is dropped directly at this terrifying speed [hitting the target] without an explosion, it will cause a fatal strike to the enemy ship,” the article stated.
The debut of its export variant, the YJ-21E, at last year’s Airshow China “shows that the domestic version of the Eagle Strike-21 ship-borne hypersonic missile is no longer the navy’s most advanced ship-borne hypersonic missile, and more advanced ship-borne hypersonic missiles are likely to have appeared,” the Weibo article read.
Unlike the ones used by China, the United States does not currently possess an anti-ship hypersonic ballistic missile. However, the Pentagon is accelerating the Conventional Prompt Strike Program, which will arm its navy with hypersonic missiles in the next couple of years.
China’s anti-ship hypersonic missiles are more lethal as top US commanders think missiles can strike moving targets. They can maneuver dynamically during reentry, allowing them to strike huge vessels during the terminal phase of flight. This has earned them the moniker of ‘Aircraft Carrier killers.’
Deploying this missile would allow the PLAN to keep US carrier strike groups far away from Chinese coasts to render their fighter planes and cruisers ineffective. With China’s plans to unify Taiwan with the mainland, the YJ-21 hypersonic missile could be an excellent deterrent against the United States.
Further, the PLA Navy has recently sent its carriers and warships to far-off seas in the Western Pacific. This means that its destroyers armed with YJ-21 hypersonic missiles could sail close to the US military assets in the Pacific, including the strategic Guam island.
The fact that the official account of the PLA Strategic Force posted the article was marked as a warning to the US by PLA military watchers.
Some military experts went so far as to say that such warnings were essential given the provocations carried out by the United States, especially with its excessive outreach to Taiwan.
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