In a tale of two superpowers and their smaller counterparts, the world watches as Russia wages war on Ukraine and China expands its military presence in Taiwan.

The latest chapter opens with China’s “Joint Sword – 2024A” drills, a bold move days after Lai Ching-ti was sworn in as Taiwan’s president, a man Beijing calls a “separatist”. .

Warships entered waters off the coast of Taiwan, a stark warning of a potential attack that could disrupt technology supply chains, spark an economic crisis, and fuel a heated war between the US and China. can give

Beijing described the exercises as “punishment” for Lai’s defiant declaration that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were “not subordinate to each other”. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s defense forces tracked a formidable armada of 49 Chinese aircraft, 19 ships, and 7 coast guard vessels lurking near its territorial waters, a reminder of the growing threat. The ships consisted mainly of frigates and corvettes, which were smaller and carried lighter weapons.

As the chess pieces move, the United States prepares for a potential conflict. A delegation of US lawmakers has expressed support for the island in response to China’s extensive military exercises around Taiwan.

In April 2024, former U.S. Naval Intelligence Admiral Mike Studman warned that Chinese military forces may be preparing to invade or blockade Taiwan within the next decade.

China maintains that nations cannot maintain official relations with both China and Taiwan, which is why Taiwan maintains formal diplomatic relations with only a handful of countries. The US is Taiwan’s most important ally but, interestingly, does not recognize Taiwan as a one-China state.

Comparison of naval capabilities

As of 2024, the Chinese Navy is the second largest navy in the world by total displacement, behind only the United States Navy, and has the most active service ships.

According to a report by the US Congressional Research Service, China’s navy is by far the largest of any country in East Asia. Between 2015 and 2020, it overtook the US Navy in the number of warships. China’s navy is now the largest navy in the world, with a combat force of more than 370 platforms, including large surface combatants, submarines, sea-going amphibious ships, mine warfare ships, aircraft carriers. and includes fleet auxiliaries. That count includes about 60 HOUBEI-class patrol combatants armed with anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM). The overall combat strength of China’s navy is expected to reach 395 ships by 2025 and 435 ships by 2030.

The Chinese Navy currently has two aircraft carriers in service – the Liaoning and the Shandong. Also, in May 2024, China’s third and most advanced aircraft carrier, the Fujian, began its first sea trials.

In comparison, as of 29 January 2024, the US Navy consisted of 292 battleships. The Navy’s fiscal year 2024 budget submission calls for a fleet of 290 warships by the end of fiscal year 2030.

In a naval conflict, China would need to shift military assets to its east coast and make clear preparations for an attack while keeping US warships at bay. Chinese anti-ship firepower will play an important role in such situations.

China’s stockpile of anti-ship weapons is formidable and in many respects superior to that of the US. These weapons and the tactics that employ them are central to China’s strategy to prevent US military access to the Western Pacific.

According to the US Department of Defense, China fired more than 135 live ballistic missiles for testing and training in 2021, more than the rest of the world combined excluding conflict zones.

China has significantly expanded its stockpile of anti-ship ballistic missiles, sometimes called “carrier killers.”

China’s anti-ship missile (ASM)

According to a report by the Center for International Maritime Security, China has developed a wide array of anti-ship missiles and naval forces to generate massive firepower. The main anti-ship missiles in China’s arsenal include the YJ-12, YJ-18, YJ-83, DF-21, and DF-26.

The YJ-12 is primarily deployed by bombers and coastal launchers, the YJ-18 is the primary weapon for submarines and large surface combatants, and the YJ-83 is used by numerous aircraft and destroyers as well as small surface combatants. do The DF-21 and DF-26 ballistic missiles are China’s longest-range land-based anti-aircraft weapons.

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Source: Center for International Maritime Security

YJ-83

The YJ-83, a relatively recent addition to China’s anti-ship arsenal over the past 10-15 years, is widely deployed in its surface and air forces. It is a small, short-range missile that is incompatible with vertical launch cells.

Typically, it is deployed in box launchers aboard Chinese frigates, corvettes, and small missile boats. Additionally, multi-role aircraft can carry and use this missile, making it the primary anti-ship weapon for non-bomber PLA aircraft, including land and carrier-based aviation.

YJ-18

The YJ-18 is a Chinese cruise missile designed for both anti-ship and land attack roles. It entered service around 2014 and is a derivative of the Russian 3M-54E “Klub” missile.

ChinaYJ18_Missile
File Image: China’s YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile.

It is the only widely deployed anti-ship missile in China’s arsenal that can be launched from a vertical launch cell. The missile is installed on China’s large-scale warships, such as the Type 52D destroyer and Type 55 cruiser. Additionally, a version compatible with torpedo tubes has been deployed on PLA submarines.

YJ-12

The YJ-12 is compatible with a variety of launch platforms, including coastal launchers and bombers. This capability allows it to play an important role in China’s ability to engage long-range warships on mainland China.

Both the YJ-12 and YJ-18 have a terminal sprint capability, which is not a significant advantage among US anti-ship missiles. Accelerating to about 2.5-3.0 after the warship emerges over the horizon, these missiles significantly reduce target reaction time compared to subsonic weapons.

DF-26

The DF-26, China’s Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), provides significant asymmetric advantages due to its high speed and long range. It plays an important role in China’s ability to concentrate firepower against warships, earning it the nickname “carrier killer”, although its targets may extend beyond carriers.

DF-21D

The DF-21 is a medium-range, road-mobile ballistic missile introduced in 1991, China’s first use of solid propellant in such missiles. The variants include the DF-21C, which is dual nuclear/conventional capable, and the DF-21D, which is designed as an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). In 2016, the US Department of Defense revealed a new nuclear variant, the DF-21E CSS-5 Mod 6.

Operational since 2012, the DF-21D is the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), which specifically targets ships at sea. It reaches speeds of up to Mach 10 during the terminal phase, making it the fastest MRBM ever built.

According to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, it can overcome existing US missile defense systems such as the sea-based AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system. In 2013, successful tests against simulated US surface ships demonstrated its effectiveness.

By pointing these Dragon’s Teeth missiles from coastal batteries, China is in a position to deny US warships access to the region. This strategy of asymmetric warfare exploits the geographical advantage of Taiwan’s proximity to eliminate US naval superiority.

DF-21 missile
FILE IMAGE: DF-21 missile launch

Geographical location of Taiwan

The growing tension between the US and China over the issue of Taiwan seems to be reaching a peak. China is rapidly building up its navy and deploying sophisticated anti-ship missile systems, posing a serious challenge to US power projections in the Pacific.

As tensions rise, Taiwan’s strategic position within the “first island chain” becomes a focal point. Controlling this vital link could strengthen China’s influence in the Western Pacific, challenging US dominance and giving Beijing control over Taiwan’s semiconductor manufacturing industry, a key part of the global economy.

At the same time, given the island’s important geographic position on maritime trade routes and its role as a semiconductor superpower, neither Washington nor its ally Taiwan is willing to allow Beijing’s orbit. can afford

  • Shobhangi Palve is a defense and aerospace journalist. Before joining Eurasian Times, she worked for ET Prime. In this capacity, he focused on defense strategies and covering the defense sector from a financial perspective. She brings over 15 years of extensive experience in the media industry spanning print, electronic and online domains.
  • Contact the author at shubhapalve (at) gmail (dot) com.



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