China’s Plan To Beat America’s Aircraft Carriers: Push Them Out to Sea

China’s Plan To Beat America’s Aircraft Carriers: Push Them Out to Sea

Zachary Keck

Security, Asia

Out to ranges that American carriers can’t attack from

Key point: No need to fight what can’t reach you.

Recently, Chinese state media reported that a new brigade of Beijing’s most advanced intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) has been “activated.”

The newly commissioned brigade is armed with the Dong Feng-26 (DF-26) IRBM. According to the Diplomat, “Video footage carried in Chinese state media showed at least 22 integrated six-axle DF-26 transporter-erector-launchers along with their crews.” What do we know about this missile?

First, the basics. The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Missile Threat Project notes that the DF-26 is a road-mobile, two-stage solid-fueled IRBM. The Missie Threat Project cites Chinese sources as saying that the “missile measures 14 m in length, 1.4 m in diameter, and has a launch weight of 20,000 kg.” Notably, the DF-26 is believed to have a range between three and four thousand kilometers. This means it can hold Guam—a major hub of U.S. military operations in the western Pacific—at risk. In fact, as the Missile Threat Project points out, this is China’s first conventionally armed ballistic missile capable of threatening Guam.

China first unveiled the DF-26 during a military parade in September 2015. The missile subsequently participated in a massive strike simulation last year as part of a larger barrage of missiles. The Diplomat reported, citing an unnamed U.S. government source, that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) shot off “four DF-26C intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM), ten DF-16A medium-range ballistic missiles, and six CJ-10 land attack cruise missiles in the live fire portion of the exercise.” The drill was a simulation of attacks on U.S. missile-defense systems as well as aircraft on the ground.

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