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YJ-21: China’s New Anti-Ship Missile Will Make the Navy Sweat

Image from the now closed WantChinaTimes.
Image from the now closed WantChinaTimes.

China’s YJ-21 Anti-Ship Missile Test Warns Washington: Taiwan Isn’t Ukraine – China’s test of a new anti-ship missile may be sending America a message: Taiwan isn’t Ukraine.

Chinese leaders may fear that Ukraine’s success in frustrating Russia’s invasion – partly based on military aid from NATO nations – will encourage Taiwan into believing that U.S. support will allow it to defeat a Chinese invasion.

“Beijing is worrying that the unlimited U.S. military assistance to Ukraine and a recent American congressional group tour to Taiwan might make Taipei believe Washington may provide the same help in the event of a conflict between the mainland and Taiwan,” Chinese military expert Zhou Chenming, told the South China Morning Post.

As a matter of military technology, attention will be paid to the video of the mysterious YJ-21 anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), released by the Chinese government for the first time. Perhaps more notable was that the YJ-21 – or Eagle Strike 21 – was launched from a new Type 055 cruiser. China already has land-based anti-ship ballistic missiles – the notorious DF-21 and DF-26 “carrier killer” weapons – as well as an air-launched ASBM on the H-6 bomber.

Not surprisingly, these ASBMs deeply worry the U.S. Navy. With ranges of more than a thousand miles, they soar high into the atmosphere before releasing a warhead at hypersonic (faster than Mach 5) speed that may be too fast for shipboard anti-missile defenses to stop.

An ASBM capable of being launched by surface ships would be a powerful weapon. Unlike land-based missiles that are fixed platforms, or aircraft with limited range and vulnerability to bad weather, surface ships provide mobile launch platforms. An ASBM-equipped Chinese task force, for example, could penetrate into the Indian Ocean, or into the South Pacific to threaten Australia. Mounted on the 13,000-ton Type 055, a heavily armed destroyer that is actually bigger than a U.S. Navy Aegis cruiser, the YJ-21 could threaten U.S. and coalition ships across the Pacific. 

There are still questions about these weapons, including whether Chinas has the long-range surveillance and targeting capabilities to locate and hit a moving ship among the vastness of the ocean. Nonetheless, Taiwan needs America to help defeat a Chinese amphibious invasion, America needs the U.S. Navy to defend Taiwan, and the U.S. Navy needs its aircraft carriers to provide long-range strikes and air defense. Any Chinese weapon that can threaten those carriers is going to give nightmares to American admirals.

This brings up the timing of China’s missile test. Just a couple of months ago, China had good cause to doubt the robustness of America’s commitment to defending Taiwan. The Trump administration was isolationist, while the Biden administration’s “pivot to Asia” seemed hollow amid American political turmoil and a bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

But the speed and decisiveness of American support for Ukraine caught Russians – and some Americans and Europeans – by surprise. By sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing severe sanctions on Russia, the U.S. has demonstrated that it’s willing to risk war with Russia to back an ally. And if the U.S. is willing to take that risk for Ukraine, then maybe it really would go to war to defend Taiwan. 

A well-publicized Chinese missile test won’t change that. Russia has been loudly demonstrating hypersonic missiles for years, including a test of a new ICBM that was apparently intended to deter NATO from supporting Ukraine. But the West continues to supply weapons to Ukrainian forces, and there is no reason to believe that a new ballistic missile will scare Washington into abandoning Taiwan.

A seasoned defense and national security writer and expert, Michael Peck is a contributing writer for Forbes Magazine. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine, Defense News, The National Interest, and other publications. He can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.

Written By

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for Forbes. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine, Defense News, The National Interest, and other publications. He can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.



  1. Jesse

    April 22, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    Interesting China always boasting about their weapons capabilities and the US discloses test failures. Alternate Universe always for the Chinese!

    • Randy

      April 23, 2022 at 8:22 am

      Japan deeply misjudged America’s resolve once upon a time. We will rally for our allies faster than China can conceive. Do they remember how far we went to help them in WW2?

  2. Preach Reason

    April 22, 2022 at 11:22 pm

    But USA were deterred by those Russian missiles from entering the war; in Ukraine they were reduced to arms supplier while Russia pulverised Ukraine to ashes & rubble. In Iraq ( after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990) USA was not deterred. It led in the destruction and eventual murder of Saddam Hussein. Things are changing rapidly for imperialistic America and NATO. They are declining rapidly while China and Russia are growing rapidly especially in military hardware development & production

    • Bill G Sallee

      April 23, 2022 at 5:14 pm

      Need another hit dude?

    • Cal

      July 4, 2022 at 12:00 pm

      It’s Russia that’s the imperialistic nation.

  3. Eric

    April 23, 2022 at 3:51 am

    The rise of SpaceX has pretty much secured American military dominance for at least another twenty or thirty years.
    Any future battle between the super powers will be won or lost by who controls the high ground, today that is LEO. Satellites and weapon systems including hypersonic attack missiles, space based offensive lasers and saturation coverage by StarLink are almost impossible to defend against
    At the moment Chine is at least ten years behind the US in its ability to launch kilo’s to orbit quickly and efficiently and the gap is widening not closing.

    • Jetinder Singh

      April 23, 2022 at 11:48 am

      It’s a scare only if flew outside of YouTube! Otherwise it’s just as dumb canister if aluminum as their other hifi weapons on YouTube and DCS

  4. cerberus

    April 23, 2022 at 10:39 am

    Does China even realize that should we get to such a stage , every major Chinese and Russian city including Beijing and Moscow will be extinct? Do people overlook the fact tha the UK , France, Israel, India, Pakistan and several others we know about ans probably a few we don’t, all have nuclear weapons? Do they discount that some of their weapons may never even launch?

    The survivability of NATO is increasing whike China ans Russia’s survivability is decreasing.

    Its best not to play this deadly game and Russia needs to be eradicated out of Ukraine.

    • xqr

      April 24, 2022 at 4:41 am

      Major US cities including LA and NY will be extinct. If we get to such a stage do you think the US will walk out free? It’s super hypocritical for you to think that China and Russia cannot challenge the status quo while the US can wage illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without facing any consequence (remind you, both without UN security council authorisation as required)

  5. acd

    April 26, 2022 at 4:31 am

    Let me get this straight, after China witness America decisively choose not fight a direct war with Russia for Ukraine, they’ll conclude America will decisively choose to fight a direct war with China?

    That after witnessing western sanction failing to hurt even the Russian Ruble, and Europe decisively choose to obey Russia’s demands to pay in Rubles, even finding a loophole in their own sanctions to do so, China will decide America will start an economic war with a far, far larger economy, a country they can’t even win a trade war against, and a war that’ll collapse the US’ own economy?

    And after witnessing western aid to Ukraine getting blown up every day right across the Polish border with no Russian blockade, to the point America has already depleted 30% of it’s ATGM inventory, China will decide they’ll have to deal with the unstoppable stream of weapons that’ll arrive by boat through three Chinese carrier battlegroups, from an America that’s known for it’s industrial production these days.

    Let’s face it, Taiwan’s entire defence strategy revolves around direct American participation, it was first survive a week, then survive 48 hours, then 24 hours, all plan end with America eventually showing up. With Ukraine, we now know with certainty that was always a fantasy, and even indirect military assistance are ruled out thanks to being on a small island just 300 miles from the mainland. Although many already knew this before, Ukraine just definitely showed Taiwan is already dead.

    • Cal

      July 4, 2022 at 12:02 pm

      Literally every assertion you made here is false.

  6. Alex

    April 29, 2022 at 9:21 am

    If someone wants to know the truth about the civil war in the Donbass, about all the atrocities of the Bandera clean-ups and why Russia was forced to intervene, then it is better to watch films by independent journalists. There are already many such journalists who fight for truth and freedom. For example, a documentary by the German journalist Wilhelm Domcke-Schulz.

    A documentary film about the war crimes of the Bandera Nazis during the period of Russia’s special military operation to denazify and demilitarize Ukraine is in production. It will be a real information bomb, where the war crimes of Bandera Nazis will be shown and proved.

    The documentary “Remember Odessa” tells how the Bandera Nazis burned Ukrainians alive and other heinous war crimes.

    The documentary “To Live and Die in Donbass” tries to fill this gaping information gap in the West. He looks into the tormented soul of the inhabitants of Donbass, who really want only one thing – to live self-determining according to their own rules and values. Not submitting to foreign forces and ideologies.

    In the east of Ukraine, in the Donbass, a war has been raging since the beginning of 2014. A civil war that claimed more than 15,000 lives over the years, including several hundred children. They had to die, because the national-fascist coup government in Kyiv, funded by the West, trained and militarily heavily armed, would not tolerate any resistance to their illegitimate rule, no matter the cost.

    Therefore, in April 2014, the putschists deployed the Ukrainian army, supported by dozens of right-wing extremist volunteer battalions, and have since bombed city centers, residential areas, schools, hospitals and infrastructure, killing civilians.

    This perennial crime has gone completely unnoticed by the Western public. Politicians and the media avoid this topic and reports about how the devil pours holy water. Because a public discussion about the crimes of the Ukrainian regime would reveal only one thing – with what mass murderers and terrorists the so-called “west of values” in Ukraine has a common language, if only to defend their goals and interests.

    Lend-lease is a commodity loan, and not cheap: for all the ammunition, equipment and food supplied by the United States, many future generations of Ukrainian citizens will pay. Zelensky is driving the country into a debt hole.

  7. Cal

    July 4, 2022 at 12:00 pm

    Taiwan is indeed not Ukraine.

    It would be much harder to invade. You can’t simply march troops up to the border of an island. When troops are in a ship transiting the strait to Taiwan, they’re enormously vulnerable. And Taiwan has a lot of anti-ship missiles.

  8. Usa

    November 11, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    What a joke. Taiwan is a part of China, how could China “invade” its own province?

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