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China is Practicing How to Kill a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier

Aircraft Carrier
The Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) transits the South China Sea with the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67).

China wants to make sure it can kill an aircraft carrier: This week, it was announced that the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin had successfully conducted a hypersonic-boosted flight test of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) from the service’s B-52H Stratofortress. Hypersonic weapons can provide a rapid response, time-critical capability to overcome distance in contested environments using high speed, altitude, and maneuverability.

The United States has not been alone in working to develop such weapons, and Russia has already successfully tested its 3M22 Tsirkon (Zircon), a scramjet-powered maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile. It officially entered service earlier this year.

For China, Practice Makes Perfect

China’s hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) have already been seen as an increasingly dangerous threat to U.S. warships in the Pacific. Yet, China isn’t just developing a hypersonic weapon; it is already conducting exercises in how such a weapon could be employed in a future conflict.

According to a report from the Asia Times, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been practicing hypersonic missile assaults on U.S. warships and bases. Recent satellite photos, which were released by the U.S. Naval Institute earlier this week, show that the PLA has created mock targets at a test range in Xinjiang’s Taklamakan Desert. The targets include simulated warships, including aircraft carriers, destroyers, and even a mock-up U.S. naval base. Among the newest targets that have been seen were a destroyer and a pier mock-up that was reportedly built in December of last year.

That target range is located approximately 13 kilometers southeast from an aircraft carrier target that was created last year. The notional base was apparently destroyed in a recent missile attack and then quickly dismantled.

Yet, another target – also simulating a pier and warships – located 310 kilometers to the southwest of the original aircraft carrier target, has also been spotted via satellite images. That particular facility was believed to have been built in December 2018 and had only been discovered recently. It reportedly shows a high degree of complexity, with the ship and pier targets being made out of different materials.

The simulated warship is made of sheet metal, indicating that it could provide radar and infrared signatures. That further suggested that China’s targeting capabilities could utilize radar and infrared guidance systems and even a sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) to possibly overcome any countermeasures; while it could also help distinguish key targets in congested sea lanes and littoral waters.

The PLA’s mock attacks on U.S. Navy vessels aren’t all that new. China had used the site in the desert to test early versions of its so-called carrier killer DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile in 2013. During those tests, the PLA claimed it had “successfully sunk” a carrier in a war game.

China has conducted the testing of anti-ship weapons since at least 2003, when it first constructed a large concrete pad that was roughly the size of a carrier at another site. That slab, which is part of the Shuangchengzi missile test range, has reportedly been used in missile tests many times and it has been frequently repaired. The new site in the Taklamakan desert is 600 miles away but has been seen as much more evolved. The newer ship targets are closer approximations of the vessels that they are supposed to represent – and the PLA is clearly working to ensure that it can strike with deadly precision.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Him

    May 18, 2022 at 9:32 am

    The United States and friendly allies in Asia need to beware of China’s long term strategy of using its vast amounts of cash to buy, or bribe, friends in the Pacific islands.

    The Chinese base in the Solomon Islands – within missile range of all Australia’s major coastal cities – is just the beginning.

    Just as the United States took back the Pacific from Japan, one island campaign at a time – similarly China will take over the Pacific, one island at a time, by pouring billions in bribe money to put the top Pacific Island politicians in its pocket.

    That way, China will have a network of unsinkable aircraft carriers (Pacific Islands) all across the Pacific.

    These island bases become launching pads for Chinese missiles. The strategy China is using for the Spratly Islands will be the same approach in buying alliances in the Pacific islands.

    All those cheap products you buy in Walmart and other low cost marts, those profits go towards a war chest that lets China bribe its way into control of air bases and ports all across the Pacific. It has started in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, and is no doubt ongoing elsewhere in the Pacific.

    The same strategy that we see so successful in the American political scene is that, in order to bribe an entire system, you just have to identify the one key decision-maker who can override the criticisms of the majority. Then China finds that if you offer that one key decision maker a bribe of, say, several billion USD dollars, that one decision maker cannot say no.

    Look how the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is so compliant to offer China a base in his country, against the popular opinion of the country. China has deep pockets for bribe money. At this level of strategic acquisition, it is nothing for China to offer bribe money to Pacific Island officials in the order of multiple billion dollars given to one key decision maker in the country.

    And with that, it’s a bargain in exchange for a network of unsinkable aircraft carriers all throughout the Pacific, in striking distance of Australia.

    Also, consider that China can eventually bribe its way to acquiring military bases in certain Pacific Islands that are striking distance to Pearl Harbor.

    There will come a time of reaping consequences, where the greed of U.S. corporates shifted their manufacturing – and their wealth – to Communist Totalitarian China. Does the U.S. there is no consequence for making China so massively wealthy? China will use that money to bribe its way to acquiring military bases all through the Pacific.

    All you have to ask is, how did China get the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to so willingly let China establish a base in the Solomon Islands.

    In the U.S. there are reports of Senators getting bribes of $400 million paid to their companies (see Arizona). That level of money is chicken feed compared to China offering billions to one individual Pacific Island Prime Minister in exchange for saying yes to Chinese military bases in their Pacific island.

    All this goes to warn that, when China has a network of Pacific Islands military bases all across the Pacific, then the U.S. carrier fleet is in trouble.

  2. Jacksonian Libertarian

    May 18, 2022 at 1:48 pm

    The US Navy is badly positioned for the “mature precision strike regime” with hundreds of obsolete/legacy surface ships, which can’t survive on a smart weapon heavy battlefield. The US Navy needs to replace these ships with thousands of cheap long range drones. And new classes of subs designed for servicing drones, and amphibious warfare.

  3. TeXan1111

    May 18, 2022 at 1:52 pm

    I think most of the readers of this forum will realize that is impossible to sink United States aircraft carrier. For god sakes they are a thousand foot long and carry over 100 f18s. There’s 5,000 men on board. Even if a YF 21 made a direct hit and blew a 40-ft hole from the deck to the Keel it will not sink. United States spends the majority of its defense money on aircraft carriers and all of the support ships to include Cruisers destroyers and submarines included in the carrier strike group. It cannot be allowed that the Chinese would be able to sink one

    • Steve Wilkie

      May 19, 2022 at 9:11 am

      No need to sink the ship. One missile and the 60 aircraft are static displays

  4. GhostTomahawk

    May 18, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    Here’s a great idea! Let’s keep doing business with these people. You know, because funding people who are actively plotting your demise isn’t “like” helping them…it IS helping them.

  5. Steve

    May 19, 2022 at 4:43 pm

    What these test prove to the Chinese is they can hit a target in their desert. In open ocean with a Hi-Tech ship like an American aircraft carrier, it would be much harder to actually hit. American carriers have huge amounts of technology and weapon systems that would prevent missiles from hitting them. Remedy, the US Navy is the best Navy on the planet.

  6. Matt Wacker

    May 19, 2022 at 5:38 pm

    Why are we giving these guys more more more money to kills us with .
    EBay should ban China .Australia should stop selling them minerals .
    They will only use this against us . Stop buying nasty Chinese cars .

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