Scare word of the West: China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile goes on display during VJ anniversary parade

by | Sep 3, 2015 | China, Military space | 0 comments

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”, or so said Samuel Johnson in 1775.  These words still have resonance, even in the modern era, when economic hardship and unpopularity can often be the spur governments into making distracting “patriotic” military incursions and even war.  For example, it was economic hardship and government unpopularity which was the trigger for Argentina’s patriotic (subsequently repulsed) invasion attempt on the British-held Falkland Islands (Malvinas) in 1982, a territory it has long claimed as its own.

As such, as China’s economy slows and its stock market goes into a tail spin, the West has become especially fearful that, should things get worse, China may attempt to enforce its claims over various island groups in the South China Sea, or even try to wrench back the “renegade island” of Taiwan.  The People’s Republic of China actually does have past form in mounting full blown invasions, albeit a relatively long time ago when it invaded and annexed the nation of Tibet in 1949.  Since then it has mounted more minor incursions into neighbouring states and has claimed sovereignty over the entire South China Sea where it has recently controversially started to build artificial “military” islands on sandbars there.

Of course, to attempt further annexations in the Far East, China would have to defeat the US Navy, the de facto enforcer of peace in the Pacific Ocean region with its multi-aircraft carrier fleet acting as its “big stick” strike force. However, the armed forces of China may have now found a way of holding off the US Navy super-carriers from intervening: the development of an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM).  Based on the DF-21 two-stage solid propellant ballistic missile, the  DF-21D missile has a guidance system and warhead specifically designed to strike carrier sized targets in a “rods from the gods” near vertical attack.   The missile, which is described as a “carrier killer” by Chinese news media, is initially targeted using Yaogan series of optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) detection satellites along with aircraft/drone carried detection systems.  The DF-21D, which has an estimated range of up to 2,800km, is then thought to use its own radar or infrared  or passive electronic detection system for terminal guidance.  It is  thought that a version of the missile may also have also been used in anti-satellite tests.

In other tests, the DF-21D missiles have already allegedly been used to sink ships mimicking the radar cross section of an aircraft carrier.  While US Navy Aegis radar defence system-equipped cruisers and destroyers can defend themselves and an aircraft carrier against a limited DF-21D attacks using Standard SM-3 interceptor missiles, they, along with electronic warfare methods, would probably not be able to stop a massed missile attack from striking a carrier.

As such, it was taken as a show of its military power that China displayed these DF-21D missiles along with the rest of China’s most modern military hardware during the August Victory Day military parade in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. This parade, which including massed ranks of soldiers with columns of tanks, missiles, artillery passing through the square as well as helicopters and jet fighters making flybys, marked the 70th anniversary of the military victory over Japan (VJ Day) at the end of World War II. China, in its pre-communist days, was the allied nation which suffered the longest in this conflict after Japan’s original invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and subsequent all out war with China in 1937.

Amusingly, and no doubt to help Western intelligence analysts with their identification, the missiles’ launching vehicles had the DF-21D insignia clearly painted in white onto on their camouflaged sides.  This intentionally easy-to-identify missile “show of strength” was a signal that China not only has its very large Peoples Liberation Army of soldiers at its disposal, it also has sophisticated weaponry within its army, navy and air force.  This was a message that was not lost on military and diplomatic analysts in the West.



About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

Analysis: Russian and UK defence ministries insult each other’s aircraft carriers but in truth both are vulnerable

Like schoolboys in a school yard boasting about their respective prowess or possessions, a war of words has broken out Read more

UK Strategic Defence Review has good news for the RAF and British Army, mixed news for Royal Navy, and no news for Space

The new Strategic Defence Review (SDR) for the United Kingdom has been completed - with good news for some - and Read more

Small ones are better: large aircraft carriers are too vulnerable to satellite-guided missiles says report

Flightglobal Hyperbola previously noted the danger of the Royal Navy having just a two large aircraft carriers given that the Read more

USSF allocates eight “national security” launches from previous multi-launch contracts to ULA and SpaceX

The USSF (United States Space Force) Space Systems Command has formally allocated the eight launches from the previous National Security Read more

Russian military launches Bars-M 3 cartography reconnaissance satellite on Cosmos 2503 rocket

The Russian Ministry of Defence has successfully launched a Soyuz 2-1A from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia at 0803 Read more

Kongsberg orders three dual AIS/radar detection satellites from NanoAvionics

On 3 May 2022 the Defence & Aerospace arm of Norwegian international technology group, Kongsberg Gruppen, contracted with NanoAvionics, Lithuania, Read more

Cosmos 2555 appears to be a dead duck after its Angara 1.2 launch

The Cosmos 2555 (Kosmos 2555) Russian military codenamed satellite, which was launched from Plesetsk on 29 April by an Angara Read more

CACI to launch nav test payloads as part of demo to US military 

US defence contractor CACI International will launch two demonstration payloads on a York Space built satellite as part of an Read more