China can continue spending money on anti-ship ballistic missiles, but it might not be the capability needed to win if a conflict broke out between the U.S. and China, the admiral overseeing Navy intelligence said Wednesday.
Vice Adm. Jeffrey Trussler, the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare (OPNAV N2/N6), said the Navy monitors China’s missile programs, including the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile – sometimes called the “carrier-killer.”
Trussler said he could not say whether China has “fully fielded” the DF-21D missile, but he emphasized that the Navy watches capabilities that could affect what it does at sea.
“I’m not going to get [into] much more detail of what we know and don’t know about it. But they’re pouring a lot of money in the ability to basically rim their coast in the South China Sea with anti-ship missile capability. It’s a destabilizing effort in the South China Sea, in the East China Sea, all those areas. When their claims of some of these contested islands – they’re militarizing those areas,” Trussler said at a virtual event hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
“That’s something we’re going to watch very closely. It’s something that confuses the international order and concerns the allies in the region. It’s one reason we work to keep the global commons open and the free flow of traffic,” he continued. “But when you see that – those are troubling developments. They’re probably aimed and specifically developed towards the United States Navy. So we watch them very closely. I hope they just keep pouring money into that type of thing. That may not be how we win the next war.”
China in August fired a DF-26B and a DF-21D into the South China Sea, according to a report in the South China Morning Post at the time.
Trussler said the Navy also monitors the DF-26, which has a reported range of 4,000 kilometers.
The People’s Liberation Army has sought a missile capability that could make it difficult for the U.S. to operate within the first island chain due to the reach of Chinese missiles.
The Navy and Marine Corps – in seeking to prepare for possible conflict in the Indo-Pacific with China – have emphasized the need for the service to operate in a distributed fashion, including between expeditionary bases on islands in the region.
The Marine Corps is in the process of adding a land-based anti-ship weapon – which could be mounted on its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle – to its arsenal and envisions using the capability while operating on those expeditionary bases.