Carrier Killer

The Threat and Theatre of China’s Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles

Gerry Doyle, Blake Herzinger

China's anti-ship ballistic missiles have been both mythologized and derided. Carrier Killer pulls apart the extremes to examine what these weapons can do, their historical and strategic origins, and how they affect the balance of power between the United States and the People's Republic of China.
Date Published :
March 2022
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Illustration :
42 photos, 16 graphics, maps & ills
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781915070647
Pages : 72
Dimensions : 11.75 X 8.25 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order


The idea of an anti-ship ballistic missile has taken root in China’s military planning. The country is not only building more of its first version of such a weapon, the DF-21D, but has developed an anti-ship warhead for another such missile, the more-numerous DF-26, billed as having a 2,500-mile range — more than enough to hit Guam from several hundred miles inland in China. In theory, that puts any naval adversary at risk long before it is in Chinese waters, let alone within striking distance of China’s coastline.

That puts US carrier strike groups — a linchpin of US power projection, able to hit any corner of the world at short notice with overwhelming force — in a situation they have never before faced. For years, US war planners took for granted that American naval power could operate unimpeded anywhere on earth and deliver strikes with relative impunity. If a missile can sweep that option off the board, it changes the balance of power not just in Asia, but across the globe.

It is a collision of two world-shaking forces: China, the only country to build large numbers of ballistic missiles to threaten enemy fleets, and the United States, the only power on earth with more than a single nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Neither situation seems likely to change in the near future, putting both countries on what may be a collision course of doctrine and technology.

The only way an outside observer will know for certain how well the DF-21D and its successors work is if they are used operationally, in the face of the US Navy’s growing array of countermeasures and anti-missile systems. If that happens, the world is either plunging into a catastrophic war, or several chapters deep into one.

That makes the development, deployment and threat posed by the DF-21D and China’s other ASBMs crucial to study. The outcome of the next great power conflict might hinge upon whether this type of missile truly is a Carrier Killer.

About The Author

Gerry Doyle is an editor on the Global News Desk at Thomson Reuters. He has been posted overseas for 13 years, 10 of them in Asia, with a recurring focus on defense and security. A native of Kansas City, Mo., in the United States, he has degrees in journalism and philosophy from the University of Kansas. His career has taken him from the Midwest to Florida (where he was part of the 2000 general election team) to Chicago (where he interviewed Barack Obama on a streetcorner) to the Middle East (just in time for the Arab Spring) before landing him in East Asia (where he helped cover the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong and North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear weapons program). His novel, From the Depths, was published in 2007 and was a finalist for the American Thriller Writers’ Best Debut Novel award. He lives in Singapore with his wife and two children.

A third-generation sailor, Blake Herzinger joined the Navy while studying political science at Brigham Young University. He first experienced Asia as an officer in the U.S. Navy deployed to Okinawa and moved to Singapore in 2013, completing a masters degree in strategic studies while serving as a naval liaison. He became a consultant to the U.S. Navy in the Asia-Pacific after leaving active service in 2017, but remains in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He writes regularly on naval matters and the Asia Pacific, with work published in Foreign Policy, Brookings, and War on the Rocks, and joined the Pacific Forum as a Non-resident WSD-Handa Fellow in 2021. He lives with his wife, son, dog and cat in Singapore.

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