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This week, China and Russia conducted separate missile tests in it, analysts saw a thinly veiled warning to the United States and its allies.

China for its part tested its YJ-21 hypersonic missile from a Type 055 Renhai cruiser. Little is known about the YJ-21 and there was no official announcement about the test launch. However, videofilm of the missile test shows that it is a cold-firing ballistic anti-ship missile with a hypersonic glider (HGV). It also has small control surfaces, making it not a ground-to-air missile.

DCO Global News
Published on April 24, 2022
By Odoh Dominic Chukwuemeka

Images of the launch of a YJ-21 missile surfaced online, prompting warnings from analysts. Photo: Twitter

According to naval expert HI Sutton, the YJ-21 “outwardly resembles the CM-401 design with the addition of a large booster phase. The CM-401 is roughly analogous to the Iskander missile, although its diameter is only 600 mm. It is possible that the new missile is related to the older CM-401 family, although the resemblance may be random. And it may have a smaller diameter. “

If these observations are correct, the YJ-21 could make China’s Type 055 one of the heaviest armed warships in the world. The class is equipment with the Type-346B AESA radar, which is analogous to AN / SPY-6 on Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers. It has an integrated mast and slim superstructure for reduced radar and infrared signatures.

The class is also armed with 128 VLS cells arranged in two silos of 64 each, an H / PJ-38 130 mm main cannon, H / PJ-11 30 mm close-in weapon system (CIWS), Yu-8 anti-submarine missiles and Yu-7 lightweight torpedoes shipped from two triple torpedo tubes.

Meanwhile, Russia tested its Sarmat-2 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) this week, coinciding with its renewed military offensive in eastern Ukraine. Sarmat is considered Russia’s heaviest and most powerful nuclear-armed ICBM. It weighs 220 tons, carries up to 10 or more warheads and can fly over the North and South Poles to hit targets anywhere in the world.

In response to Russia’s Sarmat ICBM test, in a rare maneuver, USA flew two RC-135S surveillance aircraft near Russia’s east coast, presumably to collect as much data as possible from Russia’s first of its kind ICBM test. The United States may have deployed two surveillance aircraft to better monitor Sarmat at different altitudes to cover missile re-entry or to test classified equipment.

The Russian missile was unveiled in 2018 as one of Moscow’s six “superweapons”, Which includes the Avangard HGV, the Poseidon nuclear-armed underwater unmanned aerial vehicle (UUV), the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, the Kinzhal air-firing hypersonic missile and the Tsirkon ship-launching hypersonic missile.

China’s successful missile test aboard its Type 055 cruiser may be a sign of its asymmetric strategy to offset US naval superiority. While China may have the world’s largest fleet, most of its naval vessels are smaller vessels, and the United States still has a qualitative and quantitative lead in terms of large surface combatants.

That said, the YJ-21 could be incorporated into future Type 055 units and other Chinese major surface combatants like its Type 52 destroyers, giving a few major Chinese surface combatants an effective weapon to offset U.S. naval strength in the Pacific.

The YJ-21’s test on board also puts China ahead of the United States in terms of ship-launched hypersonic weapons. Likewise, Russia has already successfully tested the ship and submarine-sent hypersonic, which further puts the United States on the back burner when it comes to naval uses of such weapons.

In contrast, the United States intends to equip its three Zumwalt-class destroyers with hypersonic missiles, with the upgrades to be implemented by 2025.

Russia’s move to place its nuclear forces on high alert and its subsequent Sarmat ICBM test could signal a new era of war of aggression fought under the guise of nuclear threat and escalation. In practice, Russia’s threats severely limit what the United States and NATO could and would do to help Ukraine.

Even if Ukraine manages to maintain its military stalemate, the war would still be a victory for Russia in the sense that the country has achieved its strategic goal of preventing Ukraine’s further drift towards the West.

Likewise, China may resort to nuclear saber-rattling to deter or severely limit the United States’ ability to intervene or assist Taiwan in the event of an invasion. This does not bode well for other U.S. allies in the Pacific, as such dynamics potentially undermine the value of the expanded deterrence of the U.S. alliance network in the region.

By Odoh Dominic Chukwuemeka

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