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China's cruise missiles

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COMMENTS

16 July 2008 11:02

Both Rory and myself have noted on this blog our admiration for Arms Control Wonk. ACW a great example of something Steve Clemons, of The Washington Note, argues here, which is that because bloggers are able to stick closely to a set of issues, they can 'own' them, becoming an indispensible resource for those who want to stay on top of a subject. ACW looks good too, and it directly influenced the design of The Interpreter.

I mention all of this because Jeffrey Lewis has written a post on ACW about Chinese missiles, and I'm pleased to say I can help him out by clarifying some uncertainties he has about its air launched cruise missiles. Note, this is high grade weapons geekery for the aficionados only, so I'm putting it below the fold.

Jeffrey says of China's Tomahawk-like DH-10 cruise missile:

What I understand less are the claims that China is placing the DH-10 on bombers. Chinese Military Power very clearly describes the "ground-launched DH-10” cruise missile. As you can see by this picture, which is believed to be a DH-10 prototype, the missile is large and resembles the Tomahawk cruise missile. China is, according to CMP, “upgrading its B-6 bomber fleet … with a new variant which, when operational, will be armed with a new long-range cruise missile” — but this is most likely the air-launched YJ-63 which, according to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center in 2006, would be conventionally-armed.

YJ-63 is China's first generation ALCM. It's a Silkwork derivative of only 200km range, and possibly has TV guidance, meaning the launch aircraft (H-6) has to guide the missile to target, leaving it vulnerable.

But there is evidence of a second-generation ALCM, and it does appear from the single photo that has emerged to be a version of the DH-10. It might be mounted on a new and significantly upgraded version of the H-6, the K model. I found the picture below, which appears to have been shot in a heavy fog, on this forum. There are more photos of the H-6K here at Sinodefence.com, but none with cruise missiles attached. Note that, according to Sinodefence, the PLA might not even have ordered the H-6K. But if it has, that would be a significant step up from previous versions of this venerable airframe. 

Cruise missile proliferation is often overlooked, I guess largely because the US is putting so much money and effort into defending against ballistic missiles. But that threat is smaller and might even be declining, whereas horizontal and vertical cruise missile proliferation is rife worldwide. It deserves attention.

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