China’s New DF-26B Anti-ship Missiles Could Render US Carrier Battle Groups Obsolete

China's military capability has grown exponentially – and its cutting-edge DF-26B missile clearly demonstrates how China can wreak havoc on American aircraft carriers.
Dong-Feng 26

Tensions between the US and China are escalating, and China is once again showing off its nuclear-capable DF-26B missile built to stop US aircraft carriers near China’s waters.

The new DF-26B or Dong Feng-26 seems to be the best weapon China has to break up all the naval power of the United States in one fell swoop.

Is this missile really powerful enough to destroy an aircraft carrier?

The DF-26B is a Chinese missile described as a “carrier killer.” The missile is designed to target aircraft carriers up to 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) away with an accuracy of 100 meters (330 feet). 

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It was unveiled in 2015 and entered service in 2016. Since then, the Chinese government has made it clear that the DongFeng-26 can be armed with a nuclear warhead to destroy any vessel.

Therefore, the missile has been dubbed the “Guam Killer” by some analysts, as it would allow China to target the US territory of Guam from mainland China. 

Today, the DF-26B is seen as a significant threat to US naval power due to the tensions between China and the US as a result of the American support of Taiwan’s independence.

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How could China sink an American aircraft carrier so easily? 

DF-26B Ford and Italian carrier
Ford and Italian carrier by Seaman Riley McDowell USS Gerald R. Ford. Public Domain.

While the exact capabilities of the DF-26B are not known, it is clear that this missile poses a severe threat to the US Navy.

The DF-26B is a long-range, anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) based on the earlier DF-26. But, the new version of the DongFeng can target moving vessels with amazing precision, and it is definitely capable of sinking an aircraft carrier

The missile is equipped with a precision guidance system that allows it to hit targets at long range, making it a severe threat to any naval force – and its nuclear warhead could sink any American aircraft carrier in a single strike. 

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Enterprise Carrier Strike Group
Enterprise Carrier Strike Group by Alex R Forster. Public Domain.

Aircraft carriers are really tough vessels. But they will hardly survive a nuclear strike. If China were to use the DF-26B against a US carrier group, it could potentially sink multiple ships and kill thousands of sailors.

So, although this weapon seems quite excessive, it is undoubtedly the most effective way to sink a US aircraft carrier.

A Chinese attack is a possibility if the US keeps supporting Taiwan

Taiwan Marine commandant visit
Taiwan Marine commandant visit by Mallory VanderSchans. Public Domain.

The United States and China have been engaged in a tense standoff over the issue of Taiwan for many years, but the visit of Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan reignited the tension.

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The United States has long supported Taiwan’s independence, while China considers the island to be a breakaway province. 

From the Chinese point of view, it is a direct intervention in its sovereignty. Chinese analysts consider the US should not support the independence of any Chinese region. If it were the opposite scenario in which China was supporting the independence of one of the 50 states that compose the USA, the war would probably have already exploded.

Now, China conducted several large-scale military exercises in the vicinity of Taiwan and has also installed advanced missile systems on its southern coast.

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The AEGIS is the only defense for aircraft carriers today… And it probably won’t work anyway

The AEGIS Combat System is a sea-based system designed to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles. 

The system comprises a network of sensors, command and control facilities, and interceptors deployed on ships. The sensors are used to detect and track incoming missiles, and the interceptors are launched to destroy the missiles. 

The problem is that the AEGIS combat system is designed to counter conventional weapons… But its effectiveness against nuclear weapons traveling at high speeds is not assured. 

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So, an American aircraft carrier near Chinese territory would be utterly defenseless against missiles as potent as the DF-26B.

US aircraft carriers would be in danger in case of war with China

The mere presence of the DF-26B could deter the US Navy from operating in some regions of the world, such as the South China Sea. However, in the event of a nuclear attack, China would obviously have to bear the consequences of its actions and expect similar retaliation.

Therefore a missile attack like the DF-26B is unlikely. But. the US Navy must be prepared to counter the threat posed by the DF-26B anyway to operate freely throughout the world.

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Featured image credit: Dong-Feng 26 by IceUnshattered. Licensed under CC by 4.0