Anti-ship ballistic missile, is the carrier afraid of you?

Modern surface ships have strong air defense capabilities. In particular, aircraft carrier formations are often able to withstand the “saturation attack” of traditional anti-ship cruise missiles (“anti-ship missiles”). How to break the increasingly strict “golden bell”, many countries have thought of ballistic missiles that are known for their speed. The anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM) are in full swing and some media have given them the title of “carrier killer”. So, is this title “true name”?

    Looking for a new way out

Common anti-ship missiles are nothing more than high-sonic and supersonic. The former can fly through the sea, plan their own routes, and change the strike path in the middle. It is quite “unpredictable”, but the disadvantage is that it flies slowly. The opponents set aside more abundant counterattack time; the latter is fast, and the end of the flight can even subduct and attack at a nearly vertical angle, but the height of the sea is larger, the route changes less, and it is easy to be discovered, so the penetration effect is not Satisfactory.

On the other hand, the formation of the aircraft carrier has formed a dense interception fire network. At the outermost level, enemy aircraft carrying anti-ship missiles are eliminated by carrier aircraft. Once these launch platforms are destroyed, anti-ship missiles are naturally not threatened. In the middle, there are early warning aircraft, shipborne radar, medium and long-range ship-to-air missiles to prevent launched anti-ship missiles. Like the new US standard SM-6 ship-to-air missiles can intercept anti-ship missiles 270 kilometers away. In theory, the aircraft carrier is surrounded by three. Four Aegis destroyers carrying the missile will be able to attack more than 50 anti-ship missiles in the middle. In the inner layer, the aircraft carrier and its frigates still have short-range ship-to-air missiles, small-caliber rapid-fire guns and electronic warfare systems for “last resistance” to ensure the ultimate interception.

It can be seen that the multi-layer air defense system of the aircraft carrier formation can break the saturation attack of the anti-ship missile. Even if the opponent has the bottom gas and simultaneously launches hundreds of anti-ship missiles, it is extremely difficult to attack the organization and coordination. In other words, it is an inevitable choice to fight for an aircraft carrier and find a new way out.


Compared with anti-ship missiles that basically fly in the atmosphere, most of the ballistic missiles are at the edge of the atmosphere and even outside, and the air resistance is small, so the flying speed is more than 5 Mach. It is precisely because of the extremely fast speed that ballistic missiles have excellent penetration capabilities. It is no wonder that even the superpowers recognize it as “the most difficult defense weapon.” However, the flight path of the old-fashioned ballistic missile is a fixed parabola, which can only strike the fixed target, while the surface ship is mobile. To hit the ballistic missile, the ballistic missile must be the same as the traditional anti-ship missile. With the advancement of technology, ballistic missiles have been able to solve the final maneuver problem, which is the technical basis for the birth of anti-ship ballistic missiles.

At the beginning of this year, Russia’s “dagger” anti-ship ballistic missile launched from the air by the MiG-31 interceptor was similar in shape to the “Iskander-M” land-based ballistic missile, apparently based on the latter. The maximum speed is up to Mach 7 and the range is over 600 km. In the summer, Iran also announced its “Fatah Mobin” anti-ship ballistic missile, which may have a range of less than 300 kilometers. During this year’s China Air Show, Aerospace Science and Technology exhibited the first foreign-funded anti-ship ballistic missile, the CM-401. According to the on-site display board, its maximum speed is up to Mach 6, and the whole flight speed is not less than Mach 4. It is twice as large as the existing supersonic anti-ship missiles, and it also has a subduction zenith attack capability and a strong penetration capability. At the same time, Aerospace Science and Technology also demonstrated its own M20B anti-ship ballistic missile. Although there is no performance introduction, the performance of the M20B ballistic missile from the previous speculation that the anti-ship type M20B and CM-401 should be in the middle.

Even if the range is near

The advantage of anti-ship ballistic missiles is that they can dramatically compress the reaction time of surface ships. If they engage in battles in the Bohai Sea, they may even cause their opponents to react. For surface ships, active ship-to-air missiles are basically designed for aircraft and anti-ship missiles. Their maximum flight speed is less than Mach 4 and the launch height is less than 30,000 meters. It lacks repression against anti-ship ballistic missiles. As for the high-speed near-speed anti-aircraft guns, it is also impossible to deal with anti-ship ballistic missiles with fast and nearly vertical dive attacks.

It is worth noting that the super-high speed of anti-ship ballistic missiles will have a huge kinetic energy, which means that even if the warhead is small, it can rely on kinetic energy to help hit the surface ships. In theory, the newly-launched anti-ship ballistic missiles are used to combat large and medium-sized surface ships, and they have a strong impact on aircraft carriers, not to mention the commonly used armor-piercing warheads to attack the critical parts of aircraft carriers, even if they carry the cluster warheads in the aircraft carrier. The explosion at the top of the head, a large number of submunitions flying at high speed, will destroy the island and deck of the aircraft carrier, enough to make it paralyzed.

There are also concerns that most of the anti-ship ballistic missiles have a range of less than 1,000 kilometers, which is much smaller than the operational radius of the aircraft carrier. “You are fast, you can’t reach the aircraft carrier.” In fact, combat is not a simple data comparison. It is necessary to comprehensively consider the operational sea area, camouflage maneuver, command and control and many other factors. In the narrow waters like the Persian Gulf, the Black Sea, and the Baltic Sea, the vehicle-launched short-range anti-ship ballistic missiles can force enemy aircraft carriers to enter their range, although the aircraft carrier can still attack the land targets, but The distance to launch the attack will be farther, and it is necessary to carry more fuel or frequent refueling in order to strike the opponent’s depth, and the organization will have more attack waves, which will greatly increase the combat cost and organization difficulty of the aircraft carrier formation. If the range of anti-ship ballistic missiles is further extended, it will force the aircraft carrier formation to be farther away from the Bohai Sea area.

Not only that, anti-ship ballistic missiles will also change the combat style of the traditional anti-ship missile “saturation attack”, a small number of volleys can pose a strong threat to the aircraft carrier formation. If the anti-ship ballistic missiles cooperate with the traditional anti-ship missiles, the difficulty in intercepting the aircraft carrier formation will increase geometrically. This kind of benefit is very attractive.

Updated: December 4, 2016 — 12:28 pm

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