As most people are aware, the United States is the global leader when it comes to its fleet of aircraft carriers. According to Global Firepower, here is a graphic showing the number of aircraft carriers owned by nations around the world:
Note that China has one aircraft carrier to the nineteen currently in service for the United States, showing how important aircraft carriers are to American forces battle planning. Aircraft carriers provide a substantial advantage to military forces by enabling them to extend the operational range of aircraft and associated personnel, acting as a mobile war platform. Carriers like the U.S. Nimitz class can run for decades without refuelling since they are power by nuclear reactors. Here is a video showing the world's biggest carrier:
A recent piece in the Global Times, a daily Chinese newspaper under the auspices of the People's Daily and a media outlet of the Communist Party of China, outlined a missile test that recently took place in the Bohai Sea located close to the Korean Peninsula as shown on this map:
Here's the text of the article:
"China's successful test of a new type of guided missile in the Bohai Sea killed two birds with one stone, experts told the Global Times, as the launch shows China can attack both aircraft carriers and the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system deployed in South Korea.
"To judge from the missile remains disclosed by media, it was a DF-26 that was tested recently, also known as the 'aircraft carrier killer' missile," Song Zhongping, a military expert who used to serve in the PLA Rocket Force, told the Global Times.
"Considering the type of missile and the test location it is evident that we conducted a firing experiment targeting aircraft carriers, and the warhead possibly featured an electromagnetic pulse that could destroy a carrier's command system, as well as the THAAD system," Song noted.
When asked if the test's location in the Bohai Sea, close to the Korean Peninsula, could show that the test was specifically aimed at Seoul's THAAD deployment, Song said that this is unlikely as Bohai is China's usual weapons testing ground, unlike the South and East China Seas where experiments could be difficult as the waters contain various nations' Exclusive Economic Zones and international waters.
A statement from the Information Bureau of China's Ministry of National Defense on Tuesday confirmed that Chinese rocket forces tested a new type of missile in the Bohai Sea.
The statement said the test was conducted in accordance with the annual training plan to "raise the operational capability of the armed forces and effectively respond to threats to national security," the statement said.
"The test achieved the expected result," said the statement, without disclosing its exact date."
Let's take a closer look at China's latest aircraft carrier killer missile. The Dong Feng 26 (DF-26) is the latest version of China's medium-range, anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM), a derivative of the DF-21D which was known as the original "carrier killer". The DF-26 was first unveiled to the public in Beijing's September 3, 2015 military parade suggesting that it is likely already in service. It is a solid-fuel missile that can be fitted with either a conventional or nuclear warhead and can be fitted onto a road-mobile chassis or transporter-erector-launcher (TEL). The two-stage missile appears to have the technology to adjust its trajectory to evade anti-missile defense systems and has an accuracy of between 5 and 30 metres (depending on the source), roughly the same as a cruise missile. Its solid fuel and mobility make it particularly difficult to counter in a war since it can be launched quickly and moved easily rather than being confined to an underground silo. It has a range of between 1800 and 2500 miles, giving it the capability to strike U.S. bases on Guam, thus the term "Guam killer", and has the capability to strike medium- to large-sized targets on water. The capabilities of this weapon will greatly enhance the anti-access/area-denial capabilities of the Chinese military.
Here is a photo showing the DF-26 at the 2015 Beijing military parade:
Here is a brief video showing the DF-26 in parade:
The United States has developed a ship-based interceptor system to counter the DF-21D and DF-26 and other ballistic missiles. The SM-6 interceptor built by Raytheon is capable of launching one missile after another to counter a salvo of missiles sourced from China and was first successfully tested in May 2016. Here is a video showing the test of the SM-6 missile as it engages a cruise missile:
The ongoing chess game of nuclear brinkmanship will ultimately prove to be a no-win situation for those involved. One inadvertent mistake or one deliberately hostile action by any party in the region could lead to all-out hostilities. Given the history of the Korean Peninsula, the cost of conflict is likely to be very high.