A DF-26 missile is pictured in a CCTV program. Photo: CCTV
A DF-26 missile during launch. Photo: CCTV
Close-up details of the Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile DF-26 show that the missile can greatly adjust its position mid-flight to accurately attack a moving aircraft carrier, experts said Sunday after China showed the launch of its new-generation missile for the first time.
Western media frequently question the DF-26's ability to hit a moving vessel, saying China had never practiced attacking such a target. The recent exercise demonstrated the missile's capability, experts said.
People's Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force conducted a live-fire exercise somewhere in Northwest China featuring the launch of two DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Thursday.
The nose of the missile has a double-cone structure with four fin-like flight control surfaces symmetrically built around the base of the warhead, the CCTV report shows.
This is the first time the launch of a DF-26 missile and detailed images of its appearance have been made public.
Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday that the special design enables the missile to accurately control the attack trajectory, as the four flight control surfaces provide super maneuverability and guide the warhead during the terminal stage to hit a slow-moving aircraft carrier.
Song, who used to serve in the Second Artillery Corps (now the Rocket Force) of the PLA, said the double-cone structure provides the missile with increased targeting capability, speed, and stealth, making it more difficult to intercept.
"An information network connected to the warhead, which possibly includes satellites, ground and naval radar in addition to radar on the missile itself, will constantly update the location of a moving target, informing flight control where to guide the missile," a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday.
Already in service with the PLA Rocket Force, the DF-26 can carry conventional or nuclear warheads and is capable of launching precision strikes on land targets or medium and large vessels at sea, said Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Wu Qian at a routine press conference in April 2018.
However, many foreign military experts and media doubted the missile's capability to fulfill its claimed role.
US media outlet CNN quoted Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain, as saying in January that no military has ever successfully developed an anti-ship ballistic missile and using one would also require practice launches, which China has shown no evidence of having done.
The recent exercise is an example of practiced launches, said Song.
The DF-26 is said to have an effective range of 4,500 kilometers, and could reach US naval bases in Guam in the western Pacific, china.com reported.