Can Aegis Stop China’s Carrier Killer Missiles?

A Lockheed official today gave a predictably cryptic answer to questions regarding the the ability of the defense giant’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system to protect against China’s DF-21D carrier killer missiles.

“We’re constantly looking at the evolution of our Aegis BMD capability to keep pace with threats,” said Lisa Callahan Lockheed’s vice president in charge of the Aegis program during a Jan. 5 phone call with reporters. “While I can’t talk specifically about the capabilities we have against specific threats…we are definitely working to evolve our system to keep pace with the threats as they evolve.”

Callahan refused to comment when pressed on whether the current Aegis BMD system can protect against the DF-21D.

Wonder how long it will be before we come up with a way of defending our carriers from this system? It may mean developing carrier-borne strike aircraft with longer ranges or adjusting concepts of operation to keep the carriers farther off China’s coast. The latter could mean U.S. Navy and Marine Corps jets would have to refuel more often, fly longer missions and/or carry reduced weapons loads.

53 Comments on "Can Aegis Stop China’s Carrier Killer Missiles?"

  1. I dont think Aegis is built to have enough up angle to engage a missile coming down on them, I think they are more built for lateral defense. However it would probably be easy to modify these for that…

  2. It also could mean to go back to the future and have a much larger 5th Generation Strategic bomber force operating from a distance which we could easily afford if we siginificantly reduced our forward Tacair bases and associated fighters (less need for thousands of F-35)and reduced the number of aircraft carriers. Even new upgraded B-1s with ALCMs could do the job as they are hard to defeat flying at sea level. It is sad that the TACair background of the USAF leadership has clouded their strategic thinking.

  3. What about that laser test where we shot down that missile some months ago? Maybe we could lase that thing before it's too late. (At least I'm not suggesting "sharks with friggin laser beams attached to their heads".) Of course, the laser concept wouldn't work in all weather patterns…

    Just thinking out loud.

  4. If we had a high powered laser YES, otherwise MAYBE.

    The best way to deal with this threat is to kill its terminal targeting and guidance, that says laser to me.

  5. A new Tomcat interceptor type phoenix combo?

  6. How about going after the system they use (satellites) to find the carriers in the first place geniuses…..

  7. What's wrong with you guys? Everyone here immediately thinks in terms of "hard" killing them Carrier Killing Missiles. What's wrong with a good old bit of deception?

  8. I'm sure it's capable. I know an engineer that worked on the AMRAAM and she always talked about how that missile was capable of far more than just what it was specced to do. So I'm sure the SM3 is as well.

    I also agree a layered approach provides redundancy along with different intercept options that an attacking system would have less chance to be able to overcome. There is SM3 currently, the EW potential of AESA, drones loaded with an NCADE option using AMRAAMs, the recent 100kw laser tests seem promising, a scaled down rail gun is a possibility,

    How about some good forward deployed ISR and persistent prompt strike for some plain ol preemptive strikes?

  9. Something tells me China should be more concerned with protecting it's DF-21D
    from our offensive weapons.

  10. Time to make the F/A-37 Talon from the movie Stealth, a reality lol.

  11. "…or adjusting concepts of operation to keep the carriers farther off China’s coast."

    Try this…use a new kind of carrier. One that makes targeting much more difficult because it can deliver strikes from ANY location, whether off the coast……OR FROM ANYWHERE INLAND. A carrier that moves at three times the speed of present aircraft carriers; and which needs no escorting ships to protect it from submarines.
    Say what?
    Airships. Launching UCAVs.
    USS Macon and USS Akron….updated. stronger! faster! able to cross shorelines and leap tall mountains in a single bound! Whoooeeee!

  12. Campbell, while i think Airships would be great for transporting massive amounts of cargo over land i cant see them as Carriers. Atleast not for the next 50 years. Simply dont have near the tech. Also it would be rapped by fighters.


    I think a new longer range interceptor and longer range strike aircraft are nessesary. Not Something like the F-18. Say something like the crusader or tomcat. And something like a A-6 Intruder.

    I think there are a few things that are going to be able to defend against the DF-21D and other such weapons. I'm not sure if the sm-3 Is fully capable of taking out the DF but i think its possible. Maybe not highly capable but they may just need to upgrade it more which as a weapons system they have been for awhile. Dont forget railgun research. The railgun would make a great Line of site anti-air weapon. Then there are DE weapons which are coming along very well.

    The idea that the carrier is now obsolete and super weapons capable of defeating everything are a fantasy. The nuke was supposed to make warfare itself permanent and without the same armys as the past. That has been proven false as many times as all the others

  13. If precision weapons become more and more advanced, we might have to give up on aircraft carriers altogether like we gave up on the battleship. The "All Submarine Navy" article comes to mind….

  14. Remember Boeing's concept 6th Gen navy fighter. Compared to F-35: better stealth, has supercruise, greater range, and hopefully a slightly larger payload, and optionally manned.

  15. China may consider pre-emptive nuke strikes against better equipped enemies.

  16. Time for some orbital weapons platforms with KK rods. Maybe its tie for a space navy LOL.

  17. People seem to be misguided on concept of killing Chicom satellites to deprive its carrier killing missiles from targeting US carriers groups. So, in the scenario of tension in Taiwan strait, the US Navy just sends in the carriers, then starts launching pre-emptive strikes to kill the Chinese satellites or its missle bases just in case ? Come on, be real guys. Then we might as well nuke them now for good.

  18. If the Chinese ever launch ballistic missiles at our carriers, I fear they will be carrying low-yield nuclear warheads rather than any sort of conventional payload. Yet even if this isn't the case why do we hesitate from developing nuclear tipped ABM missiles? Certainly a SM-3 with a nuclear warhead would have a higher chance of success to neutralize it's target.

  19. The point is missed, the answer was Lockheed Martin keeps upgrading based upon emerging threats. The Chicom Carrier Killer is a candidate for the rail gun as a defense.
    No warhead tarvelling at mach 3 is able to manuever, no matter how much they say they can.
    Tarcking a warhead on a fixed tarjectory can make it targetable by a rail gun system. The rail gun prijectiile travels at mach 7, so you do the math. The BMD system is for nuclear weapons in teh appogee (space seperation). The rail gun can be used for warheads once they enter the atmosphere. The US Navy is looking at high power lasers too, they know that they need speed to counter speed.


    More dangerous than the Carrier Killer…….

  21. This is the beauty of free trade: We need China and China needs us. We have more to gain as trading partners than as belligerents.

    Moreover, what's the contention? Taiwan? If Taiwan disappeared from the face of the Earth tomorrow, would you even know it? And while they have an historical animosity, in present day, China and Taiwan do a lot of trade with each other.

    Do mainland Chinese really want to kill island Chinese? What's to be gained by taking over an island that would be obliterated before it was captured? And since the world would surely embargo Chinese goods if it attacked and took possession of Taiwan, why risk your entire economy for a small island when you are already the largest country on Earth?

    Yes, we need to be vigilent in our defense. But this ain't 1938. Capitalism won and both the Russians and the Chinese not only acknowledge it but enjoy it. We're all to busy becoming prosperous to bother killing each other.

  22. JMatt is mostly right. Most importantly, THE UNDERLYING DISPUTE OVER TAIWAN IS THAT BEIJING CONSIDERS IT TO BE PART OF CHINA. So attacking Taiwan would kind of undermine their entire basis for claiming the island. In addition, can you imagine how difficult it would be to stage an opposed landing these days? China is not going to invade Taiwan. The more likely conflict would be over North Korea, and even that is a remote possibility.

  23. Good Morning Folks,

    Some very good discussion on this rather well worn topic. It appears though that two assumptions are in general being made here. First is that a DF-21D could get launched. Give the US ability to find and destroy mobile missile launchers the probability that a DF-21D could get launched is rather slim.

    The DF itself is a system still in early development. The DF-21 is kinda like a Swiss Army knife missile. With two stages it is an IRBM/MRBM that could easily engage targets in the Ningxia Nhi Autonomous area. That may be the reason way the 2nd. Artillery Corps who control all of China’s ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads has located all six existing mobile DF launchers in this critical area.

    With it’s three stages operating, which the Chinese have yet to achieve, the same types of problems the Russians have with the Bulava/Topol M the DF-21 is a short range ICBM. It is noted that the continental US is not with in range of the DF-21 ICBM from current Chinese territory.

    The other assumption is that Ages is maxed out. The system still has a lot of growth in it and the Standard 3 is not the end of the line in anti-ballistic missile technology.

    Any use of such a weapon would be the result of a prolonged period of political unrest between the PRC and the United States, there would be no surprise.

    Byron Skinner

  24. So China has ballistic missiles … big deal , so do we. I suspect that any future Taiwan straits war would probably end up not being fought from carriers but with long range bombers, cruise missiles and ballistic missles.

  25. There are multiple strategies that can be utilized one would be to have long-range stealth drones set up a 360 network perimeter. Drones could be armed or unarmed and could easily send coordinates of the incoming missiles as well as it’s trajectory to the carrier group. The rest is history. That’s just one strategy and there are more. The rest is up to the brilliant minds of military strategist to make it a reality. When a web is created and a strand is broken the web still holds. I should be paid for this china has nothing on me.

  26. The Chinese don't have to kill any Carriers. they just have to wait for the US to decommission the ones they have. We already plan to take the Abe Lincoln offline simply by opting to not refuel it. So now there are only 11. Watch the budget cycle. See if any new carriers construction is authorized…Don't you get it ? Obama hates American power…the "Dreams From My Father" he is talking about is that America is a oppressive colonial power that must be castrated. In 10 years the US carrier force will be 5 or 6. There will be no next gen advance bomber, the new START treaty will be interpreted to mean no new strategic delivery, no missle defense…US military dominance is over…it's just going to take 10 years to clear the props from the stage. Open your eyes…can't you see. The future competiveness of the US is being poured out onto the dirt of Afghanistan. Do you seriously think OB cares a rats ass about Afghanistan…it is simply a convenient place for OB to bleed out military spending, energy and moral…wake up people…

  27. The question is can the aegis stop the Chinese carrier killer? The answer is yes the infrastucture is in place and in theory when you put into perspective time fuel etc aegis
    Has a clear advantage not to mention algorithms and new propulsion tech as wells composites more advance processors. I’m no expert but the only way we can give the Chinese the advantage is not protecting our secrets. They seem to be very good copycats have the numbers and also have the money and spies (hacking). Being that we owe them alot of money in the trillions can probably buy there way.

  28. We will be fielding UCAV's about the same time they start fielding their DF-21D's. Carriers with UCAV's and loitering Tactical Tomahawk missiles isn't that far away.

  29. Anyone consider the fact that the DF-21D could be a bit of strategic deception? The Chinese aren't dumb. It might be in development, but the jump from a land based Korean War army with almost no Navy to a 21st century fighting force takes decades. They are getting there, but aren't 20' tall (yet).

    I'm sure they are working on the carrier killer. However, having a good PR campaign to destroy the will to deploy (casualty adverse) our will to go into harms way also works.

    This buys them time…we also spend time and $ to develop the "anti-DF-21D" weapon…meanwhile they continue to build up submarine assets and train in counter-surface warfare techniques and tactics.

    The real danger, as pointed out is two fold: 1. The US Navy decreasing the capability of platforms, decommissioning all platforms at a rate which greatly exceeds the build plan (and foolishly sinking those decom ships instead of retaining the more modern ones). 10 carriers-REALLY? 2. Spending a lot of $ to move major USAF and USN assets to Guam, thereby easing the Chinese targeting problem. Hmmm…let's decrease our forces a lot, then put a large portion of those we have left into one small island base.

    (Naval Aviator, 34 YOS)

  30. Take out their satellites before putting the carriers in harms way. Once blinded their OTH targeting and capability is useless. They do not have the mobile airborne sensor capability or sophistication that the US has or the blue water aviation assets to support them. China has 3 ships for auxillary refueling and load out for support of at sea assets. Their satellites are their achilles heel. Blind their targeting and terminal guidance.

  31. Im not sure all of you understand the scope of the DF-21 threat.

    First this is a Nuclear weapon platform. It doesn't have to hit the carrier directly.
    Secondly its multiple RV, so 5-6 warheads.
    Third the hypersonic maneuverability of the RV

    Aegis can engage to a point standard RV's i don't think they are up to the level of intercepting Maneuvering Re-entry Vehicles. China has up to 80 of the DF-21 missles, and some are not to this level of tech but older single warhead models, but you can bet any new ones deployed are and that amounts to about 8 launchers, fired in unison, a possibility of 40+ warheads would likely be directed toward a carrier group.

    China knowing that launching a single nuke at the US carrier strike group would likely result in several SLBMs appearing in their radar scopes within a few minutes cannot really have a use for this weapon except in a worst case scenario. Of course thats what we all say about nuclear weapons until someone uses one then all bets are off.

    What better to ask would be : What is the US Response to the attacking or sinking of a Carrier?
    And the response if a Nuclear weapon is used ?

    The world is such that we would be the only bad guys if we lost 15,000 soldiers/sailors to nuclear weapons in theater but launched a nuclear counter attack, which obviously in china would amount to killing millions near designated military targets alone.

    Then you have to think a chinese counter attack or pre-emptive strike on the US mainland would include a large response.

  32. Pondering the effects of nuclear weapons on a aircraft carrier. The only time ships were nuked directly was in Operation Crossroads. Bomb Able (~20 ktons, airburst) detonated ~ 600 yards from a target battleship (USS Nevada)and caused "serious damage".

    Test Baker, which was an underwater bomb did more serious damage (for the same reasons that torpedoes and sea mines are so feared). My impression was that Baker seems to have caused more radioactive contamination than Able.

    It's a pity that we did not drop a nuke on the USS America when we had the chance to test equipment. I imagine next time we retire a carrier, we should tow it out into the Pacific and do a few test fires with conventional ICBMs at it.

  33. Good Afternoon Folks,

    It would seem that we have exhausted nearly all the possibilities of what a conventional carrier killer BM can/could due. The next use of this weapon would obviously be nuclear. I agree with what blight sad if you going to take out ships with nuc;s do an underwater explosion. The bikini test results that are in the public domain show this very clearly to include taking out a carrier.

    Other then as hypothetical arguments, I really don’t see the value of any of these weapon platforms or the weapon they would support. In very simple terms before any conflict would get to the stage where these weapons could become of use they would no longer exist.

    Byron Skinner

  34. I think the US needs to make clear, that if foreign relations become tense enough between our nations (or those we have mutual defense treaties with) ever gets to a point to where a ballistic missile might be launched for whtever reason by China, since we';; have no way to determine what the purpose of that missile is (or how it is armed), we will have to assume that the payload is nuclear.

    Unfortunately, that also means, that we would have to respond with a ballistic missile (or missiles as the case may be) that would more than likely have to be launched on warning.

  35. Enter ArcLight.

    It may be time to reassess the feasibiity of coupling PGS to a resurrection of the Arsenal Ship (or some variant thereof). In an era of ship killing ballistic missiles and whatever else the future may hold, a dedicated launch platform for such a weapons system seems like something to put back on the table.

    Imagine a battlespace where UCAVs loiter overhead gathering intelligence and pass it on nearly instantaneously. Enemy troop movements, strength, weapons locations, etc, all being transmitted to a battleforce commander and his/her staff. Now imagine that commander being able to select from a vast array of targetable weapons and launching them from a platform well outside the range of even a ship killing ballistic missile.

    That my friends is a real game changer. Whether you are a black shoe or a brown shoe, anyone can appreciate the potential capabilities that such a system would give our deployed forces. And what's more, in today's purple suit environment, a weapon that leverages any sort of joint architecture would have a better chance of making it through the Congressional gauntlet unscathed.

  36. Anyone else remember the laser equipted phalanx CIWS that THIS SITE posted awhile (month?) ago? Can that stop these missles?

  37. We simply need to outfit Strike Groups with Lasers. More funds need to be spent on develoing this as a defense. There has been test that shown it can be done successfully, knocking out incoming mortars, shells and misslles. I understand that at this stated of developement, the laser may be big in size but if you have an aircarft carrier all you have is room. Or produce a ship that house the laser system and it liquid chimecials.

  38. ASBM will carry a neutron bomb so that China can then tow the carrier back to HongKong as another museum casino piece. China has the habit of buying up useless carriers for Chinese entertainment.

  39. I find all of this mental masturbation over a future war with China to be a complete waste of time. Any actual shooting war with the PRC would go NUCLEAR within days. It is for that reason and that reason alone that any such war will never happen.

  40. Why should'nt China posses advanced weapons like these? They have had to tollerate american carrier battle groups in their back yard for years. I predict that within 30 years the Americans (as a dwindling economic and military power) will be moaning about Chinese battle groups off the West coast. The days of a one super power world are rapidly ending and the West had better get over it. The most effective defence against them is not military….its ecomomic. Stop getting our factories relocated to China and they would not be able to afford the big boys toys!!!!!!

  41. Darragh Scully | June 20, 2011 at 5:07 am | Reply

    greetings. After thinking about this problem it would be difficult for China to cause to much problems with this missile alone. Ussually there are just 2 carriers in the region, well atleast in the japanese area of operations anyway. After some thought on the df 21d you must realise that its whole system is based on a satelite guidance system. So should war break out I am saying that one mission will be to use RIM 161 off Erie, Shiloh or Decatur or any other similarly equiped ship to neutralise the Yaogan-VII electro-optical satellite, Yaogan-VIII synthetic aperture radar satellite and the Yaogan-IX Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) constellation systems or any other Chinnese Statalites for that matter. Notably a missile defence system that would counter Chinnese attempts to eliminate US satellites should be considered also. Satellites will need to be equiped to counter this threat in the future because the Chinese and others also have anti satelite missile systems in operation.

  42. I doubt China would resort to a nuclear fight. That is a ginnie that no prudent leader (as opposed to religious nut) wants to let out. After all, if one side goes nuke, both sides do. The US has China so outmatched in nuclear capability that that is infact, probably a situation that China would actively seek to avoid (while boasting otherwise). Given the admittedly limited, but real (and increasing) ability of US missile defense, the field could be skewed even further. China would find their own nuclear attacks marginally, yet still somewhat thwarted, while being forced to take everything that came at them.
    All this said, perhaps its time to give up Taiwan. China is emerging as a superpower, and Taiwan is in their yard, just as Cuba is in our yard. A superpower will have its yard as it wants it, and anyone contesting that will find themselves fighting in a superpowers own yard. The soviets recognized this, and we should too.

  43. The advantages to China are distance and relatively low cost missiles compared to $25B price tag on each US carrier. China could launch 100 low cost missiles against each US carrier and hope 5-10 that could get through to sink the ship, assuming US carrier has defense against ballistic missiles in the future. The only way to deter this is to declare nuclear war on China if US carrier is attacked by ballistic missiles.

  44. the DF-21 will be an EMP type bomb. You don't need to sink ships for a bomb to be effective. If it can't move and nothing onboard works, that's just as good as sunk.

  45. the funniest part about this is, china using a carrier killing missile would just awaken the giant again. the biggest question americans would have to answer after seeing one of our 11 aircraft carriers go down, would be whether we send china back to the stone age, or just kill thier leadership with our laughably overpowered military. id like to see chinas "largest airforce" comprised of mainly antiques even get off the freaking ground. chinas large population and brutal tactics has been a bully in asia for too long.

  46. Good points on using lasers and rail gun to kill of DF-21 type missiles. However a salvo of say 24 missiles can overwhelm the carrier defense and even one hit can turn the ship by 90 degrees just by the kinetic force plus explosion.

    Another point made also had good logic but only partially: Yes the anti tank missiles and sea torpedos have not thrown tanks and ships out of the equation. That is because there are thousands of tanks and 100s of ships. However in the whole world's navy there are barely three dozen or more Aircraft Carriers. US has 11, UK 1, Germany None, Russia only 1 etc. So a $10B carrier going down to $1M missile is too big a investment return to ignore.

    Another good point made was to take out Chinese satellites to kill off the terminal guidance of DF-21s. Space area is where US can defeat other nations including Russia not by 1 or 10 miles but by 100s of miles in the literal sense.

    Seems space is the new frontier and in BMD sense, it already is.

  47. If a "sizzler" was launched from the Iranian shore at the Strait of Hormuz, a carrier would have 45 seconds before impact. Could our defense systems react that quickly? Just wondering.

  48. make peace instead?

  49. RISSER Jean-Louis | April 8, 2012 at 6:27 am | Reply

    dear sir! my only intention was to imagine a cheap personal anti-tank weapon,with a little
    barrel but a high velocity with indifferently perforing or hollow ammunitions;for that purpose
    wich I call" engin semi-auto propelled",it means principally:
    1 a first exposive charge,enough strong to give a rocket a good output and a long range
    2 the best best output approachs the sound speed,and explane the necessity to reduce
    the barrel,or using guns without recoil,but heavier.because the next war may involve
    a massive tanks use…friendly your.

  50. US is 10,000 miles away from China, I wonder why the US carriers are having the rights to keep close to the Chinese coast and facing the threats from DF-21D. Thus, the best solution is stop deploying the warships around China as it is the only way to reduce the US national debts and save the valueable lives of the Americans as having war with China is a loss loss scenario.

  51. Aegis has a fair capability of shooting down hostile aircraft.. Why couldn't it shoot down a balistic missle?

    BTW aircraft carriers are unsinkable and cannot be damaged by missiles or torpedoes. That is why they have Big George patrolling off of north Korea.. they are not scared of torpedoes.. check it out..

  52. Yeah and the Chinese are sitting at their desks just picking their noses.
    I don't think.

  53. Why not USA think about to cheat DF21D carrier killing missile navigation & it should fall on china main land.

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