WATCH: China Reportedly Fires New Hypersonic Missile in First Launch From Stealthy Type 055 Cruiser
© Sputnik ScreenshotA missile identified as a YJ-21 hypersonic anti-ship missile is fired from a Chinese Type 055 destroyer in the first-known Chinese test of a hypersonic weapon from the stealthy warship.
While China and Russia have deployed hypersonic missiles with their respective militaries, the US has lagged behind, struggling to develop a viable weapon - let alone the capacity to defend against the ultra-fast weapons.
The China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has published footage of the first known test of a hypersonic missile from its advanced new Type 055 guided-missile cruiser.
The footage was first published on Sina Weibo, but contains no information about the test date. It purports to show a never-before-seen missile, dubbed the YJ-21 or Eagle Strike-21. However, it could be related to an unusual gathering of four Type 055s - half of those in existence - in the Yellow Sea last week, as several of the warships had previously engaged in live-fire drills in the weeks prior.
The Chinese PLA Navy for the first time showed footage of the launch of a new hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile from a Project 055 destroyer. pic.twitter.com/Tdb6cz3UNR— rohan panchigar (@rohanpanchigar) April 19, 2022
According to American naval analyst HI Sutton, from what can be gathered from the short video, the new weapon “outwardly resembles the CM-401 design, with the addition of a large booster phase. The CM-401 is roughly analogous to the Iskander missile although its diameter is only 600mm. It is possible that the new missile is related to the older CM-401 family, although the resemblance may be coincidental. And it may have a smaller diameter.”
Beijing unveiled the CM-401 in 2018; it quickly earned the nickname “carrier-killer” because of an animated video of it striking a US aircraft carrier at the Zhuhai Air Show. However, several other missiles in the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) arsenal have also been dubbed “carrier killers”, like the DF-26. The CM-401 has a 290-kilometre range, but that was likely extended for the YJ-21.
**BREAKING** -> https://t.co/uUuAXli7ge#China's New Hypersonic Missile on Type-055 Cruiser For First Time— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) April 19, 2022
Likely YJ-21 anti-ship ballistic missile. A theory of what it is related to
Now Chinese Navy cruisers are arguably the most heavily armed surface combatants in the world pic.twitter.com/8qPyXsFd1s
Beijing-based naval analyst Li Jie told the South China Morning Post “the ship-borne YJ-21 missile, which has a range up to 1,000 km, is able to hit any vessel in an aircraft carrier strike group.” However, another expert told the paper its range could have been extended to 1,500 kilometres.
The Type 055 it’s being launched from is China’s most advanced warship, a large destroyer rivaled only by the US Navy’s Zumwalt-class in terms of size. It sports a bevy of missiles of different types, including anti-air, anti-submarine, and anti-surface missiles similar to the YJ-21, although this is the first time one has been observed firing a hypersonic missile. Its role is envisaged as primarily fleet defense, accompanying China’s new aircraft carriers.
While Russia has tested its Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missile several times, the US has nothing comparable, although it’s planned on eventually placing hypersonic missile tubes on its three Zumwalt-class destroyers. The US Navy has also tested converting the SM-6 missile already carried by its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers into a hypersonic weapon useful for both anti-surface strikes or intercepting other hypersonic missiles.
Defending against a hypersonic missile is hard: the ultra-fast weapons get an early boost by a rocket engine before shedding their motor and zipping toward their targets at speeds exceeding Mach 5, or more than 3,800 miles per hour. Their short period of rocket engine burn means existing ballistic missile detection satellites have trouble spotting them, and their extreme speed means they’ll only appear on radar screen for a few seconds and they’ll be able to outrun almost any interceptors fired at them.
Some new air defences are in development, like Russia’s S-500, which is claimed to be able to shoot down hypersonic missiles, and some novel defences have also been proposed, ranging from lasers to the “dust defence” once hoped to protect US missile silos against Soviet nuclear warheads.
Video of the new missile comes the same day as new, unofficial footage surfaced on social media of another large Chinese missile slung under the belly of an H-6N strategic bomber, a variant specifically designed for carrying extra-large loads like ballistic missiles and drones.
空军轰6N挂载空射弹道导弹视频 pic.twitter.com/S4r03bcgK0— lqy🇨🇳🇨🇳 (@lqy99021608) April 19, 2022
Sputnik previously reported on several videos filmed by observers in late 2020, showing the new bomber variant carrying massive missiles that observers judged as likely to have been DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicles.