(Newsroom America) -- China is deploying a new ballistic missile capable of penetrating naval defenses and sinking U.S. carriers, a report said Tuesday, a move which could alter American military strategy in Asia.
The Washington Times reported that Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told a Japanese newspaper that the new Chinese missile had undergone extensive testing and development and was now ready to be deployed.
"An analogy using a Western term would be 'initial operational capability (IOC),' whereby I think China would perceive that it has an operational capability now, but they continue to develop it," Willard told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. "I would gauge it as about the equivalent of a U.S. system that has achieved IOC."
The Times said the missile is the "D" version of the DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile China has fielded for more than a decade.
The separate report by the United States Naval Institute from last year said the missile "is significant in that it covers the areas that are likely hot zones for future confrontations between U.S. and Chinese surface forces.
"The size of the missile enables it to carry a warhead big enough to inflict significant damage on a large vessel, providing the Chinese the capability of destroying a U.S. supercarrier in one strike," the USNI report added.
The road-mobile missile is designed to be fired into the atmosphere then re-enter and strike U.S. ships using complex guidance systems, low radar signature and a maneuverability to mask its flight path.
"Supporting the missile is a network of satellites, radar and unmanned aerial vehicles that can locate U.S. ships and then guide the weapon, enabling it to hit moving targets," the USNI report said.
Currently, the naval institute said, U.S. warships have no viable defense against ballistic missiles, making the DF-21 particularly menacing to American carriers and surface fleets.
Willard said the U.S. doesn't believe China has tested the missile against an actual moving warship.
"We have not seen an over-water test of the entire system," he told the Japanese paper.
The Pacific commander said the new missile did not represent a greater threat to U.S. naval forces in the region than China's submarines. Bejing has been improving its submarine force for years, including adding ballistic missile capabilities to those vessels as well.
U.S. military commanders and strategists say the new missile is designed to deny American forces access to Asian waters in emergencies, such as any future Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
"In recent years, China has been expanding its navy to presumably better exert itself in disputed maritime regions," said the USNI report.
Richard Fisher, a Chinese military affairs specialist, told the Times the new Chinese missile is part of a broader program Beijing has undertaken to improve its overall military capabilities.
"When we add the ASBM to the PLA's [People's Liberation Army's] growing anti-satellite capabilities, growing numbers of submarines, and quite soon, its fifth-generation fighter, we are seeing the erection of a new Chinese wall in the western Pacific, for which the Obama administration has offered almost nothing in defensive response," he said.
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