China Rising

By John Liang / September 18, 2009 at 5:00 AM

China's interest in developing a land-mobile, maneuverable anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) has been gaining increased attention in the open literature in recent months.

"Nobody has ever been able to hit a moving target with a ballistic missile yet," retired Navy Cmdr. Paul Diarra, head of the consulting firm Global Strategies & Transformation, said at a Defense Forum Foundation luncheon on Capitol Hill today.

Diarra wrote a brief article in the May issue of the U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings magazine (which also had a longer article written by two other authors on the same subject) where he noted that if China does indeed develop such a capability, "((t))he numbers are going to be in China's favor. In a wartime situation, even if every U.S. ((Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense)) interceptor hit and destroyed an inbound-ASBM, naval missile magazines are very limited and cannot be reloaded at sea.

"This is a glaring deficiency for us," Diarra's article continued. "It severely limits our defense and turns high-tech, network warfare into a simple battle of attrition favoring the offense," he warned.

To illustrate his point during his Capitol Hill presentation today, Diarra showed a photo of actor Slim Pickens from the movie "Dr. Strangelove" riding the nuclear bomb at the end of the film. The next picture Diarra showed was what he called a "Slim Pickens" overhead view of anti-ship ballistic missiles bearing down on a U.S. carrier battle group.

"This is what the Chinese are trying to do with their ballistic missiles, which is target our carriers and other capital ships from thousands of miles away," Diarra said.

Such a Chinese capability has "profound consequences" for U.S. Naval and global strategy, he added, especially since the United States is so dependent on unfettered global access and unimpeded naval power.

"We've become so used to this that we take it for granted," Diarra said. "The Chinese are not taking it for granted."