With mounting indications that a nuclear war between the U.S. and China is likely, Beijing has just conducted a flight test of its new anti-satellite missile.
The test of the anti-satellite missile named ‘Dong Neng-3’ (DN-3) took place on October 30 at the Korla Missile Test Complex in western China, and was reported just now by The Washington Free Beacon.
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However, details around the launch of the Dong Neng-3 as well as whether it was successful or not are yet unknown.
The “final-phase missile interception test had been conducted in the upper atmosphere,” according to the Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao. Beijing has been conducting a number of anti-satellite tests by disguising them as missile defense interceptor tests to avoid international outrage.
China has carried out eight anti-satellite tests since 2005, while some its tests in 2010, 2013 and 2014 were said to be “land-based missile interception tests.” It was in 2007 when China got in the center of international attention because of its anti-satellite capabilities. Beijing then managed to destroy a defunct weather satellite with a missile.
The parent of the DN-3 – a ballistic missile (DN-2) was tested in 2013 and almost reached geosynchronous orbit by ascending to around 18,600 miles above earth. U.S. defense officials familiar with the launch of the anti-satellite missile told The Washington Free Beacon that it is “primarily a direct-ascent missile designed to ram into satellites and destroy them, even if intelligence assessments hold that the weapon has some missile defense capabilities.”
Is U.S. lagging behind China in space?
There is also a number of other details about the DN-3 that remain unknown. “China recently developed two new and more powerful space launchers called the KZ-1 and KZ-11. A DN-3 weapon based on the KZ-11 launcher would be capable of hitting targets at higher orbits,” Bill Gertz said, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, said during a conference in March that U.S. technological advantages in the space sphere are “particularly bad” due to the Chinese and Russian efforts to boost their anti-satellite capabilities.
“The substantial range of orbital altitude — 1,000 kilometers to 36,000 kilometers — from which satellites operate poses a challenge to China’s ability to attack U.S. military satellites (…) Unlike the U.S., China has a very limited satellite tracking capability, most of which are based in its territory and possibly a few ships,” contributor to The Diplomat Jaganath Sankaran explained in 2014.
How badly can China damage U.S. militarily?
The ongoing confrontation at sea between Washington and Beijing has made the world realize that the two powers do not share interests in key international areas.
With Washington sending USS Lassen to sail inside the 12-mile nautical zone around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago, and Beijing threatening to respond in case further “provocations” take place, the chances of a military confrontation are higher than ever.
But what could China possibly do to the U.S. in case such a confrontation takes place in the nearest future? One fact is clear: for two decades, China has been actively modernizing its armed forces with more advanced and powerful weapons. So the question is: does China has what it takes to do at least any kind of damage to the U.S.?
As of today, China is still in the process of massive and long yet prosperous modernization of its military. China improves both its nuclear and conventional forces to be able to withstand such powers as the U.S. in military confrontations.
But only an insignificant part of China’s conventional forces can target American militaries overseas, and no China’s forces are capable of attacking the U.S. on its own soil. And while Chinese conventional missiles and bombers could easily attack U.S. military bases in Japan and Korea, they could never reach Hawaii or Alaska.
Deadly consequences for U.S. in case of nuclear war
China’s naval forces are constantly being updated with new submarines, destroyers and other vessels, which would pose a great threat to the U.S. Navy in a military confrontation at sea. But in terms of size, the U.S. Navy outmatches the Chinese navy by a few times.
If China vs. U.S. war is to take place in the nearest future, China’s ground forces would have to sail across oceans to reach vulnerable spots of the U.S. But China has only four large Type 071 amphibious ships capable of deploying a total of just about 8,000 troops, which is not enough to counter an all-ready U.S. army.
Even if China manages to get up to 32,000 troops on board of these four ships, the firepower of the U.S. military would sink all four of them in no time.
As for China’s nuclear capabilities, the country has about 190 operational nuclear warheads spread among land-based missiles and ballistic missile submarines.
Beijing also has about 50 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), and although these missiles are capable of reaching U.S. soil, only a third of them could reach critical spots of the U.S. territory.
In case of a nuclear war between Washington and Beijing, China is capable of launching up to 62 missiles against the U.S. And while such a number does not present a great threat to the U.S., if China combines its nuclear capabilities with Russia, the consequences for U.S. would be deadly.