China’s “assassin’s mace” weapon: A myth or reality?

By Manoj Rawat ,Former Naval Captain, Senior Analyst wikistrat

The Chinese military have for years boasted of a magic weapon capable of destroying the aircraft carriers from a long range. This magic weapon comes under the category of weapons dubbed the shashoujian, or “assassin’s mace” by the PLA. The “assassin’s mace” term is used to designate a wide array of technologies that might afford an inferior military an advantage in a conflict with a superior military power.

In Aug 2020, the Chinese Govt mouthpiece, Global Times, reported that two “aircraft-carrier killer” missiles or “assassin’s mace” launched by China had travelled thousands of kilometres and hit their designated target, a moving ship, in the South China Sea. The missiles were reportedly DF-26B and DF-21D missiles and are claimed to have struck a moving ship close to Paracel Islands. A former senior colonel Wang Xiangsui says ‘This is a warning to the US, asking it not to take any military risk,’

Interestingly the missile launch by China was timed to coincide with the presence of two US Navy aircraft carriers which were exercising in the South China Sea a that time. The Global Times made a typically propaganda bluster declaring that “any aircraft carrier movement in the region is at the pleasure of PLA”.”.

This Chinese bluff was almost immediately called out by the US Navy when it responded that the two aircraft carriers in the region “are not intimidated

The answer to why US Navy confidently called off the Chinese bluff was not very clear to many people at that time. One possible explanation is that the US Navy is aware that while ballistic missiles have the capability to strike a static target with high degree of precision it is not easy to target a moving ship. A missile requires active terminal guidance using a radar or other means to target a moving ship but it is highly unlikely that a Ballistic missile has got such a system. In fact, no country in the world has developed such ballistic missiles which can target moving ships. The Chinese claim thus appears to be nothing but an empty bluster to impress its domestic audience.

Whatever little hopes the Chinese had of scaremongering using this “assassin’s mace” have now been destroyed by a test missile firing undertaken on 17 Nov 20. In this test, a US navy destroyer shot down a hostile ballistic missile using a SM3 missile.

The area defence capability demonstrated by this test clearly put paid to the Chinese hopes of making South China Sea as ‘Lake China’. The myth of the “assassin’s mace” has thus been given and ignominious sea burial.

China Daily predictably has been rattled by this anti-Ballistic missile test and suggested that this missile is not effective against ‘advanced missiles’. No one is however losing sleep over this mythical “assassin’s mace” and South China Sea remains open as per International conventions.

By Manoj Rawat ,Former Naval Captain, Senior Analyst wikistrat

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