“Fireball, We’re Taking It Down!”

The new target missile and launcher at PMRF in Hawaii used during MDA FTX-21 on May 17, 2016. Photo: via MDAA
An image reportedly showing a launch of a Chinese DF-21D. The missile’s warhead carries independently targeted hypersonic reentry vehicles, each capable of destroying an aircraft carrier.

Last night the United States Navy tracked and intercepted the most capable and maneuverable ballistic missile deployed in the Pacific today, a target missile, representing the Dong- Feng 21 Chinese “carrier killer.” On this intercept the SM-6 was employed in a salvo firing, launching one missile following another, for increased Probability of Kill (PK).

The Chinese DF-21D is a road mobile, medium-range, anti-ship, nuclear-capable ballistic missile with maneuverable capabilities in space and in reentry that is currently deployed by the Chinese and designed to sink U.S. Aircraft Carriers. Since 2010, when the DF-21 – with a range of 1,000 to 1,700 miles and employing maneuverable re-entry vehicles – was declared to have reached initial operating capability by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) as a high hypersonic land-based anti-ship missile capable of targeting a moving aircraft carrier strike group, the United States has worked and invested to develop a ship-based interceptor to defeat this missile. Last night the MDA’s and the United States Navy’s investments in technology and engineering from the current capability to defeat the DF-21 came to fruition with the already deployed SM-6 interceptors and is a historic event for the defense of the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Strike groups.

The new medium target missile was flown for the first time on May 17, 2016 launching out of the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) in Hawaii. On that flight test, designated Flight Test Other-21 (FTX-21), USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) successfully demonstrated the ability of an Aegis Baseline 9.C1 (BMD 5.0 Capability Upgrade) configured ship to detect and track a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) target within the Earth’s atmosphere.

Seven DF-21 salvo launch shown on this undated Chinese television clip.

China reportedly has 7 anti-ship missile brigades, each with the capabilities of launching 24-32 anti-ship ballistic missiles simultaneously. Chinese video releases have shown DF-21 missiles launched in salvos of six missiles at a time. Each launcher can reload to launch a second volley within hours.

Chinese Dong Feng DF-21D missile erected from the carrier vehicle. Photo from video via CCTV.