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YJ-18 Eagle Strike CH-SS-NX-13

On 19 September 2013 some Chinese media websites released a clip showing the PLA had been successful in making a Eagle Strike missile dubbed YJ-18. It will travel at subsonic speed initially, and at Mach 3 when approaching the target within last 46 kilometers. What's amazing is that the missile can change its path showing 'S' pattern making it hard to intercept, even for Aegis class ships as claimed by the report.

"The deployment of the latest YJ-18, together with the YJ-12 and YJ-100, has enabled the Navy to deter any foreign navies from approaching its defense areas," a strategy researcher in the PLA, who asked not to be named, told China Daily 10 November 2015. "Compared with anti-ship ballistic missiles, the YJ-18 and YJ-12 will prove to be more useful, because even though ballistic missiles have a longer range and larger destructive power, their launch preparations are more complicated and their use is more likely to escalate a conflict," he explained. By contrast, anti-ship cruise missiles like the YJ-18 are easy to use and more defensive in nature, the researcher said, adding that China has become one of the top developers of anti-ship cruise missiles in the world. "Few countries have developed advanced anti-ship missiles over the past decade as China has done," he said.

Cui Yiliang, editor-in-chief of Modern Ships magazine, told China Daily 10 November 2015 the YJ-18 represents the development trend of next-generation anti-ship cruise missile. It has high intelligence and good flight control and can perform sophisticated maneuvers to avoid detection and interception. Their remarks came in response to interest in the YJ-18 generated by a research report released by the Washington-based US-China Economic and Security Review Commission in October 2015. According to the report, the missile has a cruise speed of 966 km/h throughout most of its 540-km range. When it is about 37 kilometers from its target, the warhead will accelerate to a superfast speed of up to Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound.

"The YJ-18's supersonic speed and long range, as well as its wide deployment on PLA Navy platforms, could have serious implications for the ability of US Navy surface ships to operate freely in the Western Pacific in a contingency," the report said. Yin Zhuo, director of the PLA Navy's Expert Consultation Committee, told China Central Television that no one has succeeded in intercepting a sea-skimming missile even if it is flying at a subsonic speed, so taking down a missile flying at Mach 3 will be very difficult.

In April 2015, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence confirmed that China has deployed the YJ-18 antiship cruise missile (ASCM) on some Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) Navy submarines and surface ships. The YJ-18s greater range and speed than previous Chinese ASCMs, along with its wide deployment across PLA platforms, would significantly increase Chinas antiaccess/area denial capabilities against U.S. Navy surface ships operating in the Western Pacific during a potential conflict.

The YJ-18 probably will be widely deployed on Chinas indigenously built ASCM-capable submarines and newest surface ships by 2020, and China could develop a variant of the YJ-18 to replace older missiles in its shore-based ASCM arsenal. This paper assesses the capabilities of the YJ-18 and describes the implications of its wide deployment for U.S. forces operating in the Western Pacific. The YJ-18 most likely follows a sea-skimming flight path as it approaches its target. By flying only a few meters above the sea, the missile attempts to evade detection by surface radar until it breaks the radar horizon 16 to 18 nm from its target.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the YJ-18 has a range of 290 nm. The YJ-18s predecessor on many Chinese submarines, the YJ-82, has a range of about 20 nm. Chinas C4ISR infrastructure might be insufficient to generate and fuse the targeting information necessary to take advantage of the YJ-18s assessed range. According to the Department of Defense, It is unclear whether China has the capability to collect accurate targeting information and pass it to launch platforms in time for successful [antiship missile] strikes in sea areas beyond the first island chain.

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