'Carrier killer': Why China's Rocket Force conducted DF-26 ballistic missile test at night

Global Times quoting Chinese radio said that "a missile brigade affiliated with the PLA Rocket Force recently organised an exercise at midnight".

PLA Rocket Force

Amid tensions in the South China Sea with the United States, China's state-run Global Times said that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force conducted a "series of exercises with the 'aircraft carrier killer' DF-26 ballistic missile at night".

China's mouthpiece quoting Chinese radio said that "a missile brigade affiliated with the PLA Rocket Force recently organised an exercise at midnight, featuring training courses like multi-wave mock fire strike and transferring and loading of missiles."

The move is considered significant in that it was conducted at night which could mean the PLA is well prepared to undertake a surprise attack.

(Photograph:AFP)

'Carrier killer'

It is not the first time China tested its DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The PLA had tested the anti-ship ballistic missile in August last year in the South China Sea.

The DF-26 is also called the "carrier killer" as one US commander Vice Adm. Jeffrey Trussler, the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare pointed out that China is trying to "rim their coast in the South China Sea with anti-ship missile capability."

The DF-26 reportedly has a range of 4,000 kilometres.

(Photograph:AFP)

DF-26 missile can cover South China Sea & Indo-Pacific region

The DF-26 missile with its superior range can cover vast areas in the South China Sea and including the Indo-Pacific region. The intermediate-range ballistic missile was inducted into the Chinese defence forces three years ago

The Chinese defence forces can reportedly fire the missile at an aircraft carrier from a distance of 1000 to 2000 nautical miles.

China has been moving the missiles quite openly this year. In January, it deployed the DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) to a training site in Shandong province in the east, according to  Maxar Technologies Satellite photos.

(Photograph:AFP)

US, China military drills in South China Sea

Tensions have been brewing in the South China Sea for over a year now with China and the US-led coalition testing each other's capability by conducting drills openly.

On Thursday, China's foreign ministry dismissed a joint naval exercise between US and Australia in the South China Sea as "showing off" of military might.

US Navy and Royal Australian Navy have been conducting week-long bilateral operations in the South China Sea.

It is therefore no surprise that the PLA carried out its testing of the "aircraft carrier killer" at about the same time as the US-Australia drills were taking place.

(Photograph:AFP)

Japan, US, France drill

Japanese forces also launched a joint drill with US and French troops in southwestern Japan with an Australian Naval ship also taking part in the week-long air, land and sea exercises involving 300 ground troops from the three countries.

The latest military exercise comes as Tokyo looks to deepen defence ties beyond its key US ally and with eyes on Beijing's moves in the East and South China seas.

The drills, which include fighter jet and amphibious operation exercises, will be held in the Kyushu region and at sea.

(Photograph:AFP)

China's claim on South China Sea & the so-called nine-dash line

China claims the majority of the South China Sea, invoking its so-called nine-dash line to justify what it says are historic rights to the key trade waterway.

Japan has long said it feels threatened by China's vast military resources and territorial disputes.

It is particularly concerned by Chinese activity around the Japanese-administered Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyus.

France has strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific including territories like Reunion in the Indian Ocean and French Polynesia in the South Pacific.

(Photograph:AFP)

Indo-Pacific strategy

The Indo-Pacific strategy in 2018, describes Japan, Australia, India and the US as key strategic partners in the region.

Japan has rarely held joint military drills with European counterparts, but both a British aircraft carrier and German frigate are expected to be sent to the Indo-Pacific region later this year.

(Photograph:AFP)

Taiwan Straits conflict

The Taiwan Straits is another point of friction between the United States and China. The United States, which has diplomatically recognised Beijing since 1979, has maintained relations with Taipei and remains its most important military ally.

A US law requires Washington to help the island defend itself in the event of a conflict.

In recent months, the Chinese Air Force has increased incursions into Taiwan's air defense identification zone. The US military fears a surprise invasion by China, and they, too, criticise the lack of clarity from the executive branch.

(Photograph:AFP)

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