Range cruise Missile launched from ship container

The Russians and the Israelis already have such missiles

By Bill Gertz

Could turn any merchant ship (or truck or train) into a missile platform Pictured the Israeli variant. China is building a long-range cruise missile fired from a shipping container that could turn Beijing’s large fleet of freighters into potential warships and commercial ports into future missile bases. The new missile is in flight testing and is a land-attack variant of an advanced anti-ship missile called the YJ-18C, according to American defense officials.

The missile will be deployed in launchers that appear from the outside to be standard international shipping containers used throughout the world for moving millions of tons of goods, often on the deck of large freighters. The YJ-18C is China’s version of the Club-K cruise missile built by Russia that also uses a launcher disguised as a shipping container. Israel also is working on a container-launched missile called the Lora.

Spokesmen for the Defense Intelligence Agency and Navy declined to comment. Disclosure of the new missile comes as the Trump administration is nearing completion of a trade deal with China aimed at allaying American concerns over illicit trade practices by Beijing. The new missile also could undermine China’s current buying and building spree for international commercial port projects.

The YJ-18C container missile also is being developed as China is engaged in a major global program called the Belt and Road Initiative that will provide Chinese military forces and warships with expanded access through a network of commercial ports around the world. China operates or is building deep water ports in several strategic locations, including Bahamas, Panama, and Jamaica that could be used covertly to deploy ships carrying the YJ-18C.

Other locations include Pakistan’s Gwadar port near the Arabian Sea and in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa close to the strategic choke point of the Bab el Mandeb at the southern end of the Red Sea. Rick Fisher, a China military affairs expert, said he is not surprised China is copying the Russian Club container-launched missile.

“It fits with China’s penchant for seeking asymmetric advantages against its enemies,” said Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center. The new missile also supports China’s longstanding development of deniable technologies such as a hard-to-track shipping container fitted with missiles.

The weapon system also could be sold to Iran or North Korea as China has done in the past with other weapons systems, including long-range missile launchers that were transferred to North Korea. Fisher said China also showcased a precision-guided multiple launch rockets concealed in a shipping container-launcher, similar to the Club-K concept during a military show in 2016. “Containerized missiles give China, Russia, and its rogue state partner’s new options for directly or indirectly for attacking the United States and its allies,” Fisher said. “Shipping container missile launchers can be smuggled through ports or via highway ports of entry and stored for years in a climate-controlled building within range of U.S. military bases, and taken out when needed for military operations,” he added.

Container missiles also can be deployed on commercial ships that can sail off U.S. coasts or within American ports prior to a conflict. “Potentially, Chinese missile launching containers could be stored near the Port of Seattle, waiting for the day they can launch an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warhead-armed missiles over the Bangor nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) base,” Fisher said.

“The EMP blast might take out electronics on the [submarines] and all over the base without having to launch a nuclear missile from China. Washington would be in chaos, would not know against whom to retaliate, and perhaps China uses American distraction to begin its real objective, the military conques.

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