CHINA AND NORTH KOREA GET NEW CAUTION WITH SUCCESSFUL SM-3 BLOCK IIA TEST
Since U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis’s first overseas trip to Japan and South Korea was a reaffirmation of United States policy in the Asia-Pacific region there are two interesting developments worth mentioning.
First, for the third time, the Chinese Defense Ministry has released visuals of its Dongfeng 16 (DF-16) Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) believed to be among their most accurate ballistic missiles. The road-mobile MRBM is believed to be able to carry up to three nuclear or convention warheads, and has a range of 800 to 1000 kilometers. weapons. The DF-16 first viewed in 2015, is believed to be the successor to the less accurate and older DF-11 and DF-15. The DF-16’s primary strategic use is in a showdown with Taiwan, but it has the range to strike American military bases in the so-called “first Island Chain” including Japan and the Philippines. The missile flies to such a height that its speed on re-entry is geared to defeat the United States Patriot PAC-3 air defense missile. Future improvements of the DF-16 are likely to include terminally guided and deep penetrating warheads for use against bunkers.
Second, the United States and Japan successfully flight-tested a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA off the west coast of Hawaii on February 3, 2017. The SM-3, launched from the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones tracked and destroyed the incoming MRBM target in a successful test. The missile interceptor is designed to destroy Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM) to Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) and can be deployed at land-based Aegis sites and on Aegis-equipped warships. The SM-3 has a larger engine and bigger kinetic warhead than its predecessors. Not surprisingly, it is the counter-measure against the Chinese DF-16.
A successful test of the SM-3 Block IIA is a clear further signal to both China and North Korea that the United States is ready.