American supercarriers are the face of the
U.S Navy and have enabled powered projection far off from the U.S homeland. The U.S has 10 Nimitz class supercarrier and
is in the process of deploying Ford class supercarriers. Each of these has a displacement of 100,000
tons, and an overall length of 332.8 m (1,092 feet). To give viewers a perspective, it is about
3 football fields long. These supercarriers are nuclear powered and
hence have unlimited range. The U.S is the only nation to operate so many
supercarriers since they are very costly to build and operate. America’s main rivals Russia and China don’t
have the budget or technical know-how to match these supercarriers. So, instead, they have focused on developing
asymmetric capabilities to counter these supercarriers which include developing sophisticated Anti-ship
weapons. One of these is the Chinese DF 21D. In this video, Defense Updates analyzes why
SM 6 is the American answer to Chinese DF 21D carrier-killer missile? Let’s get into the details. This video is sponsored by War Thunder, the
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bonus tank or aircraft or ship and three days of premium account. The Dong-Feng 21 is a two-stage, solid-fuel
rocket, single-warhead medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) in the Dong Feng series developed
by China Changfeng Mechanics and Electronics Technology Academy. The missile is designed to be fired from land-based
mobile launchers. The U.S. Department of Defense in 2008 estimated
that China had 60-80 missiles and 60 launchers and approximately 10-11 missiles can be built
annually. Originally developed as a strategic weapon,
the DF-21’s later variants were designed for both nuclear and conventional missions. It is thought able to carry a high explosive
and submunition warheads, as well as a nuclear warhead of 300 kt. The DF-21D is said to be the world’s first
anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). It is thought to employ a maneuverable reentry
vehicle (MaRV) with a terminal guidance system. This gives it the ability to hit a moving
aircraft carrier strike group from long-range. According to the U.S. National Air and Space
Intelligence Center, the missile has a maximum range of around 1,450 km or 900 mi. The US Department of Defense stated in 2010
that China reached initial operating capability (IOC) of the missile. United States Naval Institute in 2009 stated
that the warhead of DF-21D would be large enough to destroy an aircraft carrier in one
hit and that there was “currently … no defense against it” if it worked as theorized. Nimitz, as well as Ford-class carriers, have
powerful sensors for 360 coverage of the space around them as well as have a host of defensive
weapons to neutralize different types of threats. This includes 16–24 RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles
and 3-4 Phalanx Close-in Weapon System. RIM-7 Sea Sparrow is short-range anti-aircraft
and anti-missile weapon system, primarily intended for defense against anti-ship missiles. It has a range of 10 miles and speed of Mach
3.5 Phalanx Close-in Weapon System is deployed
for last-ditch defense against anti-ship missile and is capable of firing up to 50 rounds per
second. But these weapons are suitable for defending
against cruise missiles but not against DF-21D which follows a ballistic trajectory. American carriers do not operate alone but
are deployed as part of a “carrier strike group”. The carrier strike group consists of multiple
Ticonderoga-class cruiser and Arleigh Burke class destroyers. Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser and
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer are equipped with a diverse array of weapons
for Anti Aircraft Warfare (AAW), Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti Surface Warfare (ASuW)
as well as have the ability to intercept ballistic missiles through Aegis Ballistic missile defense
system. The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System
is designed by the United States Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency to protect
against short and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense is devised
to intercept ballistic missiles post-boost phase and prior to reentry. It enables these warships to shoot down enemy
ballistic missiles by expanding the Aegis Combat System with the addition of the AN/SPY-1
radar and Standard missiles Aegis BMD-equipped vessels can transmit their
target detection information to other systems and, if needed, engage potential threats using
SM2, SM3 or SM6 missile The heart of the AEGIS systems onboard these
warships is the AN/SPY-1D RADAR. It is an advanced, automatic detect and track,
multifunctional phased-array radar. This high-powered (4 MW) radar is able to
perform search, track and missile guidance functions simultaneously with a capability
of over 100 targets. The RIM-174 Standard Extended Range Active
Missile (ERAM), or Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) have been deployed by the US Navy to counter
different kinds of threats. It was designed for extended range anti-air
warfare (ER-AAW) purposes providing capability against fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, unmanned
aerial vehicles, anti-ship cruise missiles in flight, both over sea and land, and terminal
ballistic missile defense. It can also be used as a high speed anti-ship
missile. The missile uses the airframe of the earlier
SM-2ER Block IV (RIM-156A) missile and some targeting elements from AIM-120C AMRAAM. It can discriminate targets using its dual-mode
seeker, with the semi-active seeker relying on a ship-based illuminator to highlight the
target, and the active seeker having the missile itself sends out an electromagnetic signal. SM 6 has max speed of Mach 3.5 and has a 140
lb (64 kg) blast fragmentation warhead. The initial operating capability of the missile
was planned for 2013 and was achieved on November 27, 2013. On 30 September 2016, Raytheon announced the
SM-6 had achieved the longest surface-to-air intercept in naval history, breaking its previous
long-range intercept record made in January 2016. The missile’s capability enables it to shoot
down a ballistic missile like DF 21D in its terminal phase. Nimitz & Ford class carriers are some of the
biggest warships to roam the oceans. But that doesn’t mean they are slow & lumbering,
powered by their nuclear reactors they can move at 35 miles or 56 km per hour. Though these carriers are so big, in an open
ocean a carrier is not easy to detect or track. In 30 minutes after a sighting by an opponent,
the area within which a carrier might be operating will expand to 900 square miles and this will
increase to around 4,000 square miles after 60 minutes. Also, these supercarriers can pull off last
minute high-speed evasive maneuvers to avoid being hit by the reentry vehicle of DF 21D. It is to be noted that unlike a cruise missile,
the reentry vehicle will have limited ability of course correction during the final plunge
on the target. But the most important aspect is that the
Ticonderoga-class and Arleigh Burke-class warships that are part of the carrier strike
group will be firing multiple SM 6 missiles. It is to be noted that SM 6 is designed to
be launched from the Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS). Ticonderoga-class has 122 and Arleigh Burke-class
has 92 MK 41 cells. So, a significant number of SM 6 will be at
the disposable of a carrier strike group. So, it can be said that with SM 6, the U.S
Navy has an effective counter against Chinese DF 21D carrier killer missile.


  1. Actually, the answer to the df-21d isn't sm-6 but sm-3. Sm-6 is basically there as an "oh shit, an ASBM got through our sm-3 net" backup plan.

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