Since years the Chinese military boasted of having a strategic magic weapon which can destroy aircraft carriers from afar. The PLA grouped this category of weapons as the shashoujian, which translates to “assassin’s mace”. This term is used to designate a wide array of technologies that can potentially provide superior military power to an inferior military during a conflict. The term underscores the PLA’s recognition that it is in fact an inferior military power compared to the United States.
In Aug 2020, Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Chinese dictatorial regime, in a tongue-in-cheek article said that two “assassin’s mace” missiles, which it referred to as an “aircraft-carrier killer” had travelled thousands of kilometres and had managed to hit their designated target, a moving ship, in the South China Sea.
The missiles, reportedly the DF-21D and the DF-26B, reportedly struck a moving ship close to Paracel Islands with a former senior colonel Wang Xiangsui saying “This is a warning to the US, asking it not to take any military risk”.
China timed the launch of these ballistic missiles when two US Navy aircraft carriers were exercising in the South China Sea.
The Global Times was quick to issue a veiled threat, in its typical propaganda bluster, saying “any aircraft carrier movement in the region is at the pleasure of PLA”.
On its part, the U.S. Navy was quick to call out the bluff saying the two aircraft carriers in the region “are not intimidated.”
While the reason why the U.S. Navy confidently called off the Chinese bluff was abundantly clear to many at that, it would appear that it was probably aware that the ability to strike a static target with precision was fairly easy compared to that of a moving ship.
A missile requires active terminal guidance using a radar or other means, to target a moving ship. It is highly unlikely that a ballistic missile is equipped with such as system. In fact, no country has reportedly developed a capability to strike a moving ship using ballistic missiles.
China’s claim, as reported through its mouthpiece The Global Times, thus falls flat; it would appear that the propaganda piece’s target audience was Chinese citizens.
Whatever little gains it made using its unfounded, and scaremongering propaganda was utterly rubbished by a missile test firing by the U.S. navy on 17 November 2020 wherein it shot down a hostile ballistic missile using a SM3 missile.
The area defense capability demonstrated by the U.S. Navy in this test sucked the wind out of the myth of the Chinese “assassin’s mace” and dented Beijing’s hopes of dominating the South China Sea.
Clearly rattled by the demonstration of the anti-Ballistic missile test by the U.S. Navy, the China Daily suggested that the SM3 is not effective against ‘advanced missiles’, in what is probably a face saving move.