China has been working hard to upgrade their military capabilities in order to eventually rival the power and ability of the US.
Already, the Chinese Navy is expected to outpace the US Navy in sheer numbers by 2020. Quantity is obviously not a sign of quality, but it is just one sign among many of Beijing’s constantly growing military clout.
However, one of the largest signals of China’s ever increasing strength is the strides it is making in ballistic missile technology. As the following chart from the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission demonstrates, China now has the capability to hit US military targets on Guam with ballistic missiles launches from the mainland.
The chart highlights the various ranges of ballistic missiles that China has in its arsenal divided into air, naval, and ground categories. The ranges are calculated showing the missile’s estimated farthest possible range based upon a launching location in China that is as close as possible to the target.
China’s air-launched missiles have the longest range and would be able to hit Darwin, Australia. However, the missiles are launched by bombers with large radar cross-sections that would be relatively easy to detect and defend against.
More difficult to prepare for is China’s growing submarine fleet. It’s latest classes of submarines can sail out to Guam in under two days, while its stealthier but slower diesel submarines can reach the US-owned island in under 4 days. These submarines can all be equipped with ballistic missiles which could greatly complicate US activities around Guam.
Finally, China’s ground-based ballistic missiles have rapidly been advancing in range. Its DF-26 missile, unveiled last year, has enough range to hit Guam when launched from the Chinese mainland. The missile is also capable of carrying conventional or nuclear munitions.
Due to these capabilities, the report refers to the DF-26 as a “Guam Killer” and notes that “[c]ombined with improved air- and sea-launched cruise missiles and modernizing support systems, the DF-26 would allow China to bring a greater diversity and quality of assets to bear against Guam in a contingency than ever before.”
As the Washington Post notes, Guam currently houses 5,000 US military personnel, and is an important Pacific base housing both nuclear submarines and aircraft.