Beijing: Amid deepening row with the US over disputed South China Sea where American ships challenged China's claims of sovereignty, Chinese military has deployed its latest anti-ship cruise missiles which experts say can form a powerful defence line at sea.
"The deployment of the latest YJ-18, together with the YJ-12 and YJ-100, has enabled the Navy to deter any foreign navies from approaching its defence areas," state-run China Daily quoted unnamed strategy researcher in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as saying.
"Few countries have developed advanced anti-ship missiles over the past decade as China has done," he said.
Yin Zhuo, director of the PLA Navy's Expert Consultation Committee, told China Central Television that no one has succeeded in intercepting a sea-skimming missile even if it is flying at a subsonic speed, so taking down a missile flying at Mach 3 will be very difficult.
"Compared with anti-ship ballistic missiles, the YJ-18 and YJ-12 will prove to be more useful, because even though ballistic missiles have a longer range and larger destructive power, their launch preparations are more complicated and their use is more likely to escalate a conflict," the researcher was quoted as saying by the report.
By contrast, anti-ship cruise missiles like the YJ-18 are easy to use and more defensive in nature, the researcher said, adding that China has become one of the top developers of anti-ship cruise missiles in the world.
Cui Yiliang, editor-in-chief of Modern Ships magazine, said the YJ-18 represents the development trend of next-generation anti-ship cruise missile.
It has high intelligence and good flight control and can perform sophisticated manoeuvres to avoid detection and interception.
Their remarks came in the backdrop of recent stand-offs between Chinese and American navies as a US warship sailed past artificial islands built by China in the South Chia Sea where Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have over lapping claims.
The China Daily also highlighted the Washington-based US-China Economic and Security Review Commission in October about the China's missiles which has a cruise speed of 966 km/h throughout most of its 540-km range.
When it is about 37 km from its target, the warhead will accelerate to a superfast speed of up to Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound.
"The YJ-18's supersonic speed and long range, as well as its wide deployment on PLA Navy platforms, could have serious implications for the ability of US Navy surface ships to operate freely in the Western Pacific in a contingency," the report said.