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PLA’s YJ-18 Anti-Ship Missile Useful Against US Navy Aircraft Carrier


Footage
of what appeared to be China’s YJ-18 anti-ship missile, rumored to be
in development, was shown recently in a news report on state broadcaster
China Central Television.If reports about the missile are accurate, it will be China’s first combination subsonic and supersonic anti-ship missile.
  
According
to an unnamed source cited by a military affairs column on Chinese news
web portal Sina, the YJ-18 will be the basis for a series of models
that will be adapted for launch from warships, submarines and from the
coast and will likely replace current anti-ship missiles, given its
versatility.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy currently
employs several different models of anti-ship missile, which requires a
great deal of logistics and maintenance planning.
The six
series of anti-ship missiles the PLA Navy uses include the HY series
developed from the Soviet-era P-15, the YJ-8/YJ-83 series developed from
the YJ-8, the YJ-62 series developed from the YJ-6 and the most recent
YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missile. Imports include the 3M80E/BE and the
3M-54E series. Each of these missile series requires its own launcher
and guidance system, which places logistical pressure on the navy,
making the simplification of anti-ship models a major priority.

YJ-18 anti-ship missile
YJ-18 anti-ship missile

According
to overseas media outlets, the YJ-18 is likely similar to the imported
3M-54 Klub series, which itself is part of a series of missiles
including the 3M-54E subsonic anti-ship missile, the 3M-54E1 subsonic
anti-ship missile, the 3M-14E inertial guided land attack cruise missile
and the 91RE1/RE2 anti-submarine missile. The anti-ship and land attack
missile variants in the series are said to be the same in their basic
structure and their rocket boosters and turbojet propulsion systems are
also said to be identical; the difference is that the warhead of the
3M-54E incorporates a fixed rocket propulsion system, which at its
terminal stage velocity approaches Mach 3, increasing its defense
penetration capabilities. The anti-ship variants of the 3M-54 are over
eight meters long however, and weigh over 2,000kg, so they can only be
carried on destroyers or larger vessels. The 3M-14E land attack variant
is similar in structure to ordinary anti-ship missiles; it is a low
altitude sea skimming missile and is reduced to 6.2m in length, weighing
just 1,500kg, meaning it can be launched from small and medium-sized
naval vessels, such as corvettes. The 3M-14E1 is a remodel of the
3M-54E1 control system, using a highly explosive warhead, to raise the
surface impacted by the missile. As they are all part of the same
series, they share the same basic structure, and they all have a
diameter of 0.533m, which simplifies logistics and maintenance. 


Overseas
news reports suggest that the YJ-18 uses the same “flat wing
configuration” as the 3M-54E, which resembles the wings of an airplane.
It has a high wing aspect ratio, which allows it to ascend rapidly with
little drag, giving it an impressive lift-drag ratio compared to the
tail fins used by current tactical missiles. It is estimated that the
flat wing configuration can bring the lift-drag ratio to 6-8, while the
tail fin configurations can normally only reach 2-3. Breguet’s range
equation states that the lift drag ratio is directly proportional to
range, which gives the flat wing configuration a clear advantage over
the tail fin configuration, which explains why all long-range missiles,
such as the Tomahawk cruise missile, have a flat wing design. 

The
disadvantage of the flat wing configuration is also the high aspect
ratio, which requires a mechanism for retracting and spreading the
wings, otherwise the missile is impossible to load in an ordinary
launcher. The flat wing design also makes it hard for the missile to
turn. The advantage of tail fins is the smaller aspect ratio, which
means they can be more easily loaded into normal launchers and are
easier to fold. Missiles with tail fins can propel themselves in any
direction more easily and allow for a bigger proportional overload.
Propulsion is also better, but the disadvantage is that its lift drag
ratio is lower.
  
Along with the advances in
sourcing materials and technology, the size of the structure used to
fold the wings has been reduced and missiles can now lean into bends to
increase their maneuverability, which has made a flat wing configuration
more practical and it appears to have been used for the YJ-62 and even
in the C-705 lightweight anti-ship missile, which likely built the
foundation for the use of the flat wing configuration for the YJ-18.
The
flat wing configuration will give it a larger trajectory than normal
anti-ship missiles, which will come in handy when backed up with an
aircraft carrier. The Z-18 early warning helicopter believed to being
developed by China has a search range of around 100-150 km from the
carrier and flies at a height of 3,000m with a radar scanning range of
around 200km. This allows the YJ-18 to hit targets within 300km south of
the carrier, which is far beyond the range of current anti-ship
missiles and this could be extended to 400 km if there was a fixed wing
early warning aircraft deployed from the carrier. 

The
warhead of the YJ-18 is also reported to be bigger than its
predecessors. The 3M-54E has a warhead of around 200 kg and a high
terminal stage velocity, which increases its impact and the 3M-54E1
pushes this to 400 kg, which makes them both more effective than
warheads currently in service, like the Exocet and Harpoon missiles and
the Chinese YJ-83. The YJ-83 uses a 170 kg semi-armor-piercing delayed
detonation warhead. Previously anti-ship missiles were designed with the
3000 ton warships in mind, but the escort ships of US aircraft carrier
groups are all above 8,000 tons now and Japan Self Defense Force
destroyers are all around 6,000 tons, so the greater the power of
anti-ship missiles, the more damage they can cause.