Chinese military planners say they are now capable of destroying the United States’s most advanced aircraft carrier fleet by launching an attack using hypersonic weapons.
“Over 20 intense battles, Chinese forces sank the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier fleet with a volley of 24 hypersonic anti-ship missiles, in a simulation run on a mainstream war game software platform used by China’s military,” the South China Morning Post reported.
In the war games, the U.S. fleet was attacked after continuing to approach a China-claimed island, assumably Taiwan, after repeated warnings.
A paper detailing the war game was published this month, marking the first time the results of simulated hypersonic strikes against a U.S. carrier fleet have been made public, the Post reported. The publication of the paper comes as some speculate China may be considering moving to re-take Taiwan if American financial and weapons commitments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict stretches the U.S. too thin.
The $13 billion USS Gerald Ford was commissioned in 2017 and is America’s most advanced aircraft carrier. The Ford is the first new carrier design in four decades and features new technologies that allow it to operate with 600 fewer crew personnel than its predecessors.
The Ford has almost three times the amount of electrical power as Nimitz-class carriers, and uses an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), rather than the previous steam catapult system.
For their protection, U.S. carriers are outfitted with a number of defenses, including high-performance sensors warning of incoming missiles, its own radar-guided missiles, 20mm Gatling guns that shoot 50 rounds per second, as well as planes and helicopters able to detect and counter threats.
Previously regarded as unsinkable with conventional weapons, Chinese officials now say the latest war games show the U.S.’s top carrier group would be “destroyed with certainty” by a small number of hypersonic missile strikes.
Hypersonic weapons travel at a speed faster than Mach 5, which is roughly one mile per second. They are also capable of a high degree of maneuverability at high speeds, making them nearly indefensible.
“China has placed a heavy emphasis on developing and testing hypersonic glide vehicles,” the U.S. Department of Defense warned in its 2020 Annual Report to Congress.
Two years later, in its annual report, defense officials noted the advancements China has made with its hypersonic weapon programs, telling lawmakers that the technology will “continue to transform [China’s] missile force.”
News of China’s purported ability to neutralize an entire U.S. carrier group came at the same time that a Russian scientist, along with two other hypersonic missile technology experts, were arrested on suspicion of treason and accused of selling hypersonic technology to China.
The day the Post’s story ran, a fleet tracker showed the USS Gerald Ford in Oslo, Norway. The carrier’s location was confirmed by Reuters, which said the ship and its crew were conducting training exercises with the Norwegian armed forces.