A few days ago, the Chinese state-run media outlet CCTV disclosed that the supersonic anti-ship missile known as the Eagle Strike 12A (YJ-12A) ranges up to 500 kilometres and is primarily intended to attack large surface ships belonging to hostile nations. In the past, it was believed to have an operational range of 250 and 400 kilometres. Most available information about the YJ-12 comes from unofficial sources or is estimated; hence this information becomes important. The broadcaster also mentioned in the programme that the YJ-18 missile has a range of 600 kilometres.
The YJ-12 anti-ship missile family includes the YJ-12A and YJ-12B variants. YJ-12B is a Shore to Ship missile and part of a coastal defence system.
The primary purpose of this class of missile is to launch attacks against large and medium-sized enemy surface warships. It can maintain its supersonic speed throughout the entirety of its flight and can navigate a variety of intricate flight paths.
The CCTV programme references “multiple complex trajectories,” which lends credence to the rumours concerning this missile. One of these rumours is the belief that the missile has a maximum range of 500 kilometres and is achieved by following a high-altitude trajectory.
In addition, as per Chinese media, it can achieve speeds more than Mach 4 during high-altitude ballistic mode. It also offers vast manoeuvring capabilities in broad airspace, which puts it in a league of its own compared to the Russian P-800 “Bastion” missile and the Indian “BrahMos” missile. The BrahMos missile travels at a speed of 2.8 Mach, nearly equivalent to three times the speed of sound.
The flight path of the Chinese anti-ship missile is discussed in more than one of the available materials on the topic. The information indicates that after being released from a carrier aircraft, the YJ-12 quickly ascends and then dives, achieving a four times faster speed than sound. Furthermore, the anti-ship ammunition begins its horizontal flight at approximately 20 metres above the ocean’s surface and at a maximum speed of 1.5 metres per second. Using various trajectories simultaneously improves the success rates of breakthroughs and makes it more difficult for enemies to interrupt the missile’s movement.
A high-performance inertial navigation system provides Eagle Strike 12A anti-ship missile precision guidance, allowing exceptionally high navigational precision. Moreover, the missile features both active and passive radar guidance capabilities. When these characteristics are combined with sophisticated control algorithms, the Eagle 12A can transition to a mode that searches a large area when it is still far from the target. This reduces the likelihood that an enemy’s radar will detect it. As the Eagle Strike 12A approaches the target, its search mode will alter to concentrate on a smaller region. This increases both the guidance precision and the effect of the attack.
The Chinese media asserts that the YJ-12 missile, in its most advanced configuration, can collect real-time target position, direction, and velocity through information nodes such as satellites, patrol aircraft, unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, and even submarines. Satellite and inertial navigation are employed during the cruise phase of a missile’s trajectory. In addition to gliding low over the water, it can evade an opponent’s defences.
In addition, reports in the media have mentioned that the Eagle Strike 12A anti-ship missile has great covert capabilities. Because of the missile’s stealthy design and construction with materials with a low reflection rate, the waves it reflects on the radar are so feeble that the enemy’s air defence radar cannot detect it.
China classifies the YJ-12A anti-ship missile as a fourth generation supersonic anti-ship missile.
China Sea Eagle Electromechanical Technology Academy (CHEMTA, aka “3rd Academy”) and the Tri-River Aerospace Industrial Group, both subsidiaries of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) (aka “9th Academy”), jointly developed and manufactured the YJ-12 supersonic missile. Development began in the early 1990s, and limited series production commenced in the middle of the 2000s. The missile is about 7 meters long and weighs 2.5 tons. It is fitted with a liquid-propellant ramjet engine.
According to the information on the YJ-12A missile, it is carried by the Xian H-6 aircraft with newer modifications and the Xian JH-7. The H-6 missile carrier can carry four missiles, whereas the JH-7 can only carry two. Considering the missile’s range, the combat radius of both aircraft is considerably increased, which positively impacts the combat capability of naval aviation units equipped with YJ-12A anti-ship missiles. For instance, the combat radius of a JH-7 aircraft equipped with YJ-12A anti-ship missiles is close to 2,000 kilometres.