Singapore Aviation Show ExpereinceThe anti-ship missile is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to increase a navy’s firepower, and consequently remains a key weapon in global naval arsenals. The Asia-Pacific is the fastest growing market for these weapons: China’s increased pressure on Taiwan and exchanges of warning shots by North and South Korea’s navies highlight ongoing maritime disputes in the region that are pushing broad naval modernisation. Anti-ship missiles are a vital component of this, with many regional nations investing heavily in domestically manufacturing these weapons.

During the Cold War, anti-ship missiles (AShMs) were heavily produced as primary weapons for use against shipping, but with conflict shifting to counter-terror operations and ‘small wars’ in the 2000s, production waned. However, with conflict in Europe and greatly increased tensions in the Asia-Pacific, focus is once again shifting towards AShMs and production is increasing after years of decline. Around 6,000 new AShMs are expected to be manufactured over the next two decades.

Most AShMs in the Asia-Pacific are fairly conventional subsonic weapons, but new generations are becoming faster, smarter, and stealthy, with supersonic and hypersonic weapons blurring the line between anti-ship and ballistic missiles. However, slower, simpler and cheaper AShMs continue to dominate military inventories, providing a nevertheless significant anti-shipping capability that is highly valued by nations in the Asia-Pacific.


China in particular has been the most aggressive in pursuing AShMs in the region, developing many weapons that pose a significant threat to foreign naval forces, and prompting the United States to increase its own AShM arsenal. Chinese AShMs come in all shapes and sizes, including ballistic and hypersonic weapons like the ground-based DF-21D, with 1,200km+ range. This entered service around 2010 and appears to have been developed into the ship-launched YJ-21 and air-launched CH-AS-X-13. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) became the first to field a shiplaunched anti-ship ballistic missile, revealing a YJ-21 launch from a Type 055 cruiser in April 2022. Such weapons have alarmed foreign navies due to their ‘carrier killer’ capabilities and difficulty to intercept.

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