US Carrier Strike Group can be countered with 24 hypersonic missiles, China claim

According to the South China Morning Post, details of a Chinese war game show that a US Carrier Strike Group led by USS Gerald R. Ford could be sunk with as few as 24 hypersonic missiles.
Christopher McFadden
A US Carrier Strike Group in 2003.

U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons 

Chinese military planners have allegedly run a war game of a hypersonic missile attack on a United States Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports. After running the simulation tens of times, they found that a barrage of 24 hypersonic missiles would be enough to obliterate the fleet in short order.

The underlying principle of the war game was to be “lenient with the enemy and strict with oneself,” Cao Hongsong from the North University of China, who led the team, told the SCMP. To this end, the carrier group included six of the United States' most advanced and capable ships, including the CVN-78 USS Gerald R. Ford, accompanied by a CG56 Ticonderoga-class cruiser, the USS San Jacinto, and four DDG-103 Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA guided missile destroyers.

As the SCMP reports, the Ford-class aircraft carrier, commissioned in July 2017, showcases exceptional technology and design enhancements. It boasts a pioneering electromagnetic launch system, state-of-the-art radar and electronic warfare systems, and other advanced features. These sophisticated technologies enable the detection of incoming threats while multiple layers of armor and protective systems are in place to mitigate the impact of missile attacks and other enemy firepower. Moreover, the researchers highlighted that the cruisers and destroyers in the strike group are equipped with advanced weapons and defensive measures. Their radar systems can detect incoming threats and track multiple targets simultaneously.

The research paper also stated that the carrier group's total number of air-defense missiles was 264, including the RIM-161E SM-3, an advanced missile designed to intercept ballistic missiles in the midcourse or terminal phase. The group of carriers was well-equipped with various soft defense weapons to counter missile attacks effectively. These weapons included decoys, chaff, and flare dispensers.

For Chinese forces in the simulations, several constraints were placed on the Chinese military, such as a lack of access to spy satellites stationed in space and a limited number of hypersonic missiles. Chinese offensive forces included several Mach 11 hypersonic missiles and a suite of slower, less capable missiles designed to "soak up," US anti-missile defenses.

Yet, despite these artificial Chinese handicaps and buffs for the US Navy, the simulations showed that such an attack would be devastating, with an average of 5.6 of the six ships sunk. Of the ships that typically survived the attack, these consist of the smaller, more nimble destroyers that tend to have more "soft" defenses compared to larger capital ships. These include physical things like flares and chaff but also, critically, electronic warfare systems that can confuse missile sensors.

It is currently unclear why China decided to make public the results of their war game. The exact details or validity of the released information on the wargame have also not been independently verified.

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