China Building Long-Range Cruise Missile Launched From Ship Container

Disguised weapon turns freighters into warships, ports to missile bases

By  Bill Gertz

China is building a long-range cruise missile fired from a shipping container that could turn Beijing’s large fleet of freighters into potential warships and commercial ports into future missile bases.

LORA launch

LORA launch

The new missile is in flight testing and is a land-attack variant of an advanced anti-ship missile called the YJ-18C, according to American defense officials.

The missile will be deployed in launchers that appear from the outside to be standard international shipping containers used throughout the world for moving millions of tons of goods, often on the deck of large freighters.

The YJ-18C is China’s version of the Club-K cruise missile built by Russia that also uses a launcher disguised as a shipping container. Israel also is working on a container-launched missile called the Lora.

Spokesmen for the Defense Intelligence Agency and Navy declined to comment.

Disclosure of the new missile comes as the Trump administration is nearing completion of a trade deal with China aimed at allaying American concerns over illicit trade practices by Beijing.

The new missile also could undermine China’s current buying and building spree for international commercial port projects.

The YJ-18C container missile also is being developed as China is engaged in a major global program called the Belt and Road Initiative that will provide Chinese military forces and warships with expanded access through a network of commercial ports around the world.

China operates or is building deep water ports in several strategic locations, including Bahamas, Panama, and Jamaica that could be used covertly to deploy ships carrying the YJ-18C.

Other locations include Pakistan’s Gwadar port near the Arabian Sea and in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa close to the strategic choke point of the Bab el Mandeb at the southern end of the Red Sea.

Rick Fisher, a China military affairs expert, said he is not surprised China is copying the Russian Club container-launched missile.

“It fits with China’s penchant for seeking asymmetric advantages against its enemies,” said Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

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