The Chinese Navy’s YJ-12 cruise missile is considered one of the most capable anti-ship cruise missiles in the world.
The YJ-12 has a speed of up to Mach 4, a range of 400km and a glide trajectory enough to pose a major threat to enemy surface ships. The YJ-12 has been in service since 2014, and is considered a top threat to US and allied warships in the event of a conflict with the PLA. The missile is also said to have a performance advantage over Western rival missile designs such as the Harpoon and Exocet.
After tensions rose in the Taiwan Strait, Taiwanese Navy commanders warned that the YJ-12 anti-ship missile posed a major challenge to the island in the event of a cross-strait war. According to military experts: The Taiwan Strait is no longer a natural barrier to stopping the growing PLA Navy, and no Taiwanese warship can cope with the YJ-12 missile. In the context of such military disparities, Taiwan’s self-defense forces must carefully assess their position and come up with innovative strategies to hit the opponent’s weak points.
Regarding the origin of the missile, the YJ-12 is a combination of Russian and Chinese supersonic missile technology. It is emphasized that the design of the Soviet P-270 Moskit cruise missile greatly influenced the design of the YJ-12. The YJ-12 warhead can reach its target within 30 seconds of firing, making it nearly impossible to intercept. The missile’s range allows it to be fired from beyond the detection range of early warning aircraft, allowing them to strike effectively without warning.
The need for the US Navy to develop countermeasures against missiles has been emphasized, with a greater focus on submarines as one of the potential solutions while the US surface fleet is increasingly threatened. The narrowest point of the Taiwan Strait is just under 130km, which means that China’s coastal cruise missiles can neutralize all assets around the strait.
The YJ-12 is currently deployed from the air by H-6 bombers. It will also come with surface and land-based variants, the YJ-12A and YJ-12B respectively. The missile is deployed on the Type-051B and the Russian-made Sovremenny-class destroyers.
Despite its high performance, the YJ-12 is not considered the PLA’s most capable anti-ship missile, as the YJ-18 was later put into service with a longer range of up to 550-600km. It is being fitted to Type-055 and Type-052D class destroyers. The superiority of these missiles over Taiwanese warships has led some to believe that a single Type-052D destroyer can neutralize Taiwan’s entire surface fleet, even made the US struggle to resist.
The military balance in the Taiwan Strait, which was previously roughly on par with Taiwan and China in the 1990s, has become increasingly favorable to the PLA with its predominance of cruise missiles. China is continuing to develop a hypersonic missile program, which can reach speeds close to Mach 9 with a range in excess of 1,000 km similar to Russia’s Zicron. This will further make the distinction all the more overwhelming, especially when deployed on Type-055 class destroyers.
Currently, the relationship between China and Taiwan is still very complicated, but experts say it will be difficult to have an all-out conflict in this area in the near future.