The Chinese military have for years boasted of a magic weapon capable of destroying aircraft carriers from a long range. This magic weapon comes under the category of weapons dubbed the Shashoujian, or “Assassin’s Mace” by the PLA. The “Assassin’s Mace” term is used to designate a wide array of technologies that might afford an inferior military an advantage in a conflict with a superior military power. 

In Aug 2020, the Chinese Govt mouthpiece, Global Times, reported that two “aircraft-carrier killer” missiles or “Assassin’s Mace” launched by China had travelled thousands of kilometres and hit their designated target, a moving ship, in the South China Sea. The missiles were reportedly DF-26B and DF-21D missiles and are claimed to have struck a moving ship close to Paracel Islands. A former Senior Colonel Wang Xiangsui says “This is a warning to the US, asking it not to take any military risk.” 

Interestingly the missile launch by China was timed to coincide with the presence of two US Navy aircraft carriers which were exercising in the South China Sea at that time. The Global Times made a typically propaganda bluster declaring that “any aircraft carrier movement in the region is at the pleasure of PLA”.

This Chinese bluff was almost immediately called out by the US Navy when it responded, that the two US aircraft carriers in the region “are not intimidated”.

The answer as to why the  US Navy confidently called off the Chinese bluff was not  clear to many people at that time. One possible explanation is that the US Navy is aware that while ballistic missiles have the capability to strike a static target with high degree of precision it is not easy to target a moving ship. A missile requires active terminal guidance using a radar or other means to target a moving ship but it is highly unlikely that a Ballistic missile has got such a system. In fact, no country in the world has developed such ballistic missiles which can target moving ships. The Chinese claim thus appears to be nothing but an empty boast to impress its domestic audience.


Whatever little hopes the Chinese had of scaremongering using this “assassin’s mace” have now been destroyed by a test missile firing undertaken on the 17th of November 2020. In this test, a US Navy Destroyer shot down a hostile ballistic missile using a SM3 missile. 

The area defence capability demonstrated by this test clearly put paid to the Chinese hopes of making South China Sea as ‘Lake China’. The myth of the “assassin’s mace” has thus been given and ignominious sea burial. 

China Daily predictably has been rattled by this anti-Ballistic missile test and suggested that this missile is not effective against ‘advanced missiles’. No one is however losing sleep over this mythical “assassin’s mace” and South China Sea remains open as per International conventions. 
About the Author
About the Author

Manoj Rawat

Manoj Rawat is a former Indian naval captain and director of naval operations at the Naval Headquarters, New Delhi. He has years of experience on front­line warships and senior operational and policy positions in the Ministry of Defence. Rawat is an alumnus of National Defence Academy, Singapore Aviation Academy, Indonesian Command and Staff College, and College of Defence Management.
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