China 'could hide cruise missiles inside shipping containers'

China ‘could hide cruise missiles inside shipping containers transported by its huge fleet of freighters and use them to carry out surprise attack’

  • China ‘likely’ developing container-based cruise missile launchers, analyst says 
  • System could be used to weaponise China’s huge fleet of  shipping vessels
  • Weapon containers could also be hidden in foreign ports for a surprise attack 
  • System has drawn renewed scrutiny amid arms race between US and China 

China has likely fitted cruise missiles inside shipping containers to be used for surprise attacks in the event of war, a military analyst has warned.

Rick Fisher, of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, believes Beijing could use the system to weaponise its huge fleet of commercial shipping vessels or else sneak the missiles into foreign ports before launching them remotely.

These attacks could be used to knock out coastal defences to prepare the way for an invasion or to sow chaos and confusion as a distraction tactic while China launches an attack elsewhere, Mr Fisher believes.  

China is thought to be working on a cruise missile launch system mounted inside a shipping container for use during surprise attacks (pictured, a similar Russian design concept)

The Chinese system is thought to be based on a Russian design concept called Club-K that was first shown off at a military design expo in 2016 (pictured)

Mr Fisher first sounded the alarm about the system in 2019, when he warned that China was likely developing it based on a similar concept produced by a Russia defence firm back in 2016.

A newly-published paper by the Stockton Center for International Law talks about a Chinese container system, saying: ‘Once perfected, it will provide China with a long-range precision strike capability that can engage both surface combatants and land-based targets.’

Speaking to The Sun following the publication of that paper, Mr Fisher said: ‘The Chinese Communist Party is fully capable of using containerized missiles to sow chaos when desired.’

Attacks would include ‘using larger container ships, thousands of fishing ships or stored containers in ports, to undertake military or terror mission strikes in a manner that can be denied if desired,’ he added.

The Russian system, dubbed Club-K, was designed as a launch pad for its Kaliber cruise missiles, with up to four of them fitted inside a container that also carries launch controls and targeting systems.

China’s own cruise missile – the YJ-18 – is based on the Russian Kaliber, leading some analysts to conclude that Beijing is working on a similar system. 

A Chinese defence company showed off a similar container concept at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai in 2016.

Israel is known to possess container missile technology, after state-owned defence firm Israel Aerospace Industries successfully test-fired its LORA system from the deck of a container ship back in 2017.

And North Korea has also demonstrated a working container-launch system after firing two ballistic missiles from the back of a train earlier this year.

The container system has drawn new attention amid a global arms race taking place between the US, China and Russia amid fears the global superpowers could be headed towards conflict.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing centre around the island of Taiwan, which Xi Jinping has vowed to ‘reunify’ with the Chinese mainland – by force if necessary – and which Joe Biden has vowed to defend.

China has been menacing the island and its government with increasingly large military displays, including flying hundreds of aircraft and bombers near its airspace over the course of three days earlier this year.

Israel is known to possess shipping container launch systems after a state-owned defence company successfully tested it back in 2017 (pictured)

North Korea has also showed off a container-based launch system for its ballistic missiles, which were fired from the back of a train earlier this year 

Beijing has also been using its rapidly expanding navy to throw its weight around in the South China Sea – to the south of Taiwan – and the Sea of Japan – to the north.

In response, the US has forged new alliances with Japan, India, Australia and the UK – in the form of the Quad and AUKUS – aimed at providing a counter-balance to Chinese power in the region.

Beijing has reacted furiously to the pacts, denouncing what it calls a ‘Cold War-era’ mentality and ‘anti-China’ sentiment.

Meanwhile in the east, the US and Russia are squaring off over Ukraine – with Washington warning that Moscow appears to be preparing for an invasion.

Putin will be ready to attack the country within weeks using a force of 175,000 men, plus tanks and artillery, a US intelligence report at the weekend warned.

Biden and Putin are due to hold a telephone call today to try and de-fuse the situation, with the latter denying any invasion plans and instead demanding guarantees that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO.  

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