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China is building long-range cruise missiles launched from ship containers


China is likely to build a variant of its YJ-18 long-range cruise missile that could be fired from shipping containers. This variant would be called the YJ-18C. This new weapon could help China turn its fleet of freighters into potential warships, and commercial ports would then become missile bases.


China is building long range cruise missiles launched from ship containers The Israeli variant of cruise missiles, the Lora missiles, launched from international shipping containers (Picture Source: Checkpoint Asia)


Actually, the new missile variant is in its flight testing phase. This missile would be a land-attack variant of an advanced anti-ship missile that would be deployed in launchers appearing to be standard international shipping containers from the outside. Such containers are being used all around the world for moving millions of tons of goods, and are often placed 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. 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," he said.

Fisher said China also showcased precision-guided multiple-launch rockets concealed in a shipping container-launcher, similar to the Club-K concept during a military show in 2016.

The weapon system also could be sold to Iran or North Korea as China has done in the past with other weapons systems, including long-range missile launchers that were transferred to North Korea.

Such container missiles could also be deployed on commercial ships that can sail off U.S. coasts or within American ports prior to a conflict. It would then be an incredible advantage for China in an open armed conflict against the U.S. armed forces. Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief, said a containerized YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile would add a significant threat to the Navy given the volume of Chinese container ships that enter U.S. ports on the west and east coast, well within the range of the vast majority of the U.S. fleet.