Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles

Defense Technology International reports in its new issue (p.25) about PRC's development of an Anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM or AShBM) with radar seeker - a version of a Dong Feng-21 (DF-21) IRBM. The article also mentions the development of a radar-guided version of an otherwise quite cheap artillery rocket (WS-2, 400mm, 200 km or more, six on a truck).

Sea-skimmer anti-ship missiles like Exocet changed the face of naval warfare and claimed several victims in the few naval actions since 1982. Such missiles avoided the rather primitive anti-air of most ships by flying too close to the sea. They were (and still usually are) subsonic, dependent on 2D radar, have a rather small warhead (comparable to a single average bomb) in comparison to earlier anti-ship missiles and the range is quite small (at least in comparison to the huge Russian anti-ship missiles).
Dedicated defense systems like Seawolf, Phalanx, RAM, Goalkeeper, AK-630, various jammers and decoy launchers were fielded within a few years, but many warships were still insufficiently protected two decades after the sea skimmer's appearance.
The damage and loss of warships (like HMS Sheffield, USS Stark, INS Hanit) that was inflicted by such sea-skimmer missiles was usually explained by insufficient defensive readiness - not hardware shortcomings, though.
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The aforementioned two Chinese projects describe two new threats that need to be dealt with:

Problem 1: "Cheap" artillery rockets for saturation attacks

Most of the naval air defense depends on the few dozen anti-air missiles on board of the average warship. The close-in weapon systems (CIWS) have enough ammunition to handle many more targets, but their utility against many targets arriving at once is questionable (RAM looks best in this regard).
The ammunition cost for saturating attack is certainly much lower than the cost of a fully-equipped warship. It's probably even lower than the cost for the defensive munitions alone.
Naval defense against saturation attacks got improved in the 80's with the AEGIS system and much improved in the last few years with the arrival of SAMs with illumination-independent seekers (active radar, infrared; Aster, SM-6).
These saturation-proof defenses are probably too expensive to match the needs of the future, though. More cost-efficient systems (probably by addition of cheap command-controlled missiles) might be advisable.

Problem 2: Tactical ballistic missiles with anti-ship capability and very high speed

These missiles have a much better range, are difficult to defeat due to their velocity and possibly also due to their evasive maneuvers.
This is clearly a high-tech, high-cost approach. A very well-developed naval reconnaissance is necessary to exploit the range. This means satellites,over-the-horizon radars, Electronic intelligence and high-flying aircraft with long-range sensors. It's more difficult to detect a battlegroup at the open sea than many people imagine.
The defense against such a missile seems to consist of high-tech ATBM, jammers and possibly decoys.
The intense interest of Western navies in ATBM technology can be explained with this threat. The idea that ballistic missiles could aim at ships with their radars isn't very common in public discussions, though. There's probably a public relations deficit of Western navies. The taxpayers should be informed about the reason for the interest in ATBM technology.

These are two 'new', publicly known threats to naval surface ships. We'll see how many decades it will take till all major warships of so-called 'modern' navies are well-protected against these.
The technological potential for these threats exists almost since the sea-skimmer revolution (the Pershing II missile already had a target-seeking radar, for example).
We should be well-prepared by now, but maybe the preference for high-tech, high-end systems poses a problem for the preparation against cheap ammunition saturation attacks.

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