CHINA has been secretly developing Trojan Horse-style missiles hidden in containers that can be unleashed on enemy ports, experts warn.
Military analysts believe the country’s huge fleet of freighters and fishing vessels could be turned into warships with the use of the secretive container missiles.
Disguised as a regular shipping containers, they can be sneaked on board a vessel to blend in seamlessly with the hundreds of others on board.
The sheer number of container ships in the world makes them harder to pinpoint than warships in the event of war.
Like the fabled Trojan Horse, the missiles would be quietly smuggled into or near an enemy port on a civilian vessel before being unleashed in a surprise attack.
Rick Fisher, Senior Fellow in Asian Military Affairs International Assessment and Strategy Center told The Sun Online while Chinese have not officially confirmed they have the missiles – it is likely they have them.
And the it was warned in a study by Stockton Center for International Law that the weapons could violate naval laws.
Meanwhile, retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief, previously said a containerized anti-ship missile would add a significant threat to the US Navy.
It comes amid a new wave of tensions between the US and China as the Communist giant challenges Washington’s status as the world’s top superpower.
China is known to be aggressively developing its military and is squaring up to the US – expanding its reach around the world, such as in Africa.
A mock-up of the missiles first appeared at an arms fair in 2016 and since then there has been speculation since they may now be in service with China’s armed forces.
Mr Fisher believes the weapon fits with the Beijing’s military strategy and likely would be used as an offensive capability against their enemies – potentially being smuggled into foreign ports anywhere in the world.
Mr Fisher told The Sun Online “Chinese strategic preferences for surprise would strongly argue for acquisition” of the missiles.
These would be fitted to “nondescript small Chinese ships in order to mount surprise missile raids against shore defences to assist follow on amphibious or airborne invasion forces”.
Fisher said shipping container missile launchers can be smuggled through ports or via highway ports of entry
They could then be stored for years in a climate-controlled building within range of US military bases, and taken out when needed for military operations.
Mr Fisher said the containerised missiles would “offer China’s leadership a wide array of options”.
Washington would be in chaos, would not know against whom to retaliate
This includes “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”.
“The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is fully capable of using containerized missiles to sow chaos when desired,” he insisted.
For example Chinese missile launching containers could be stored near the Port of Seattle.
The Chinese would wait for the day they can launch an electromagnetic pulse warhead-armed missiles over the nearby nuclear ballistic missile submarine base Fisher said.
“The EMP blast might take out electronics on the [submarines] and all over the base without having to launch a nuclear missile from China,” he said.
“Washington would be in chaos, would not know against whom to retaliate, and perhaps China uses American distraction to begin its real objective, the military conquest of Taiwan.”
According to US officials, the weapons deployed in the containers are an advanced anti-ship missile called the YJ-18C, which is a version of the Russian Club-K weapon.
The missiles fit into a standard 8 feet wide by 8.5 feet high by 20 feet or 40 feet long standard shipping container.
An online animation showing how the Club-K can be fitted into a container shows how the top comes off to reveal the missile with the front making away for the guidance system.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the missile has speed of up to Mach 3 – three times the speed of sound or 2300 miles an hour.
While not in the league of China’s hypersonic missiles, which can reach speeds of Mach 10, analysts believe they can still pack a punch.
So far the only record of missile being fired from a container ship is a picture of a test carried out by Israel.
A large number Chinese container ships enter US ports on the west and east coast making them well within range of the vast majority of the US fleet.
“If this capability is confirmed, it will require a completely new screening regime for all PRC flagged commercial ships bound for U.S. ports,” Fanell said.
The Stockton Center’s study concluded that loading weapons on civilian vessels clandestinely could violate international law.
It wrote: “Failure to comply with the law of armed conflict by surreptitiously incorporating merchant vessels into China’s warfighting/war-sustaining effort endangers civilian seafarers and puts all civilian ships at risk that may be operating in the area of hostilities.”
China is perceived as directly challenging the West for status as the world attempts to recover from the pandemic.
Beijing is making moves to establish a foothold in the Atlantic Ocean with a new series of naval bases on the west coast of Africa.
The country’s first overseas naval base was built years ago in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and it is steadily increasing its capacity.
And for some time, many have thought that China was working to establish a naval base in Tanzania, a country on Africa’s eastern coast that has a strong, long-standing military relationship with Beijing.
Meanwhile, China is also seen to have taken the lead in the next stage of the global arms race as it flew a nuke-capable missile around the world.
Hypersonic missiles are a game changer because unlike ballistic missiles, which fly into space before returning on steep trajectories, they zoom in on targets at lower altitudes.
China – followed closely by Russia – were already regarded as having the most potent hypersonic missile arsenals pouring billions into them but others had been seen as catching up.
But the shocking revelations of their missile test back in August has sent shockwaves through Western intelligence who fear they actually underestimated Beijing.
US intelligence and military officials were reportedly left stunned after China launched a rocket in space carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle which circled the globe before before speeding towards its target.