South China Sea

Can US destroy artificial islands in South China Sea?

The United States must develop a plan on how to take down China’s assets in the South China Sea, one of the world’s most vital shipping lanes. This plan according to US Senator Marco Rubio is to discourage China’s rise as a military power, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, where U.S. officials have an increased wariness about China’s aggression. 

Can US take down an island?

Certainly yes. Aside from having loads of nuclear weapons to get the job done, the US could destroy the islands with relative ease using conventional weapons.

However, U.S. assault would be among the most difficult military operations carried out because these artificial islands are increasingly being heavily defended.

J-11B fighters

China had deployed advanced J-11B heavy fighters in its South China Sea airfields. These aircraft is more capable than anything in the U.S. Air Force’s arsenal with the exception of the F-22 Raptor.

J-11B fighters

YJ-12 anti-ship missiles

South China Sea is guarded by a number of advanced long-range ship hunting platforms, giving China an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) ranges of several hundred kilometers which serve as complementary to the fighter aircraft deployed.

Among these weapons are the YJ-12 anti ship missiles, with a formidable 400km strike range, 500kg warheads, and an impact speed of up to Mach 4 – more than four times the speed of American cruise missiles as the Tomahawk. 

YJ-12 anti-ship missiles

HQ-9B surface to air missiles

Last year reports have revealed that Beijing has deployed HQ-9B in the South China Sea. This missile system is capable of targeting hostile fighter aircraft, bombers or even stealth aircraft, with 180kg warheads at ranges of up to 300km and speeds of up to Mach 4.2. HQ-9B can post a serious threat to U.S. aerial assets if it will operate offensively against China’s artificial islands.

HQ-9B Surface to Air Missiles

Is future conflict possible or not?

Destroying Chinese artificial islands in the South China Sea will not bring any benefit for the US, since US interests are not being affected widely yet, and doing so will get it into a costly war with China. But that is not to say it’ll never happen.