YJ-18

The YJ-18 (Yingji [Eagle Strike]-18) is a Chinese cruise missile with variants for antiship and land-attack missions. It is reportedly derived from the Russian 3M-54E “Klub” missile and entered service around 2014.1

YJ-18 at a Glance

Originated From: China
Possessed By: China
Alternative Names: CH-SS-NX-13
Class: Cruise Missile
Basing: Ship, submarine, and ground
Length: <8.2 m (inc. booster) 
Diameter: 0.514 m
Launch Weight: <1,579 kg
Payload: 140-300 kg
Warhead: High-explosive or antiradiation
Speed: Mach 0.8 (cruising), Mach 2.5-3.0 (terminal)
Guidance: Satellite navigation and radar guidance
Range: 220-540 km
Status: Operational
In Service: 2014


YJ-18 Development

The YJ-18 was developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) Third Academy starting around the mid-1990s.2 In 2009, references to the YJ-18 program surfaced in Chinese documents exploring metallurgical requirements.3 Among the first U.S. sources to discuss YJ-18 development was an August 2010 report which referred to the missile as the “CH-SS-NX-13.”4 The missile was finalized in 2013 and entered service in 2014.5 China first displayed the YJ-18 on state media in 2014 and again during a military parade in 2019.6

The YJ-18’s specifications represent a notable improvement over China’s older ASCMs, possessing two and three times the range of the earlier 3M-54 and YJ-83, respectively. The YJ-18’s range and lethality supports China’s broader “anti-access, area-denial” (A2/AD) strategy to defeat U.S. forces in a regional military conflict.7 According to one report, the YJ-18 was “specifically designed to defeat the Aegis Combat System.”8 Consequently, the People’s Liberation Army plans to deploy the YJ-18 on its submarines and surface ships. The missile may also replace the YJ-62 fielded by ground-based coastal defense units.9

YJ-18 Specifications

The YJ-18 is an antiship cruise missile bearing a close external resemblance to the supersonic 3M-54E. Though its physical dimensions remain unknown, the YJ-18 likely approximates the 3M-54E’s 8.2 m length, 0.514 m diameter, and 1,579 kg weight, though one report claims it is shorter and lighter.10

Like the 3M-54E, the YJ-18 features a multistage propulsion system, using an air-breathing engine to cruise at Mach 0.8 and a solid rocket booster to travel at Mach 2.5 – 3.0 in a terminal dash to its target.11 The YJ-18 has an estimated range of 220 to 540 km while carrying a 150 to 300 kg payload.12 The missile can fly at sea-skimming altitudes, using a combination of satellite navigation (Beidou) and an active radar seeker for guidance.13

YJ-18 Variants

China has developed several YJ-18 variants, primarily differentiated by their respective launch platforms.

YJ-18
The first production model. It was designed to launch from submarine torpedo tubes for antiship missions, and may have a shorter range than later variants. It entered service in 2015.

YJ-18A
A model designed to fit shipboard vertical launch systems (VLS). It is fitted aboard the Luyang III-class destroyer and Renhai-class cruiser. It entered service in 2015.

YJ-18B
A submarine-launched variant designed for land-attack missions. It fits in VLS tubes aboard the Song-class SS, Yuan-class SSP, and Shang-class SSN. It entered service between 2016-2019.

YJ-18C
A March 2019 report said that China was developing the YJ-18C, a land-attack variant designed to deploy in commercial shipping containers.14 Russia has developed a similar containerized launch system for its 3M-54 Klub-K missile, which fits four missiles into a single container.15

Coastal Defense Variant
Images suggest China also deploys a truck-based YJ-18 variant for coastal defense, although U.S. government sources have not confirmed this development.16 It reportedly entered service around 2015. China may also be developing an aircraft-launched variant as well.17

Service History

In April 2015, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence confirmed that the YJ-18 entered entered service with the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN).18 The missile now reportedly equips:19

  • Luyang III (Type 052D)-class destroyer
  • Renhai (Type 055)-clas cruiser
  • Song (Type 093)-class SS
  • Yuan (Type 041)-class SSP
  • Shang (Type-093)-class SSN

In June 2018, video footage reportedly showed a YJ-18 fitted aboard China’s Shang-class nuclear submarines.20 Earlier reports from 2016 and 2017 also appear to show the submarine-launched YJ-18 variant.21

    1. Dennis M. Gormley, Andrew S. Erickson, and Jingdong Yuan, “A Potent Vector: Assessing Chinese Cruise Missile Developments,” National Defense University, October 2014, https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Media/News/News-Article-View/Article/577568/jfq-75-a-potent-vector-assessing-chinese-cruise-missile-developments/.
    2. “China Eagle 18 missile has four major advantages, the attack area is expanded 600 times,” Chinese Military News, September 20, 2019, https://mil.news.sina.com.cn/jssd/2019-09-20/doc-iicezueu7114250.shtml.
    3. Henri Kenhmann, “What is known about the naval missile YJ-18,” Thai Military and Asian Region (blog), October 21, 2017, https://thaimilitaryandasianregion.blogspot.com/2017/10/what-is-known-about-naval-missile-yj-18.html.
    4. Robert Wall and Bettina H. Chavanne, “Reaching Out,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, August 23, 2010, 30, as found in Ronald O’Rourke, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress, CRS Report No. RL33153 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2010), 9, https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20101223_RL33153_35d0c59b0f3babccf4adbdc74759c5060940cdc7.pdf.
    5. “China Eagle 18 missile has four major advantages, the attack area is expanded 600 times,” Chinese MilitaryNews, September 20, 2019, https://mil.news.sina.com.cn/jssd/2019-09-20/doc-iicezueu7114250.shtml.
    6. “The official first exposure of the eagle strikes 18 anti-ship missiles at low altitude, flying through the sea,” CCTV4, December 7, 2014, https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV13x411N7Xi; Ian Williams and Masao Dahlgren, “More Than Missiles: China Previews its New Way of War,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 16, 2019, https://www.csis.org/analysis/more-missiles-china-previews-its-new-way-war.
    7. Gormley, Erickson, and Yuan, “A Potent Vector: Assessing Chinese Cruise Missile Developments.”; Eric Heginbotham et al., The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power 1996-2017, RAND Report No. RR392 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2015), 153, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf.
    8. Franz-Stefan Gady, “China’s ‘New’ Carrier Killer Subs,” The Diplomat, April 6, 2015, https://thediplomat.com/2015/04/chinas-new-carrier-killer-subs/.
    9. Gormley, Erickson, and Yuan, “A Potent Vector: Assessing Chinese Cruise Missile Developments,” 2.
    10. David Ewing and Malcolm Fuller, “3M-54E Klub,” in IHS Jane’s Weapons: Naval 2016-2017 (United Kingdom: IHS, 2016), 31; Henri Kenhmann, “What is known about the naval missile YJ-18,” Thai Military and Asian Region (blog), October 23, 2017, https://thaimilitaryandasianregion.blogspot.com/2017/10/what-is-known-about-naval-missile-yj-18.html.
    11. “Ship killers: New anti-ship cruise missiles raise the stakes in Northeast Asia,” Jane’s Navy International, April 2018, https://www.janes.com/images/assets/566/79566/Ship_killers_New_anti-ship_cruise_missiles_raise_the_stakes_in_Northeast_Asia.pdf.
    12. Michael Pilger, “China’s New YJ-18 Antiship Cruise Missile: Capabilities and Implications for U.S. Forces in the Western Pacific,” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, October 28, 2015, https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/China%E2%80%99s%20New%20YJ-18%20Antiship%20Cruise%20Missile.pdf.
    13. Ibid.; Zhao Lei, “Cruise missiles are ‘useful’ sea defense,” China Daily, November 10, 2015, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-11/10/content_22416106.htm.
    14. Bill Gertz, “China Building Long-Range Cruise Missile Launched From Ship Container,” The Washington Free Beacon, March 27, 2019, https://freebeacon.com/national-security/china-building-long-range-cruise-missile-launched-from-ship-container/.
    15. Ibid.
    16. Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer, “China’s New Mystery Missile and Launcher,” Popular Science, August 11, 2015, https://www.popsci.com/chinas-new-mystery-missile-and-launcher/.
    17. Bill Gertz, “ONI Reveals Massive Chinese Naval Buildup,” The Washington Free Beacon, April 10, 2015, https://freebeacon.com/national-security/oni-reveals-massive-chinese-naval-buildup/.
    18. “The PLA Navy: New Capabilities and Missions for the 21st Century,” Office of Naval Intelligence, July 2015, 13, https://web.archive.org/web/20150727141029/http:/www.oni.navy.mil/Intelligence_Community/china_media/2015_PLA_NAVY_PUB_Interactive.pdf as reported in Pilger, “China’s New YJ-18 Antiship Cruise Missile.”
    19. “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019,” Department of Defense, May 2019, 47, https://media.defense.gov/2019/May/02/2002127082/-1/-1/1/2019_CHINA_MILITARY_POWER_REPORT.pdf.
    20. Richard D. Fisher Jr., “Images show possible YJ-18 ASCM in Chinese Shang-class submarine,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, June 19, 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20190514212657/https:/www.janes.com/article/81176/images-show-possible-yj-18-ascm-in-chinese-shang-class-submarine; Franz-Stefan Gady, “Image May Confirm Advanced Anti-Ship Capability of China’s Type 093 Submarine,” The Diplomat, June 20, 2018, https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/image-may-confirm-advanced-anti-ship-capability-of-chinas-type-093-submarine/.
    21. Franz Stefan Gady, “Image May Confirm Advanced Anti-Ship Capability of China’s Type 093 Submarine,” The Diplomat, June 20, 2018, https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/image-may-confirm-advanced-anti-ship-capability-of-chinas-type-093-submarine/; “Submarine-Launched Variant of China’s YJ-18 Supersonic Anti-Ship Missile Emerges,” Navy Recognition, October 2, 2017, https://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/defence-news/2017/october-2017-navy-naval-forces-defense-industry-technology-maritime-security-global-news/5620-submarine-launched-variant-of-china-s-yj-18-supersonic-anti-ship-missile-emerges.html.