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
In Service: 2014
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
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
China has developed several YJ-18 variants, primarily differentiated by their respective launch platforms.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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