When the 4 Star running PACOM says it (ADM Willard), and one the nations most prominent PLA analysts reports it (Andrew Erickson), it would be difficult to find two better sources for confirmation. Indeed, it might be impossible to find two better sources for confirmation.
From Andrew Erickson's fantastic blog.
As we enter the Year of the Hare, China has achieved a major military milestone far faster than many foreign observers thought possible.[i] In a December 2010 interview with veteran national security journalist Yoichi Kato of the Asahi Shimbun, Admiral Robert F. Willard, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, offered significant new revelations:Read the rest at Andrew Erickson's blog. There is no greater source on the internet for the DF-21D and Andrew's blog is one of the best link libraries on the internet for finding additional information.
Kato: Let me go into China’s anti-access area denial (A2AD) capabilities. What is the current status of China’s anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) development, and how close is it to actual operational deployment?
Willard: The anti-ship ballistic missile system in China has undergone extensive testing. An analogy using a Western term would be “initial operational capability (IOC),” whereby it has—I think China would perceive that it has—an operational capability now, but they continue to develop it. It will continue to undergo testing, I would imagine, for several more years.
Q: China has IOC?
A: You would have to ask China that, but as we see the development of the system, their acknowledging the system in open press reporting and the continued testing of the system, I would gauge it as about the equivalent of a U.S. system that has achieved IOC.
Q: China has already perfected the technology to fly that missile and also the sensor systems for targeting. Has the entire system integration been completed?
A: Typically, to have something that would be regarded as in its early operational stage would require that that system be able to accomplish its flight pattern as designed, by and large.
Q: But they have not conducted the actual flight test or the test to attack moving ships yet, have they?
A: We have not seen an over-water test of the entire system.
Q: But do you believe they already have that capability?
A: I think that the component parts of the anti-ship ballistic missile have been developed and tested.
Q: Is it a bigger threat to the United States than submarines in terms of their anti-access area denial?
A: No, I don’t think so. Anti-access area denial, which is a term that was relatively recently coined, is attempting to represent an entire range of capabilities that China has developed and that other countries have developed.
It’s not exclusively China that has what is now being referred to as A2/AD capability. But in China’s case, it’s a combination of integrated air defense systems, advanced naval systems such as the submarine, advanced ballistic missile systems such as the anti-ship ballistic missile, as well as power projection systems into the region.
The anti-access area denial systems, more or less, range countries, archipelagos such as Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, so there are many countries in the region that are falling within the envelope of this, of an A2AD capability of China. That should be concerning—and we know is concerning—to those countries.
While it may be largely designed to assure China of its ability to affect military operations within its regional waters, it is an expanded capability that ranges beyond the first island chain and overlaps countries in the region. For that reason, it is concerning to Southeast Asia, (and) it remains concerning to the United States.
Five days before the new year and this becomes the most important Navy story of 2010. Nelson once said "A Ship's a Fool to Fight a Fort," but in the next decade US Naval forces are being developed and shaped to fight the fortress of defensive capabilities contained in modern maritime Anti-Access, Area Denial (A2AD) defensive systems. The Navy has been careful not to describe the rise of China's Navy as an arms race, but there is an arms race taking place between the DF-21D and the AEGIS combat system - and for the present time, it would appear the DF-21D is winning.
I don't care what Lockheed Martin says, the latest version of AEGIS BMD was not designed to defeat this weapon. Tomorrows version will be capable of doing so, but not todays. AEGIS BMD is still based on tracking the trajectory of ballistic missiles at launch, which means once the DF-21D changes course in mid-flight it is almost a certainty that whatever interceptor is launched from sea will be hundreds of miles off course. It is a problem that can and is being addressed.
Once again it is noteworthy, the US underestimated China's ability to develop and field a military system - something the US has been doing a lot over the last few years - and now we are the one playing catch up.