China is quietly adding “significant capabilities” to its nuclear forces, reports Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris of the Federation of American Scientists write that the nation’s nuclear force “includes about 280 warheads for delivery by ballistic missiles and bombers” and the “stockpile is likely to grow further over the next decade.”
Kristensen is director of the Nuclear Information Project with the FAS and Norris is a senior fellow there. Their Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.
China is continuing a modernization program begun in the 1980s, putting more types and bigger numbers of nuclear weapons in play.
“Since our previous Nuclear Notebook on China in July 2016, the country has continued fielding a new version of an existing nuclear medium-range mobile ballistic missile, a new dual-capable intermediate-range mobile ballistic missile, and an improved road-mobile launcher for an existing intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM),” they write.
“It has also continued development of a road-mobile ICBM, and might be developing an air-launched dual-capable ballistic missile.”
The analysts estimate China has a stockpile of approximately 280 nuclear warheads for delivery by 120 to 130 land-based ballistic missiles, 48 sea-based ballistic missiles, and bombers.
“This stockpile is likely to grow further over the next decade as additional nuclear-capable missiles become operational. Moreover, in response to the U.S. deployment of missile defense systems in the Pacific, China has equipped some (or all) of its silo-based ICBMs with multiple warheads,” the report said.
Although most missiles carry only one warhead each, future ICBMs appear capable of using multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs.)
“While many non-official sources attribute very high numbers of warheads to MIRVed missiles (for example, 10 warheads per DF-41), we believe the purpose of the MIRV program is to ensure penetration of U.S. missile defenses, rather than to increase the counterforce capability of the Chinese missile force.”
The report says China stores most of its warheads in its central facility in the Qinling mountain range and some at smaller regional storage facilities. They are under the control of the Central Military Commission.
“Should China come under nuclear threat, the weapons would be released to the Second Artillery Corps to enable missile brigades to go on alert and prepare to retaliate,” the report said.