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 China’s growing missile force infographic
Graphic shows known locations of Chinese underground nuclear weapons silos.
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MILITARY

China’s growing missile force

By Duncan Mil

July 5, 2021 - China is reportedly modernizing its nuclear arsenal, constructing dozens of missile silos to accommodate newer-generation solid-fuelled Dong Feng-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

The underground silo construction is likely to increase efforts by the Biden administration to bring China into strategic arms control negotiations alongside the United States and Russia.

China has argued that its nuclear arsenal is far smaller than the world’s two major nuclear powers. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China has approximately 350 nuclear warheads compared to the United States with 5,550 and Russia with 6,255.

However, Beijing’s modernization of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) raises questions about its intentions. According to a report released by the U.S. Defense Department last September, China has about 100 ICBMs that can reach the U.S. but will double that number within five years.

Recent commercial satellite images show 119 new ICBM silos on the edge of the Gobi Desert in Gansu Province. Other satellite images indicate that at least 16 silos are under construction in the Jilantai training area in Inner Mongolia.

Researchers at the California-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies say China began construction at the Gobi Desert site soon after the DF-41 first appeared. Although the DF-41 uses high-mobility mobile launchers, Beijing could base some of them in underground silos.

No complete images of the solid-fuelled DF-41 ICBM were available until two missile brigades -- armed with eight missiles each -- debuted at the National Day parade in October 2019. The DF-41 reportedly has an operational range of 15,000km and is MIRV-capable.

Sources
PUBLISHED: 05/07/2021; STORY: Graphic News
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