Extensive Nuclear Missile Deployment Area Discovered in Central China

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More than 50 launch pads for nuclear ballistic missiles have been identified scattered across a 2,000 square kilometer (772 square miles) area of central China, according to analysis of satellite images. Click image for full size. Also download GoogleEarth KMZ file.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

Analysis of new commercial satellite photos has identified an extensive deployment area with nearly 60 launch pads for medium-range nuclear ballistic missiles in Central China near Delingha and Da Qaidam.

The region has long been rumored to house nuclear missiles and I have previously described some of the facilities in a report and a blog. But the new analysis reveals a significantly larger deployment area than previously known, different types of launch pads, command and control facilities, and missile deployment equipment at a large facility in downtown Delingha.

The U.S. government often highlights China’s deployment of new mobile missiles as a concern but keeps the details secret, so the discovery of the deployment area provides the first opportunity for the public to better understand how China operates its mobile ballistic missiles.

Description of Deployment Area

The deployment area is located in the northern parts of the Qinghai province and consists of two areas west of Delingha and Da Qaidam. In total, 58 launch pads have been identified scattered over an area stretching roughly 275 kilometers (170 miles) along highway G315 leading from Delingha through Da Qaidam to Mahai (see banner image for details). Nearly all launch pads detected so far are located on the north side of the road. Combined, the deployment area covers approximately 772 square miles (2,000 square kilometers).

Figure 1:
Delingha Deployment Area

Click on image for full-size version

36 launch pads and the 812 Brigade Base have been identified in and around Delingha. Click on image to see full size

The Delingha (德令哈) deployment area stretches approximately 52 kilometers (32 miles), covering 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles) west of the city of Delingha (see Figure 1). A total of 36 launch pads have been identified along three side roads extending north from the main road. The three strings of launch pads are separated by 16-20 kilometers (10-12 miles). This area appears to be very active with missile operations detected in 2005 and 2007, and several facilities in downtown Delingha associated with missile operations are identified below.

Figure 2:
Da Qaidam Deployment Area

Click on image for full-size version

22 launch pads have been identified northwest of Da Qaidam. Click on image for full size

The Da Qaidam deployment area stretches for more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the city of Da Qaidam Zhen all the way past Mahai, covering an area of 1,100 square kilometers (424 square miles). A total of 22 launch pads have been identified alongside and to the north of the main road (see Figure 2). This deployment area shows clear wheel tracks at several of the pads, including what might be construction of new pads or maintenance of existing ones. Unlike in Delingha, no missile related facilities have yet been identified in or around Da Qaidam itself, except for what appears to be a surface-to-air missile (SAM) site in the city itself and what might be a command and control facility further south near Xiao Qaidam.

There are probably more launch pads and facilities between Delingha and Mahai, but satellite photos of a couple of areas are not yet available on Google Earth.

From these launch pads DF-21 missiles would be within range of southern Russia and northern India (including New Delhi), but not Japan, Taiwan or Guam.

Figure 3:
Launch Pad Designs

Four basic launch pad designs have been detected ranging is size from 15-70 meters.

Launch Pad Designs

The 58 launch pads include four basic designs: a 70-meter full circle; a 40-meter T-shape, a 15-45 meter rectangular, and a 30-meter pull-out (see Figure 3). The 15-meter rectangular is by far the most common design. There are two full circle pads and four T-shape pads.

The large circular pads are probably older designs for the liquid-fuel DF-3 and DF-4, which require a large number of fuel trucks on the pad until shortly before launch. The liquid-fuel missiles are now being phased out and replaced with the solid-fuel DF-21 and DF-31, which require fewer support vehicles. The DF-31 has not been reported in the Delingha and Da Qaidam areas, but its smaller predecessor the DF-21 has deployed there for several years and can be launched from the small 15-meter pads. Two of the pads in Figure 3 show what are estimated to be DF-21 launchers, a 2006 deployment previously described here.

The pads could potentially also be used by short-range missiles such as the DF-11 and DF-15. But the DOD has repeatedly stated in its annual reports on China’s military that “all of [China’s] SRBM units are deployed to locations near Taiwan.”

Several of the smaller 15-meter launch pads appear to have a small infrastructure consisting of a tiny building located approximately 150 meters from the pad. A few also have larger structures nearby.

Command and Control Facilities

The satellite photos also show what appear to be buried command and control (C2) facilities at each deployment area. They are hard to find because they blend in with the other pads, but a closer look reveals that they are very different and so far two have been detected (see Figure 4).

The two C2 facilities have the same dimensions, 20 x 16 meters, and each has a tall antenna at either end of what looks like a concrete pad. The pads might cover buried facilities used for C2, or be used by C2 vehicles that deploy with the missile launcher.

The facilities face the same direction, and lines drawn from each antenna parallel to the end of the facilities run through Delingha as well as Wulan (Ulan) further to the southeast, a rumored location of the headquarters for the missiles in this area.

Figure 4:
Command and Control Facilities

Two of the pads (sites A4 and D1) have twin antennae and appear to be command and control facilities.

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Likewise, a string of facilities with antennae south of Da Qaidam near Xiao Qaidam might also be related to command and control operations.

Missile Activities Downtown Delingha

Traveling through Delingha a few years ago, a group of hikers described the encounter: “While trying to find accommodation we got stopped by police, one of them did some cell phoning and then offered to find a hotel for us, we were impressed! Once in the hotel there was a knock on the door- and we were confronted with ‘Alien Police’ who informed us we were in a closed city where no foreigners were allowed.”

Whether the hikers were deported because Delingha houses a nuclear missile brigade is unknown, but in the past it has been difficult to identify facilities in the city related to missile operations. A satellite photo taken on February 28, 2008, however, shows structures similar to those observed on remote launch pads outside the city in 2005 and 2006. The structures can be seen at three locations inside a 1.5 x 0.5 kilometer (0.7 x 0.3 mile) compound (see Figure 5), and appear to reveal the location of the 812 Brigade Base Headquarters for the first time.

Figure 5:
812 Brigade Base in Delingha

Missile related facilities and equipment reveal the location of the 812 Brigade Base in downtown Delingha. Click on the image for full size.

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A square fenced section in the western part of the base compound is dominated by two large c-shaped structures. Closer inspection reveals that they consist of five tent-like structures, two of which are about 70 meters long and three that are 40 meters. At the end of the two larger tents is what appears to be a gate or portal. Next to the tents are two small buildings and a truck (see Figure 6).

Figure 6:
Possible Missile Launch Brigade Tents

Tent-like structures visible in downtown Delingha appear to be used by the missile launch brigade when it deploys to remote launch pads (see also Figure 7).

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These structures are hard to identify by themselves, but when comparing with earlier satellite photos from the same area they become significant because they are very similar – if not identical – to structures seen on dispersed launch pads near Delingha in 2005 and 2006. Two of those cases are reproduced in Figure 7, showing an 80-meter tent, 43 crew tents/huts, a gate, and six fuel trucks at Launch Pad B1 in 2005, as well as a DF-21 launcher with a crew tent/hut at Launch Pad B10 in 2006.

Figure 7:
Possible Missile Launch Brigade Tents

Tent-like structures similar to the ones detected in downtown Delingha (see Figure 6) were deployed to missile launch pads in 2005 (right) and 2006.

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At the eastern end of the compound is another large open facility with what appears to be camouflage nets covering unidentified vehicles. The relatively low resolution of the photos conceal many details, and it’s difficult to say whether they are vehicles or stacked equipment, how long they have been there, and whether they’ve just arrived or are being shipped out. Yet their sizes (27-56 meters) and shapes are particularly interesting because the length of the DF-21 launcher is approximately 13 meters and the DF-31 launcher is about 23 meters. At the south end of this facility are two large buildings that might be service garages for missile launchers (see Figure 8).

Figure 8:
Camouflaged Mobile Launchers?

Equipment similar in size to launch platforms is covered by camouflage nets. Two buildings at the south end of the facility resemble service buildings for launchers.

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Immediately to the west of this facility, separated by a canal, a triangle-shaped section of the main compound appears to be associated with servicing the missile units and their equipment. Clearly visible are several tents of the same basic design as those seen in the western facility and on launch pads, as well as three smaller huts and the shadow of what seems to be a gate/portal (see Future 9).

Figure 9:
Possible Missile Brigade Service Section

Tent-like structures, red huts, and a gate/portal similar to those observed at launch sites B1 and B5 in 2005 and 2006 identify this section of the Delingha base as a possible service facility for mobile ballistic missile launchers.

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Implications of a Mobile Missile Force

The current head of China’s Second Artillery Corps, General Jing Zhiyuan, reportedly served as commander of the Second Artillery Base 56 in Xining, the headquarters for the Delingha missile brigade, from 1993 to 1997. As such he would have overseen the preparations for the transitioning from old liquid-fuel missiles at Delingha and Da Qaidam to solid-fuel missiles.

This change, one all the other nuclear powers made decades ago, is in full swing through the Chinese missile force. Several of the small pads detected at Delingha and Da Qaidam have been added since 2005. At that time approximately 33 of China’s deployed 91 ballistic missiles were solid-fuel, corresponding to 36 percent. Today the share is 67 out of 121 deployed missiles, or 55 percent. The share will increase in the next several years as more DF-31s and DF-31As are deployed and the DF-3As and DF-4s are retired. JL-2 missiles on Jin-class submarines will increase the percentage even more.

Similarly to the other nuclear weapon states, China is trying to reduce the vulnerability of its nuclear deterrent, and much of the debate about the new mobile missiles centers on their ability to disperse and launch quickly, making them harder for others to destroy. The small 15-meter launch pads are indeed easy to overlook compared with the larger 70-meter pads, and it is not known which of he pads will be used by launchers in a war; they might even be capable of launching from the main road. The tire tracks visible in the images and the absence of paved roads to most of the launch pads suggest the DF-31 launchers have some off-road capability.

Even so, the relatively low-resolution satellite images show that even mobile missile leave fingerprints such as tire tracks and rely on a highly visible infrastructure that includes the launch pads themselves, command and control facilities, and bases. Moreover, targeting Chinese mobile systems is far from a new and untested challenge for U.S. military planners because China and Russia have deployed – and the United States has routinely targeted – their mobile ballistic missiles since the early 1980s. Indeed, the DOD’s determination that all of China’s smallest mobile missile units – those that are hardest to detect and the most numerous – are confined to one region and nowhere else in this vast country suggests that a considerable detection (and thus targeting) capability exists today.

Mobile missiles might make it more difficult to carry out a successful first strike to destroy all of the launchers, but it doesn’t make the force invulnerable. If hidden inside a cave it is relatively simple to seal off the entrance and trap the launchers inside. Once out in the open mobile launchers can move and try to hide, but they are highly vulnerable to the blast effect of a nuclear weapon. The specific targeting and damaging requirements for U.S. nuclear forces tasked with targeting Chinese mobile missiles are not know. But the following excerpt from The U.S. Nuclear War Plan: A Time For Change (NRDC 2001, p. 54) about targeting Russian mobile SS-25 ICBMs might be a good illustrative example for targeting Chinese mobile missiles as well:

“The 1969 Defense Intelligence Agency Physical Vulnerability Handbook—Nuclear Weapons assigns a vulnerability number of 11Q9 to road-mobile missiles with ranges of 700, 1,100, and 2,000 nautical miles or with intercontinental ranges. The damage level for this vulnerability number is defined as “transporter overturned and missile crushed.” The kill mechanism has been likened to flipping a turtle on its back. For a 100-kt weapon [the W76], the optimum height of burst to attack a target with a vulnerability number of 11Q9 is approximately 1,250 m (no local fallout would be expected), and the corresponding damage radius is 2,875 m. Thus dispersed SS-25 vehicles can be threatened over an area of approximately 26 square kilometers by a single W76 air burst. If, for example, a MAZ vehicle is traveling at 20 kilometers per hour, then one W76 explosion must occur within about 15 minutes of noting the location of the moving vehicle. While this time interval is roughly consistent with depressed-trajectory launches of SLBMs, it would require additional time to communicate the SS-25 locations to the SSBNs and retarget the missiles. The fact that Trident I or Trident II SLBMs are MIRVed, with up to eight [now estimated to be six] warheads per missile, means that a group of moving SS-25 launcher vehicles could also be pattern-attacked with W76 warheads over an area of some 200 square kilometers.”

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Using this example as a guide, it would require at least 24 100-kiloton W76 warheads – the load of four Trident II D5 missiles – detonating at a height of burst of 1,250 meters to ensure destruction of all the 58 launch pads identified in these satellite images, plus several more warheads to destroy the bases. Rather than aiming at each pad, warfighters would more likely try to hit the launchers before they dispersed.

The mobile nuclear cat and mouse game is on: Chinese planners are trying to hide and U.S. and Russian planners are trying to catch them.

Additional information: Chinese Nuclear Forces and U.S. Nuclear War Planning | GoogleEarth KMZ File

26 thoughts on “Extensive Nuclear Missile Deployment Area Discovered in Central China

  1. This a serious issue United States should keep a close eye on, it could be military exercise, or movement of missile locations, or new launch sites. A show of strength to the United States intentionally, to set the intelllegence agency off. Your call.

    Reply: I see this differently. First, deployment of DF-21 at Delingha and Da Qaidam is neither new nor does it affect the United States directly. The sites are for targeting Russia and India. Besides, these deployment areas have been known to U.S. intelligence analysts for year; the “new” is that it is now possible for the public to “look over their shoulder” and make up its own ideas about what this means. HK

  2. “The mobile nuclear cat and mouse game is on: Chinese planners are trying to hide and U.S. and Russian planners are trying to catch them.” I guess to some, it always has been and will remain just that. A game. Seeing that the nuclear weapons maneuver is in their own country and on their own soil; what is all the hub-bub about? Its their toys. Can they not do with them with them what they want, when they want and where they want on their own game board?

  3. Speaking of the DF-21…

    If, as has been speculated/asserted/assumed, the Chinese ASAT is based on the DF-21, would one expect there to be observable differences between the MRBM and ASAT versions?

  4. As a South Asian, I am shocked to hear nuclear tipped missiles could be pointing towards New Delhi or Agra (The city of Taj Mahal). The Chinese government’s ruthless suppression of Tibetan uprising recently should be a reminder to the World community how bad the Chinese regime is. This is particularly worrisome for Indians who probably knows about Chinese territorial ambitions more than anyone else (Sino-Indian war of 1962). During that war, ceasefire came only when the Chinese came to know that Nehru was discussing with the Americans to for urgent US military aid to fight off the Chinese aggression. Chinese maps still show Arunachal Pradesh which is a state of India as part of China. China is also a big supporter of the Burmese junta.

    Reply: Both China and India are in the nuclear weapons business and aim nuclear weapons at each other. Neither has a very aggressive nuclear posture yet, but as they improve their arsenals and this begins to gradually influence their strategies and doctrines this could change. I hope people would be “shocked” about both countries improving their nuclear weapons and instead trying to prevent the emergence of a nuclear terror balance between them. HK

  5. Can you please summarize for laymen: the security implications of this for India and your thoughts on their preparations against such an attack. Here I’m assuming that Russia can deal with China if needed of course but I’m curious about India’s capabilities in tackling this challenge.

    Reply: The “discovery” of these sites doesn’t change anything for India. The only difference is that now more might know what only a few with privileged access have known for along time: There have been nuclear missiles at Delingha for decades for potential use against India and Russia. So if India could live with this before it could probably continue to do so. But since 1998, India has also started building nuclear missiles and earlier this month tested the Agni III which is said to have sufficient range to target Beijing. This brings a new dynamic into the Indian-Chinese security relationship which down the line could influence both countries’ nuclear policies and strategies. I am sure we’ll begin to hear people in both countries pointing to the other as justification for making the deterrent more “credible.” HK

  6. Thank you for this valuable piece of information. What you have forgotten to add is that this area is not so much located in “Central China” as in Western China (for Han Chinese), and for Tibetans, in historical Tibet itself (North-East Tibet), although on the fringes. Delingha is the Chinese version of an originally Tibetan toponym, namely Gter gling kha (pronounced Terlingka), “The Garden of Minerals”. It is sparsely populated but its closest inhabitants are traditionally Tibetans – and Mongolians if I am not mistaken. What matters most here is that, needless to say, Tibetans do not have one word in the saying. And Tibetans would definitely not like the idea of missiles pointed at India (where the DLama lives) and Taiwan (where many Tibet-supporters can be found).

  7. If you draw a radius of 1800km around that base then it becomes obvious that it is very unlikely to think of DF-21/25. There is just one russian ICBM base in range (Irkutsk) – nothing else – it makes simply no sense to deploy these missiles there.
    Moreover DF-21 usually were deployed at former DF-3 bases (not DF-4 – which were at Delingha before).
    It would make more sense to assume DF-31 (8000km range) at this site. Cheers

    Reply: DF-31 might show up there one day, but so far I haven’t seen any indications. Most of the current launch pads are too small for the DF-31 transporter, whereas the trucks photographed on pads in 2006 look more like DF-21s (or a DF-21 variant). Other than rumors on the Internet and Jane’s, I have yet to see anything authoritative confirming the existence of the DF-25. As for the range of the DF-21, the U.S. intelligence community appears to think it is approximately 2,150 km. HK

  8. Care to speculate as to the truck/equipment area to the east of 812 Base? I noticed the canal as well. There appears to be a small gate for personnel, but if those are road-mobile TELs, how would they get them out? No apparent road access. Maybe the SE corner? Pretty narrow though. Also, Sinodefence.org has the 812 Brigade HQ as Tianshui, Gansu province. I’m assuming you guys are right, but any thoughts?

    Reply: The gate appears to be in the northeast corner. As for organization, my understanding is that the 812 Brigade is organized under the 80306 Unit (Base 56), which is often said to be in Xining, Qinghai. There is much uncertainty and many rumors about Chinese military facilities, so who knows. But Tianshui is more than 800 km (500 miles) from Delingha. HK

  9. “对美国能构成危险吗?”这是每一个美国人都想问的问题吧?
    难道除了美国可以拥有毁灭中国乃至全球的核力量,而中国连拥有最低核威慑力量的权利也没有吗?
    Translation: “Can pose a threat to the US?” This is the question every American thinks to ask? Do you mean the US can have a nuclear force able to destroy China and the entire world while China can’t have a right to a nuclear force to provide the absolute minimum deterrence?

    Reply: No, but I sure wish neither would have to resort to the nuclear posturing against the other that fuels counter-posturing and mistrust. China used to have fewer and less capable nuclear missiles than it is introducing now; that was also called “the absolute minimum deterrence.” Now China is modernizing and its force is becoming a little bigger and better, but it is still called “the absolute minimum deterrence.” On the US side, it used to have a stockpile of 30,000 nuclear warheads, which was just what was needed to deter the Soviet Union and China back in the 1960s. Now the US has 5,400 warheads left in its stockpile, which is said to be the absolute minimum for protecting itself and its allies. Evidently, each government will always say it has the absolutely minimum possible. Did China feel more or less threatened by the United States than it does today? HK

  10. Save for an alien invasion, it will remain an elusive dream to have a world without nuclear weapons. Homo sapiens are an outcome of Darwinian evolution. For better or worse, we think and act rather alike, thanks to >99.9% similarity of our genomes. The <0.1% difference gives rise to, among other things, different tastes for strategic deterrence. Americans prefer first-strike capabilities and counterforce weapons. Chinese vow no-first-use and rely on its 3 megaton city busters to retaliate. Any substantial degradation, actual or perceived, of China’s ability to deliver these city busters globally, will be corrected by China. The leisurely speed that China is upgrading its nuclear deterrence shows that China is quite confident that its Paper Tigers will never need to be used. Since it is generally understood that the American pain threshold is very low – loss of one major city, China really has no need to spend more money on its life insurance policy with the US. The money and energy are much better spent on growing China’s GDP to its historical share of the world total, which has been 25-30% for the last 2000 years, except for a V-shaped dip in the most recent 150 years. This is China’s real strategic deterrence. China’s Paper Tigers are meant for those who believe that it is a God-given right to strike first, just like a lion would do to an oily and toothless lamb.

  11. I wish those weapons will never be put into use, but as U.S build more NMDs and TMDs other countries have no choice but to upgrade their projectile forces.
    Even India and Pakistan are catching up with this fashion.

  12. Homo sapiens are an outcome of Darwinian evolution.
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    Seeing that we have the nuclear weapons and the monkeys do not,
    one has to wonder just who is the more wise.

  13. Marc,

    “Wise” is an anthropocentric concept that our primate cousins are blessed not to have. Adaptivity might be a better criteria to judge the successfulness of a species. If we cannot manage our egos and limit the desire to subjugate others of lesser capabilities, the xxxx-measuring contest also known as strategic deterrence might get so out of control that we may voluntarily relinquish our collective stewardship of our beloved sole spaceship and let other less “wise” species to dominate earth. One strong candidate is rodents, once we nuke ourselves out. The nuclear primacy guys who are paddling their stuff around definitely think that they are the wisest of the wise. With so much of US and Russia’s Paper Tigers on high alert, the last line of defense for humanity is the persons who control the launch codes in the Whitehouse and Kremlin. Let’s hope that both of them remain humble enough to know the limitations of being “wise”.

    Cheers!

    Jian

  14. Jian,

    I doubt the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be amused with your paper tiger tag for nuclear weapons.
    No one in India believes the Chinese nuclear weapons targeted against India are paper tigers.
    If all China wanted to do was deter the US with a counter value strike capability, why build India specific missiles?
    I think your paper tigers will be used one day – That is Murphy’s law!
    Since, like a few others, I too believe Murphy was an optimist, I am inclined to believe they will be used sooner than later, and somehow China will have something to do with with their use. Which other country in this world has twice invaded sovereign nations in recent history just to ‘teach them a lesson’?
    In the meanwhile….enjoy.

    Vijainder

  15. I wonder how Russia will respond in light of Putin’s declaration that the INF treaty no longer serves Russia’s interest.
    The world has been making progress on the elimination of nuclear weapons and I hope this continues. It has also been making progress in the area of human rights and freedom, which I hope continues, as well.
    China has contributed so much to humanity and as it’s rise continues I hope a spirit of altruism and benevolence comes before, or at least strongly tempers, the nationalism the world has seen recently.

    The scenario you described to take out the mobile missiles with approximately 4 Trident II’s may be countered by building relatively cheap and numerous shelters for the mobile launchers to pop in and out of along their routes.

  16. [combined from three comments] Basically I think their moving some of their DF-4 Liquid fuel missiles, and then the rest of the facility might be new DF-21 and DF-11-15 or DF-31 ballistic missiles, it’s just a theory. Do you think they will deploy newer missile’s like the DF-25 or DF-31 here soon? Until they have more concrete evidence that these are new and replacement sites or an add on to the Second Artillery Corps, meaning whether their moving them or their putting new launch sites in, well have to WATCH and WAIT.

    Reply: Some Chinese officials have been very upset over this report, but, of course, it doesn’t disclose anything that China’s potential adversaries don’t already know from monitoring this deployment area with spy satellites with much higher resolution. The little we – the public – know is from declassified intelligence documents, media reports, and what can be derived from commercial satellite images is that the DF-4 has been deployed in this region for decades, but might be retiring now and replaced with DF-21. The DF-31 has not been reported in the area (yet) and the DOD says all DF-11/15 units are off Taiwan. The existence of DF-25 has not been publicly confirmed. Some of these launch pads certainly have been added over the past couple of years – I can see that much from images – but that might just be to have more deployment options for existing mobile launchers rather than show addition of more. HK

  17. The US leaves its people alone whereas the Chinese plan for their people.
    This is a marked difference and no body can say which one is more suitable in managing their country.
    However, the Chinese are proud once successful and each one wish to think they are number one. This make it more difficult to allow for too much individualistic approach.
    Looking at history, no one can see China as an aggressor. But the US has put military bases every where….they say they believe god, yet, they think their god is not protecting them.
    What an irony !
    Any one care to refute?

  18. this is allegedly video of 812 brigade based at Tianshui, I don’t speak Chinese so I wouldn’t know (and not my video nor channel)

  19. As the need for the natural resource grow, it is natural to expect that China wish to have a reliable supply of resources to keep it’s economy going. unfortunately, most of these needed resources are not available in China and so they need to acquiring it through a foreign sources. You may have notice the increasing trend of Chinese involvement in conflict overseas, noticeably Sudan for example. Just as what the United States doing in ME to secure it’s oil supply, The Chinese do the same in Sudan. Darfur are not merely a local conflict, but a proxy war instigated by a resource hungry superpowers. The need for secure resources, is what i think drive Chinese conventional and non-conventional military development. added to this is the recent US practice of invading any country simply because last night the president have a bad dream of that country attacking US with a WMD.

  20. I have to disagree with some initial interpretations; there are a few missile launch sites (i found one) but everything is in alluvial fan. Does anyone find it odd that missile platforms, command/control structures, and logistics are all located within alluvial fan? Alluvial fan is highly unstable – over a course of a few decades it causes roads to have to be rebuilt, structures would become consumed, especially heavy structures with massive foundations such as concrete buildings, the shifting material in the fans would simply destroy these over years.

    On top of that – alluvial fans (I don’t know about these particular ones) mostly are made up of brecciated conglomerate … or would become such rather were the fan to become a sedimentary rock. Fans in the Nevada deserts (similar to this area) have many rock types from smooth and round in stream beds to sharp and angular, but all fans I’ve driven across even with heavy drilling tires the fans are very dangerous to tires and can easily cause blow-outs. So it is necessary to pave the roads, but the roads need to support heavy several tonned vehicles and their several tonned payloads. And a fan simply cannot easily support such a road bed.

    So what’s going on here? Well I think it’s more of a testing facility than a practical strategic missile battery – I don’t think the location suits a strategic importance. The situation is more suited for the similarly temporary testing facilities in Nevada Playas and fans.

  21. Vijainder,

    Since 1964 when China developed its first nuclear weapon, its stated policy has been to “not be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances.” Thus, logic dictates that all Chinese nuclear weapons would be Paper Tigers unless China is first attacked by nuclear weapons. Like India, which also vows no-first use, China needs to plan for all contingencies. It would be too presumptive to say that China has an India-specific missile. The base in Qinghai would not allow its Paper Tigers to have full coverage of India. If China really wants to hold Indian targets at risk, it would base the missiles much closer. Wars fought in the past give people more reasons for peace for the future. The current trends in the Sino-Indian and Sino-Vietnam relationships are good proof of that. It is illogical to think that China, with its aspirations for a peaceful and prosperous future, would use nuclear weapons to ruin its chance, even if one does not believe China’s NFU doctrine.

    Jian

  22. Figure 4 shows conventional ammunition storage areas, the antennae are actually lightning conductors. There is also evidence of traversing (raised earth mounds), particularly in the left hand picture.

    Reply: How do you know that they are conventional ammunition storage areas and that the antennae are lightning conductors? HK

    Response from Brit AT: Because “Brit AT” stands for ‘British Ammunition Technician’, and I’ve seen a few.

    Reply: So you’re saying that those two sites in China look like British conventional ammunition storage areas. They might, but the raised earth mounds are not, I think, berms surrounding explosive storage facilities, but piled up soil to prevent water erosion of the site. This is evident all over the area for roads and buildings.

    Response from Brit AT: Explosive Storage Sites have fairly common identifying features. If anything, NATO sites have moved away from this type of design, due to differing logistic concepts of ops, resource availability and site requirements (although they are still encountered). They are common in former Warsaw Pact countries (often known as ‘platforms’) and they could be expected in most areas where asset protection and explosive safety is considered important. Based on my experience, I consider them to be lightning-protected open stack explosive storage sites. Your comment on erosion prevention holds water (sorry) but there are also indicators of traversing, especially in the photo on the left.

    Reply: Fair enough. We have two different interpretations of the two structures, but little to help settle the issue. Time will tell. HK

  23. Since missiles and bases would be virtually identical with or without nuclear warheads, how can anyone know for certainty whether or not these images indicate nuclear missiles? Fear mongering at FAS? How disappointed I am.

    Reply: Delingha and Da Qaidam have been deployment sites for Chinese nuclear missiles for many decades. This has been reported by declassified and leaked intelligence documents, “private” scholars and experts, as well as occasional news media reports. The location of these facilities far from potential adversaries — combined with what is known about Chinese medium-and long-range ballistic missiles, as well as specific vehicles and structures seen on recent satellite images — all point to nuclear missiles. Of course, it will take a great deal more information to determine that no conventional missiles are present in the area, but China has only recently introduced medium-range ballistic missiles with conventional warheads. They, and short-range ballistic missiles, are thought to be deployed further toward the Taiwan region.

    Reporting on Chinese nuclear missile deployments is not “fear mongering” but scrutiny and analysis, something FAS does on all the nuclear weapon states. This is essential for the public to understand and debate the status and role of nuclear weapons. Actually, compared with some of the non-governmental reports that have been published about Chinese nuclear forces, I think you’ll find that FAS with its analysis actually is trying to counter “fear mongering.” This is difficult, not least because the Chinese government’s excessive secrecy makes it very easy for the “fear mongers” to do their work. HK

  24. I don’t see how it’s a “simple matter” to seal off caves which you do not know the locations of. These “launch pads” are basic infrastructure; they are about as complex as my parking lot. I wouldn’t count on missile carriers driving to these 58 spots during a crisis. They can literally launch from anywhere. I agree with a previous poster this base is most likely used for testing and training. Notice the large amount of “pack up and go” infrastructure such as tents. Mobile carriers will be housed inside any number of unknown caves during a crisis. There’s no reason to doubt mobile missiles will be far less vulnerable than silo based Minutemans, whose locations are public knowledge.

    Reply: Delingha is an old deployment area, and any base area will have a mix of testing and training activities. The “pack up and go” tents etc. are characteristics of the old DF-3 and DF-4 missile regiments, but also (although to a smaller extend) of the DF-21 and DF-31. Of course it’s not possible to seal off caves whose locations are not know, nor have I suggested that all of the pads would necessarily be used; they’re launch options.

    The vulnerability of mobile missiles certainly depends on the scenario. While a Minuteman in a silo is invulnerable to anything but a very accurate and high-yield warhead, any mobile missile that leaves its cave is highly vulnerable to blast and electromagnetic effects. Its only advantage really is that it can move, which is an advantage only until it’s discovered. And contrary to public belief, Chinese long-range mobile ballistic missiles cannot launch from literally anywhere, due to the size of their launcher and to avoid being damaged by ground debris during blastoff. HK

  25. I’m not certain where you are getting your info, but good topic. I must spend a while learning much more or working out more. Thanks for excellent information I used to be on the lookout for this information for my mission.

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