Chinese Nuclear Forces 2010

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By Hans M. Kristensen

It’s interesting scary what you can find on the Internet: On Thursday, a Canadian calling himself SinoSoldier posted a report on the Pakistani web site Pakistan Defense claiming that China had test launched a JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from a submarine in the Atlantic (!). Different versions allegedly have ranges from 12,000 km to 20,000 km and carry 5-7 warheads as opposed to 10 on the JL-2 SLBM. The source was said to be a report in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun.

Click image to download

I haven’t been able to find the original story, but the report in Pakistan Defense is completely wrong: China does not have a JL-3 missile; it does not have a Type 096 submarine; it has never operated a submarine in the Atlantic; its two types of SLBMs (JL-1 and JL-2) have ranges of 1,770 km and 7,200 km, respectively; and they are only equipped with one warhead each.

The flaws in the report unfortunately did not prevent it from being picked up by Undersea Enterprise News Daily, an email newsletter distributed by the U.S. Atlantic submarine fleet headquarters.

Instead, check out our latest Nuclear Notebook on Chinese nuclear forces, just published for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Sage Publications: Chinese Nuclear Forces, 2010 (pdf version)

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

DF-21C Missile Deploys to Central China

China’s new DF-21C missile launcher shows itself in Western China.    Image: GoogleEarth

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By Hans M. Kristensen

The latest Pentagon report on Chinese military forces recently triggered sensational headlines in the Indian news media that China had deployed new nuclear missiles close to the Indian border.

The news reports got it wrong, but new commercial satellite images reveal that launch units for the new DF-21C missile have deployed to central-western China. Continue reading

China’s Bulava?

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By Hans M. Kristensen

Similar to Russia’s troubled Bulava sea-launched ballistic missile, the Pentagon’s latest report on China’s military power reveals that Chinese efforts to develop a new sea-based nuclear missile have run into problems.

Other nuclear force developments described in the Pentagon’s delayed annual report on China’s military power, now renamed Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, include a slow deployment of new land-based mobile missiles and nuclear command and control challenges.   Continue reading

United States Discloses Size of Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

The Obama administration has declassified the history and size of the U.S. nuclear weapons
stockpile, a long-held national secret. Click image to get the fact sheet.


By Hans M. Kristensen

The Obama administration has formally disclosed the size of the Defense Department’s stockpile of nuclear weapons: 5,113 warheads as of September 30, 2009.

For a national secret, we’re pleased that the stockpile number is only 87 warheads off the estimate we made in February 2009. By now, the stockpile is probably down to just above 5,000 warheads. Continue reading

Jin SSBN Flashes its Tubes

One of China’s two Jin-class SSBNs with two open missile tubes. Click for larger image.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

One of China’s two new Jin-class SSBNs was photographed with two of its 12 missile tubes open when it visited Xiaopingdao Naval Base in March 2009.

The Jins are being readied to carry the JL-2, a single-warhead regional sea-launched ballistic missile that was most recently test-launched in May 2008. The class may become operational soon and replace the old Xia from 1982. Continue reading

Estimated Nuclear Weapons Locations 2009

Some 23,300 nuclear weapons are stored at 111 locations around the world (click for map)

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By Hans M. Kristensen

The world’s approximately 23,300 nuclear weapons are stored at an estimated 111 locations in 14 countries, according to an overview produced by FAS and NRDC.

Nearly half of the weapons are operationally deployed with delivery systems capable of launching on short notice.

The overview is published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and includes the July 2009 START memorandum of understanding data. A previous version was included in the annual report from the International Panel of Fissile Materials published last month. Continue reading

China’s Noisy Nuclear Submarines

China’s newest nuclear submarines are noisier than 1970s-era Soviet nuclear submarines.

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By Hans M. Kristensen

China’s new Jin-class ballistic missile submarine is noisier than the Russian Delta III-class submarines built more than 30 years ago, according to a report produced by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).

The report The People’s Liberation Army Navy: A Modern Navy With Chinese Characteristics, which was first posted on the FAS Secrecy News Blog and has since been removed from the ONI web site [but now back here; thanks Bruce], is to my knowledge the first official description made public of Chinese and Russian modern nuclear submarine noise levels. Continue reading

Missile Mystery in Beijing

The mysterious DF-41 missile did not appear at the Chinese National Day parade on October 1st, but the Chinese Ministry of National Defense says the DF-31A did. But did it, or was it in fact the DF-31?

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By Hans M. Kristensen

The military parade at China’s 60th National Day celebration last week was widely rumored to be displaying a new long-range ballistic missile described in the news media as the DF-41. The rumors turned out to be, well, rumors.

Instead the Chinese Ministry of National Defense identified two other missiles: the nuclear DF-31A and the conventional DF-21C, to my knowledge a first.

But was it the DF-31A that rolled across the square or the shorter-range DF-31 already displayed ten years ago at the 1999 parade?

Continue reading