Chinese Nuclear Forces 2010

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.

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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.

2 thoughts on “Chinese Nuclear Forces 2010

  1. There is a type/mistake on p. 136 of your paper. The ASAT test was in 2007, not in 2006, unless you meant the pre-test in 2006.

    The lack of progress on Jin/JL2 combo may not only be technical. The Politburo may be unclear itself in directing the engineers what to do. The combo as it is prepared now, is very capable of dealing with Uncle Sam’s proxies from China’s ports. If China can safely judge that its strategic deterrence against CONUS is mainly economic, not nuclear, then the major Chinese nuclear deterrence should be directed towards Uncle Sam’s client states. History has shown that China’s rather non-confrontational nuclear doctrine serves the country remarkably well since 1964, considering the changes both internal and external.

    Reply: Good catch spotting the typo. I’ve asked the publisher to change the notebook accordingly.

    It would be interesting to hear about specific indications that the Jin/JL-2 situation is political. I haven’t seen them. As for the mission, U.S. allies in the region have been within range of Chinese missiles for decades. The DF-21 will probably continue to cover those scenarios with the longer range of JL-2 and DF-31 potentially focusing on Guam, India, and Russia. I doubt Chinese leaders will rely on economic deterrence against the U.S., and the broad range of Chinese systems suggests to me that the leaders want very broad capabilities.

    I agree that China’s rather non-confrontational nuclear doctrine has served it well in the past, but how new capabilities and territorial claims will influence thinking in the future remain to be seen. HK

  2. But are there different versions of the Jin-class? When i look these photos, I see that the sail is bigger (or missile is smaller) in the new photo. I also spot few other new things. Or is this just merely optical illusion?

    Photo taken in this year.

    This one is at least few years old.

    Reply: I don’t know if all the Jin-class (Type 094) subs are identical, but the reason the subs on the two pictures appear different is that the new one is a fake. Someone has had fun with PhotoShop and has superimposed the two submarines onto a picture with the mountain and tunnel in the background. The lighting angle on the sail does not match the rest of the photo. Moreover, the missile compartment appears to have been compressed to fit onto the hull of a Shang class (Type 93). HK

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