China Test-Launches New Ballistic Missile
China has test launched a DF-31 long-range ballistic missile, according to a report by the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS. The missile was said to have been launched from the Wuzhai launch site on Monday night.
The DF-31 has been under development since the 1980s and Monday’s flight test appears to be the sixth flight test of the missile since 1999. The U.S. Department of Defense predicted in 2002 that the DF-31 would be deployed “before mid-decade,” but that didn’t happen. The current DOD prediction is that deployment may happen this year. Some web sites erroneously say the missile is already operational.
The DF-31 forms the core of China’s current modernization of long-range nuclear ballistic missiles. Two modifications of the DF-31 are under development. The road-mobile DF-31A has a longer range (possibly up to 12,000 km), and the 8,000+ km range Julang-2 is intended to arm China’s next generation of ballistic missile submarines (Jin-class).
There is considerable confusion and uncertainty about the capability of the DF-31. Early reports predicted a range of at least 8,000 km (4,875 miles), but the latest DOD estimate is 7,250+ km (4,500+ miles). China has not yet tested the DF-31 to the full range reported by the DOD. Tuesday’s test launch impacted in the Takla Makan Desert some 2,500 km west of Wuzhai. If the range is 7,250+, the DF-31 will not be able to target the entire continental United States, only the most northwestern parts. Its main role may be against Russia, India, as well as U.S. facilities in the Pacific including Hawaii and Guam.
Another confusion concerns the payload. Despite widespread speculation among private analysts and media that the new missiles will carry multiple warheads, the U.S. intelligence community anticipates that all three missile types will carry a single warhead each.
Later this month (September), FAS and the Natural Resources Defense Council will publish a joint report about Chinese nuclear forces and U.S. nuclear targeting of China. The report uses high-resolution satellite images and declassified documents to describe the nuclear relationship between China and the United States.
See also: Elusive Chinese Submarine Cave Spotted | Nuclear Notebook on Chinese Nuclear Forces
The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons, and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]
On 14 April 2023, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence released a short video of a Su-25 pilot explaining his new role in delivering “special [nuclear] munitions” following his training in Russia. The features seen in the video, as well as several other open-source clues, suggest that Lida Air Base––located only 40 kilometers from the Lithuanian border and the […]
A photo in a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) student briefing from 2022 shows four people inspecting what appears to be a damaged B61 nuclear bomb.
In early-February 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) had informed Congress that China now has more launchers for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) than the United States. The report is the latest in a serious of revelations over the past four years about China’s growing nuclear weapons arsenal and the deepening […]