As part of China’s ongoing efforts to reach military parity, if not superiority with the U.S. by the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 2049, it appears to be building hardened silos for its growing nuclear ballistic missile force. Satellite imagery of new construction at a missile training area in north-central China appears to show construction of 11 underground silos.
This follows the construction of five other silos begun earlier at the same vast missile training range near Jilantai.
While the Pentagon declined to comment on the new imagery, this assessment of the commercial satellite images comes from Hans Kristensen, an expert on U.S., Russian and Chinese nuclear forces with the Federation of American Scientists. The 16 silos identified by Kristensen for China’s newer DF-41 missiles would be in addition to the 18-20 that China now operates with an older intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF-5, notes US News.
US News added:
Nearly all of the new silos detected by Kristensen appear designed to accommodate China’s newer-generation DF-41 ICBM, which is built with a solid-fuel component that allows the operator to more quickly prepare the missile for launch, compared to the DF-5’s more time-consuming liquid-fuel system. The DF-41 can target Alaska and much of the continental United States.
China already has a rail- and road-mobile version of the DF-41 missile.
“They’re trying to build up the survivability of their force,” by developing silo basing for their advanced missiles, Kristensen said in an interview. “It raises some questions about this fine line in nuclear strategy,” between deterring a U.S. adversary by threatening its highly valued nuclear forces and pushing the adversary into taking countermeasures that makes its force more capable and dangerous.
As I have previously written, the Pentagon predicts that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Forces (PLARF) will at least double the size of its nuclear arsenal over the next 10 years, and recent estimates suggest China’s existing arsenal may be larger than previously believed.
China’s push for greater nuclear capabilities appears to be part of a larger strategy to counter the United States in the Pacific, even forcing it out altogether, so it can invade Taiwan. Frank Rose, a State Department arms control official during the Obama administration, said, according to US News, that:
China’s main interest is in building up its non-nuclear force of shorter- and intermediate-range missiles, which, combined with a cyberattack capability and systems for damaging or destroying U.S. satellites, could push the United States out of the western Pacific. This would complicate any effort by the United States to intervene in the event Beijing decided to use force against Taiwan.