Reminiscent of the never actualized 1980s U.S. plans for a more survivable mobile MX Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), known as the Peacekeeper, China may be developing similarly survivable nuclear missiles.
Among a variety of ways considered to deploy the U.S. Peacekeeper missile, shuttling the missiles continuously on trucks or railcars among ‘multiple protective shelters,’ was the closest to this latest Chinese effort.
China’s latest plan appears to involve using the country’s 23,000 miles of high-speed rail track to speed nukes around the country at up to 220mph in time of war.
Using high-speed rail as a potential launch platform for launching nuclear missiles comes after a new study by Chinese researchers suggested it was more suitable than previously thought, reported the South China Morning Post.
This, despite the damage that would be caused to the rail system by the powerful launch of the missiles.
Models of the concept have appeared at the China Military Museum.
A train based ballistic missile model is on display at the newly opened missile exhibition area of the China Military Museum. pic.twitter.com/XrBkwY7hd4
— dafeng cao (@dafengcao) May 31, 2019
China’s current bullet trains generally consist of 16 cars capable of carrying 60 tons. These high speed nuke trains could also allow China to disguise its nuclear missiles as passenger trains similar to plans to deploy missiles hidden in containers.
The missile of choice for this rail deployment option appears to be the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) road-mobile Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) ballistic missile which can carry up to 10 independently targetable nuclear warheads at a time – multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs).
The DF-41 is believed to measure about 72 feet (22 meters) long and 6.5 feet (two meters) in diameter which could theoretically fit well inside a typical bullet-train car, which measures about 88 feet (27 meters).
The DF-41 has an estimated range of between 7,400 and 9,300 miles, placing most of the U.S. within range from China’s eastern launch sites. All of Europe would also be well within the estimated range of a DF-41 fired from China’s western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
With its 10 warheads apiece, China would only need 100 DF-41s to survive any first strike from the United States in order to launch 1,000 warheads of its own.
Rick Fisher, an expert on the Chinese military told the Sun Online that: “It’s not inconceivable that China’s rail system could support 1,000 additional warheads capable of reaching European and American targets, adding that: “Building and deploying 100 new rail launched ICBMs would not strain China’s military budgets.”
Meanwhile, as I’ve previously written about, China is building hundreds of new missile silos and plans to double, if not triple, its nuke force by 2030.