The Massive Expansion of China’s Strategic Nuclear Capability

Written by Mark B. Schneider

In late June 2021, The New York Times broke a very important story about Chinese construction of large numbers of ICBM silos for its new large DF-41 ICBM stating, “Researchers in the United States have identified the construction of 119 new intercontinental ballistic missile silos in a desert in northwestern China …” The analysis was conducted by Mr. Jeffery Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. According to Mr. Lewis, “If the silos under construction at other sites across China are added to the count, the total comes to about 145 silos under construction.” The U.S. Department of State voiced concern about China’s actions.

The Chinese DF-41 ICBM is not a small Minuteman-class missile but rather a large Peacekeeper-class missile and is generally reported as capable of carrying ten warheads. Peter Huessy of the Mitchell Institute has pointed out, “Just this deployment alone will provide China over one thousand new on-alert warheads—1,450—almost double the day-to-day U.S.A. on-alert force and by itself a nuclear force roughly equal to the entire current U.S. nuclear-deployed force of 1,490 sea- and land-based missile warheads.” Chinese media have talked about a DF-41 leveling New York City, but that is not its real function. The threat posed by such a large DF-41 silo deployment (and all we know at this point is the 145 launchers is what they are now building rather than the maximum number they plan to deploy) is its ability to destroy large numbers of U.S. military targets. Deployment of 1,450 warheads is about 75% of the U.S. Cold War ICBM force, and this does not count the other Chinese ICBMs and SLBMs, including the mobile DF-41. In light of the massive reduction in the number of U.S. ICBMs and military bases since the end of the Cold War, the silos-based DF-41 force could probably launch a coordinated attack against about all major U.S. military facilities. This is an extremely serious development.

Read more at Real Clear Defense

About the author

Mark B. Schneider

Leave a Comment