Strategic Weapons: October 20, 1999

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The National Missile Defense system will initially be deployed in 2005 (assuming that the Russians are willing to modify the ABM treaty or the US is willing to scrap it) to shoot down a few missiles from a rogue nation such as North Korea or Iran, or a renegade Russian or Chinese general who controls only a few missile silos. Once that is complete, however, the US plans to continually test and upgrade the system to improve its capabilities, allowing it to deal with ever-increasing levels of attack. This is considered necessary since any potential adversary, knowing that an attack of "Level X" would be a waste of time, would try to develop the forces to conduct an attack of "Level X+Y".--Stephen V Cole

China displayed its missile forces during its 50th anniversary military parade. The well-known DF-15 (M9, CSS6) missile was seen on a previously-known transporter-erector-launcher (TEL). The missile has a range of 600km and a single warhead that could be nuclear, chemical, unitary high explosive, or submunitions. The DF21A (CCS5, the land-based version of the submarine-launched JL1) was displayed in its launch canister on a new TEL. It has a range of 2,500km and carries a single warhead that could be nuclear, chemical, unitary high explosive, or submunitions. The prize of the show was the new DF31 (CSS9; the naval JL2 /CSSN4 is thought to be virtually the same weapon) was shown in its launch canister on a new TEL. It is thought to be two years from deployment. The DF31/JL2 has a range of 8,000km. It may have a multiple nuclear warhead. The DF31 marks a major shift from liquid fuel to solid fuel.--Stephen V Cole

 


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