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Subject: Chinese strategic nuclear arsenals - ICBM
cateyes    6/23/2004 1:55:49 PM
It's very hard to get accurate data regarding to Chinese strategic nuclear force. You have to take a guess work to estimate what kind of systems they have, let alone numbers. Since Chinese has a very different views from west on deterrence issue, they simply hide all the detail. So we can only take a guess, based on the public resources: DF-5: This liquid fuel type ICBM is the only official confirmed one, first generation Chinese ICBM with single warhead, mega ton level yield, entering into service in middle 80s. Some of them sit in silos(I saw one photo before), some stored in tunnels. China has unique geographic condition, with 70% of land covered by huge rock mountains, so it's natural for them to take that advantage. The 80s offical source confirmed the initial tunnel network was completed in early 80s. Some semi-official source stated that China obtained the fire on warning capability in 1984, with 5 command centers. As for number, I think 20 around ICBMs at the end of 80s is credible, which is disclosed by one high ranking offical in 1990, who escaped to US. Since China's main enemy is Soviet Union before 90s, most of their nuclear arsenals are in middle range. DF-5A: The information of this type ICBM is circulated for quite a time, but never being confirmed by offical source, and no photos/evidences exist. DF-5A is said upgraded from DF-5 in range, and multiple warhead capability. DF-31: This solid fuel mobile type ICBM came into public in 1999, and there are quite a lot photos/evidences about it circulated around. Interesting thing is that China never confirms in public it is an ICBM, only indirect evidence proves it. Sources said this type of ICBM started its deployment from 1996, and completed in 2001. DF-31 in early development stage, the Chinese text indicats ICBM: This scanned photo shows DF-31 in launch practice: DF-31 spotted in the field: Does this photo captured from Chinese TV show its deployment? Also there are some DF-31 picutres captured in differenc places: DF-31 in parade, with labels on the vehicles: DF-31 spotted in the field, no labels on the vechicle: claimed to be payload of the DF-31, not sure: With these photos/evidence we can safely conclude that DF-31 has been in service, it not the Chinese tradition to put weapons not in service into public parade anyway. DF-31A/DF-41: There are some information around regarding these two types Chinese ICBMs, but never confirmed by the official like with DF31. DF-31A extends DF-31's range from 8000km to 12,000km. And DF-41 is a heavy type ICBM with a striking range to 14,000. There are tow pictures released to public, don't know from where. DF-31A, or DF-41? Looks qute similar to ss27.
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NomadSoul    RE:Chinese strategic nuclear arsenals - ICBM   6/23/2004 3:11:29 PM
a prototype of DF-41 was test fired in 1995, but never put into production.
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NomadSoul    RE:Chinese strategic nuclear arsenals - ICBM   6/23/2004 3:16:20 PM
DF-31 limited ranged ICBM was originally intended to hit Soviet's European theater but reverse engineered to counter U.S target after the collapse of Soviet Union.
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NomadSoul    RE:Chinese strategic nuclear arsenals - ICBM   6/23/2004 3:18:33 PM
DF-31A is an enhanced version of DF-31, not only has extended range but more sophisticated guidance system, this is the mainstay of Chinese nuclear arsenal
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cateyes    Number of China's ICBMs -- Tunnel Network   6/24/2004 2:45:58 PM
From my original post, we can clearly see that today China's ICBMs are mainly solid fuel DF-31s, or even more advanced DF-31A/DF-41s. DF-5 or DF-5A liquid fuel ICBMs will not be deployed in large-scale, since they can simply add more stage to DF-31 to extend its range and payload. There is not technology problem, DF-5 series are not road mobile ICBM anyway. How many ICBMs has China deployed? This is really a hard question, since China doesn't disclose its number and, spy satellites will not tell you that. Most Chinese ICBMs are hidden in the tunnel networks, with miles of rock mountain above them. The tunnel network project, code name "Great Wall", was confirmed by Chinese official through an article published in late 1980s. The project started from middle 1960s, at the time China had nuclear strike capability, completed in middle 1980s. Thousands of miles of tunnel were digged by PLA engineering units during 20 years. The article clearly stated that the project is for nuclear retaliation purpose, but no places mentioned, except "mountain areas". Well, 70% of China's land are covered by rock mountains. Last year, one tunnel netwrok of the project, code name 816, were transfered by PLA to the local civil government for commercial development. And some details are released regarding to the project. The "816" consists of 20kms of networked tunnels, located near Chongqing, a big city in Sichuan province. The structure was built from 1965 to 1984, to hide a whole nuclear power plant fuel production factory, which was not finished in installation and never put into operation, due to situation change. There were 60,000 PLA solidiers taking part in its construction during 20 years, with 1.5 million cubic meters of rock digged out. The tunnel network can stand mega ton level H-bomb hit. Since the facility is only used to produce power generator fuel, not purified material for weaopns, it not hard to image how much effort will be put into weapon production factories, and nuclear retailation delivery facilities, "to ensure absolute second strike capability", just like the article said. So even you cann't get the official data, and see them from satellites, you still can estimate the China's ICBM number, from their nuclear war strategy.
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NomadSoul    RE:Number of China's ICBMs -- Tunnel Network   6/24/2004 5:06:13 PM
in order to kill CCP leadership under 1st strike secenario, we need a type of nuclear warhead capable of penetrating deep
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cateyes    Number of China's ICBMs - Capability   6/25/2004 2:12:42 PM
The power of nuclear weapons make it very easy to destroy any country in the world. The nuclear war strategy of all major powers is to ensure the mutual destruction. China is not excluded. Since US and Russia are so scared of that their nuclear arsenals will be knocked out by enemy's first strike, or in such a desire of initiating the first strike, they simply increase the nuclear weapon stock in desperation. And most of these weapons are not for attacking enemy directly, just make the number big so the leftover from the first strike can still kill the enemy. For Chinese, they are scared too, but they can't afford to join the nuclear race, due to technical and economic reasons. Chinese nuclear development started from Russian transfered, far less advanced technologies, although they made fast progress from that baseline. Russian didn't tell Chinese everything, so when they began to develop more advanced stuffs, they ran into difficulties. Assisstance is both magic and mistake, which will help you and mislead you at same time. From official sources, China tested its first missle in 1960, fired the first battle MRBM, DF-2 in 1964, first IRBM, DF-4 in 1971, and all of them were liquid fueled. The decision was made in Mar, 1965 to develop liquid fuel ICBM, but not succeeded until 1980, when DF-5 was tested successfully. The long time shows how many problems they encounted, part of reason was due to the chaos in Mao's last years. Their main problem in developing ICBM should be in missle guidance and vehicle re-entry areas, since the longer the range, the bigger the error and higher the speed. And they had to solve the problem themselves. China established the fire on warning mechanism in 1984, and in 1987 Deng declared that China obtained the second strike capability. This may be due to the tunnel networks were basically completed at this time and missles in service should be all liquid fuel based. As for solid fuel missle, from official sources we know the research began in 1956, and the official development started in 1962, there were no any help from Russia in this field. Chinese encounted lots of technical problems in propellant, but by 1966, they managed to cast a 5 foot diameter solid fuel engin and made it work. Decision was made in Mar, 1967 to develop the solid fuel strategic missles, but not one design even came onto the paper until 1978. After 1980, development accelerated fast, and technical breakthrough was achieved in 1984. Most technical difficulties in manufacture, storage, transporation, launch, quidance control were overcome and whole integrated system were tested in success in Apr/May of 1984. Due to the achievement, this year Chinese military decided all their future strategic nuclear missles should be solid fuel based. In May, 1985, China's first solid fuel mobile MRBM DF-21 was tested, improved version was tested in May, 1987. Same year in Sep, first solid fuel SLBM was tested successfully. Unofficial sources said DF31/DF41 series solid fuel ICBM started their development in 1986, which sounds reasonable, regarding the technology progress at that time. The first DF31 picture appeared from a US spy stellite photo in 1993(I saw it before), since then more and more photos emerged, and it came public in 1999. For China 10 year seems quite long to develop a solid fuel ICBM, because all the technologies were available. Maybe its development waited for the MIRV progress. China launched 3 satellites from a single rocket in 1981, and repeated it for many times later. It is said that its first MIRV test was performed in 1986, which is never confirmed. But we know China conducted may times small yield nuclear tests, their last one has the yield less than 5,000 ton TNT, which may prove their progress. From the above, we can conclude that China didn't have any ICBM before 1980. Since then to early 1990s, very limited number liquid fuel ICBMs may be deployed, because China's liquid fuel ICBM is a long due program. Shortly after China succedded in developing it, its solid fuel missle technology became muture, so it was quite unnecessary to deploy them in large-scale. In 1970s and 1980s, Soviet Union is China's main enemy, and Chinese DF3/DF4 can cover most of part of Soviet land, eliminated the need to make large number of DF5 family. 10-30 is quite a reasonable number of Chinese deployed ICBMs before middle of 1990s. With the DF31 series development completed, this number will be increased quickly to meet China's nuclear war strategy.
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elcid    RE:Number of China's ICBMs - Capability   6/26/2004 6:33:40 AM
This discussion is informed but misleading in several ways. First, while Russia did provide some early nuclear help, they reniged and cut China off about 1958. China did rather well on its own. See China Builds the Bomb (Stanford University Press, based on declassified materials - Chinese declassified materials integrated with American ones.] China had a great deal of independent missile capabilty after we deported on of the pioneers to China (the worst effect of the McCarthy era). He had studied the German work, and the German's had actually used his supersonic theory, developed in the 1930s. So USA, Russia and China substantially all started on the same German foundation. Probably the biggest error is in the ICBM count. PRC does not use one round per launcher as we do - and signed no treaty saying it should either. PRC has reloads, although it is unclear if the number is the same for all sizes of missiles? We know for sure that smaller ones have 8 rounds per tube. Larger ones may have fewer, in which PLA organizational philosophy would make it 4. Either way, counting launchers is very misleading, but almost universally done by Western analysts. Actual missile production figures would permit at least 150 of the DF-2, but some surely were not used by the military (the same rocket is a space booster). Finally, China adopted minimum deterrence theory and never attemped to go for launch on warning. They solved the missile guidance problem in the 1990s using American technology legally sold (if irresponsibly sold) to them. Today PRC missiles are actually more accurate than any others, as actually demonstrated by firing rounds we were unable to measure any CEP for using AGEIS radar. There must be a CEP, but it is inside the resolution of the radar, which is less than a meter. No other nation has fielded ballistic missiles in this accuracy class. China did it so it could go NON nuclear - and it has transferred a brigade of nuclear weapons from Second Artillery (a nuclear service) to the Army Ground Forces (a non nuclear service). China has tested MIRV in several configurations, but does not deploy any. It is believed it lacks the warheads. Warheads were taken from IRBMs to arm the ICBM force (which is why the IRBMs were refitted with conventional rounds and given to the army). There never were any warheads for the Xia SSBN, nor any missiles either - she has never made a deterrent patrol.
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displacedjim    RE:Number of China's ICBMs - Capability   6/26/2004 8:40:33 PM
"Today PRC missiles are actually more accurate than any others, as actually demonstrated by firing rounds we were unable to measure any CEP for using AGEIS radar. There must be a CEP, but it is inside the resolution of the radar, which is less than a meter." Elcid, you have got to stop believing everything some ship captain rattles off. Please tell me what missile you think it was; I'm going to try searching for some data on that incident tomorrow. Chinese nuclear RVs have CEPs more easily measured in kilometers than in meters, period (well, a bit of an exaggeration, I admit). Conventional SRBM payloads are a different matter, but even they aren't on the order of 1 meter, period. I love it if you could post the pertinent quote you have often referred to regarding those launches back in 1996. Displacedjim
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hybrid    RE:Number of China's ICBMs - Capability   6/26/2004 10:26:37 PM
Elcid while you may be right on the SRBM and IRBM accuracy, you'd be dead wrong on the ICBM issue, we've discussed in extreme detail why there are such differing figures for CEPs on ICBMs and why you can't extrapolate SRBM/MRBM data to larger and longer ranged ICBMs. The missiles used for the taiwan test that were registered by the Aegis radar were SRBMs and in a boxed area as has been said before and discussed before IN DETAIL. Please do not rehash stuff like this as it is very disingenious to such a discussion.
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displacedjim    RE:Number of China's ICBMs - Capability   6/26/2004 11:18:01 PM
"China did it so it could go NON nuclear - and it has transferred a brigade of nuclear weapons from Second Artillery (a nuclear service) to the Army Ground Forces (a non nuclear service). China has tested MIRV in several configurations, but does not deploy any. It is believed it lacks the warheads. Warheads were taken from IRBMs to arm the ICBM force (which is why the IRBMs were refitted with conventional rounds and given to the army)." Please tell me which brigade this is. Feel free to send anything you feel like to me offlist if you want. Displacedjim
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