China carried out a long-range missile flight test on Saturday using multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, according to U.S. defense officials. As The Washington Free Beacon reports, the test of a new DF-41 missile, China’s longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile, marks the first test of multiple warhead capabilities for China (the DF-41 is capable of carrying up to 10 warheads and has a maximum range of 7,456 miles, allowing it to target the entire continental United States). Rick Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, warned "the beginning of China’s move toward multiple warhead-armed nuclear missiles is proof that today, arms control is failing to increase the security of Americans."
China carried out a long-range missile flight test on Saturday using multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, according to U.S. defense officials.
The flight test Saturday of a new DF-41 missile, China’s longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile, marks the first test of multiple warhead capabilities for China, officials told the Washington Free Beacon.
China has been known to be developing multiple-warhead technology, which it obtained from the United States illegally in the 1990s.
However, the Dec. 13 DF-41 flight test, using an unknown number of inert maneuvering warheads, is being viewed by U.S. intelligence agencies as a significant advance for China’s strategic nuclear forces and part of a build-up that is likely to affect the strategic balance of forces.
China’s nuclear arsenal is estimated to include around 240 very large warheads. That number is expected to increase sharply as the Chinese deploy new multiple-warhead missiles.
The current deployed U.S. strategic warhead arsenal includes 1,642 warheads. All 450 Minuteman III missiles have been modified to no longer carry MIRVs. However, Trident II submarine-launched missiles can carry up to 14 MIRVs per missile.
Additionally, the development of China’s multiple warhead technology was assisted by illegal transfers of technology from U.S. companies during the Clinton administration, according to documents and officials familiar with the issue.
“The DF-41, which could be deployed as early as 2015, may carry up to 10 MIRVs, and have a maximum range as far as 7,456 miles, allowing it to target the entire continental United States,” the report said. “In addition, some sources claim China has modified the DF–5 and the DF–31A to be able to carry MIRVs.”
Analysts are sounding a warning...
Larry Wortzel, a former military intelligence official who specialized on China, said the Chinese military has been working on a MIRV-modified DF-41 for a number of years.
Wortzel said Chinese military research literature has documented work on the DF-41 but the Pentagon “has been reluctant to discuss or confirm these developments.”
“The United States is now threatened with a more deadly and survivable nuclear force that makes our weak ballistic missile defenses less effective,” Wortzel said. “We need to improve our own defenses and modernize our own deterrent force as the Chinese are doing.”
Rick Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military, said the advent of China’s MIRV capability should mark the end of U.S. efforts to reduce the number of nuclear warheads.
“The Chinese have not and likely will not disclose their nuclear warhead buildup plans, Russia is modernizing its nuclear forces across the board and violating the INF treaty with new classes of missiles, so it would be suicidal for the Washington to pursue a new round of nuclear reductions as is this administration’s preference.”
Fisher, with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said China may deploy a combination of single-warhead and multiple warhead DF-41s, with the single warhead version carrying a huge “city buster” multi-megaton bombs.
“The beginning of China’s move toward multiple warhead-armed nuclear missiles is proof that today, arms control is failing to increase the security of Americans,” Fisher said. “Instead, it is time to be rebuilding U.S. nuclear warfighting capabilities, to include new mobile ICBMs, new medium range missiles and new tactical nuclear missile systems.”
Georgetown University Professor Phillip Karber has studied China’s nuclear forces and believes its arsenal is far larger than the U.S. intelligence estimate of 240.
“The Chinese development of the DF-41 has been a long term, methodical process,” Karber said. “However, if as we suspect they are going to put a MIRVed version of the missile on both rail and road-mobile launchers, the number of reentry vehicles could grow quite rapidly depending on the number of warheads they end up putting on the missiles.”
The DF-41 was revealed inadvertently by the Chinese government last summer when details, including the fact that it will be a multi-warhead missile, appeared on a provincial government website before being quickly censored and removed.
And even the US government is making public statements:
After several years of silence on the DF-41, the Pentagon disclosed the existence of the new missile in its latest annual report on the Chinese military, made public in June.
“China also is developing a new road-mobile ICBM known as the Dong Feng-41 (DF-41), possibly capable of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV),” the report says.
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Between Russia and China, it seems 'isolation' is building.