China is on the way to acquiring the most powerful strategic weapons system in history

Although the progress of the People's Liberation Army has been very important over the past two decades, and that it is now taken very seriously by Western strategists, especially across the Atlantic, Chinese nuclear power and its weapon system strategy have never been perceived as a critical component of global balances in this area.

It is true that with less than 300 warheads in service until recently, implemented by ICBM DF-4 and 5 ballistic missiles significantly less advanced than the American Minutemann III and the Russian Yars.

This is also the case for the H-6 strategic bombers derived from the Soviet Tu-16, and the Type 09IV nuclear ballistic missile submarines deemed less discreet than their Russian, American, British or French counterparts, the Chinese threat was, so far, much less than that posed by Moscow.

This status quo inherited from the Cold War, is however in a phase of rapid transformation. On the one hand, the new Chinese DF-41 solid-fuel ICBMs no longer have much to envy to contemporary models, while Beijing has undertaken, according to satellite observations, the construction of 3 sites that will be able to accommodate up to 300 of these missiles, to get closer to the 399 Minutemann III in service in the United States.

ICBM DF-41 is China's new strategic weapon system
The DF-41 ICBM intercontinental ballistic missile offers performance comparable to that of the Russian Yars

In the field of strategic aviation, the Xian company is reportedly actively developing the H-20 bomber, which is Beijing's response to the American B-21 Raider. Finally, a new class of Chinese SSBN, designated Type 09VI, would be under construction, and would be capable of implementing the new SLBM JL-3 medium-changing ballistic missile.

If this trajectory should enable Beijing to bring itself up to the level of Washington and Moscow, in capacity as well as in volume, Chinese engineers would above all develop a new strategic weapon system likely, according to the specialists of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, to profoundly upset the global balance of power in this area.

Recall that in 2021, a Chinese Long March 2C rocket launched into orbit what is similar to a fractional bombardment system (SBF), a space vehicle capable of following an orbital trajectory before causing atmospheric entry to deliver an offensive, potentially nuclear, charge. In itself, although having taken Western observers and intelligence services by surprise, this announcement was not cause for undue alarm.

Long March 2C Deterrent Forces | Defense Analysis | Hypersonic weapons and missiles
China's fractional orbital bombing system was lifted into orbit by a Long March 2C rocket like this

Experimented by the Soviet Union in the 80s, fractional bombing systems suffer from a significant lack of precision, making them a weapon that is certainly quick to deploy and difficult to detect by anti-ballistic systems that scan the sky today, but unsuitable for strategic strikes.

However, according to the article published by thebulletin.org, the site of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Beijing would not have stopped there and would have coupled its SBF with a hypersonic atmospheric re-entry glider capable of carrying a nuclear charge. And that changes everything!


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