I. The Big Story: China’s Nuclear Forces
The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission conducted a hearing on China’s nuclear forces on June 10, 2021. China’s force expansion and modernisation, upgrading delivery and support systems, and implications for the US, allies, partners and the Indo-Pacific region were major discussion points during this hearing. I have highlighted some important issues from the testimonies.
I) Chinese Nuclear Hardware, Delivery Systems and Supporting Infrastructure
Force Modernisation and Increase in Warheads
I found Dr Hans Kristensen’s testimony
Developments in the Four phases:
– Phase 1 (1960s and 1970s): Introduction of bombers, liquid fuel MRBMs like the DF-1 and DF-2.
– Phase 2 (1980s and 1990s): Silo-based ICBMs that could reach India, Russia and nearly all of the US. Also, the introduction of the first solid-fueled road-mobile MRBM (the DF-21) and experimental SSBM Type 092.
– Phase 3 (first and half-decade of the 2000s): Introduction of the DF-31, an upgrade on the DF-5 (MIRVs), a small SSBN fleet, and fielding the DF21 C/D.
– Phase 4: The fourth modernisation phase is currently underway. China is fielding a broad set of nuclear weapons systems that appear intended to upgrade older systems, add new types, and eventually, develop a triad of long-range strategic forces complemented by medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. The PLARF force structure currently includes at least 40 missile brigade bases, of which up to half might have nuclear capability.