By Ajai Shukla
While the Pakistani doctoring of first class Harpoon anti-ship missiles into third-rate anti-shore missiles grabs world attention, China has given notice that it will soon display the latest additions to its technologically world-class arsenal of missiles.
On Tuesday, exactly one month before its National Day Parade on 1st October, an unnamed official from China’s missile establishment briefed a group of journalists to announce that the highly anticipated military parade will provide a first-ever view of five new missiles, including a nuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The official confirmed that all these missiles have already entered service with the military.
Dong Feng – 41?
Most keenly anticipated, is China’s new third-generation ICBM, the Dong Feng – 41 (Dong Feng means East Wind), which has been in development for a decade but has never been publicly seen before. The DF-41 can be launched from a mobile firing platform. It is believed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to within 700 metres of a target 12,000 kilometres away. Its payload consists of a single 350-400 kiloton bomb (20 times more powerful than the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki), or 3-6 MIRVs (multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles) with the explosive power of 100 kilotons each.
This would be the first public viewing of the DF-41. The last National Day Parade on 1st October 1999 (this is held once every decade) provided the first outing for the DF-31, China’s current-generation ICBMs).
The DF-41 uses the first two stages of the DF-31, but an enlarged third stage extends the DF-41’s range to 12,000 kilometres. The DF-31 was designed for firing from submarines, as well as from land, and the consequent size constraint restricted the missile’s range to 8000 kilometres.
In addition to the extended range, the design technologies used in the DF-41’s warhead payload are expected to be more contemporary, enhancing stealth and MIRV capability.
Julang – 2 (NATO reporting name: CSS-NX-4)
In addition to the DF-41, China is expected to unveil its Julang-2 SLBM (submarine launched ballistic missile; Julang means Great Wave), which will provide a reality check to India’s naval planners. Dwarfing the 750-kilometer range K-15 missiles on India’s recently-launched nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, China’s JL-2 SLBMs can lob far more powerful nuclear warheads at targets 8000 kilometers away.
The JL-2 is believed to be a development of the DF-31. It will probably be deployed on China’s new 094 Class nuclear missile submarine, or the Jin Class SSBN, each submarine carrying 12 JL-2 missiles.
China holds its National Day Parade once in a decade; this one will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. Watchers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will use this opportunity to assess China’s latest military hardware, much as Soviet-watchers did during the May Day Parade in Moscow’s Red Square.
Opaque totalitarian states like the Soviet Union and China have traditionally used such parades as tools of nuclear deterrence, parading their newest missiles to confirm to potential adversaries that they can be deployed in any nuclear face-off.
But Li Jie, a PLA Navy expert in China, yesterday shrugged off suggestions of missile rattling, claiming that the parade merely reflected the current state of China's military weaponry. Straight-faced, he also declared that the parade demonstrated China's military openness and transparency and its adherence to international military standards.
The DF-41, like the earlier generations of ICBMs, will be deployed under the PLA’s 2nd Artillery Corps --- which is responsible for China’s land-based ballistic missiles. This formation has six ballistic missile brigades, deployed across, including in Tibet. Another artillery brigade, known only as Unit 84504, is believed to be deployed in Xinjiang, which borders the Indian region of Ladakh.
China’s nuclear and missile programmes have been conducted in the purposeful manner that characterises the People’s Republic. China’s first nuclear bomb was exploded in October 1964 at the Lop Nor test range; its first ballistic missile was successfully launched two years later in October 1966; and its first thermonuclear test (or hydrogen bomb test) was conducted in June 1967. When the Non-Proliferation Treaty opened for signature on 1st July 1968, China was officially a Nuclear Weapons State.
Julang-2 SLBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile)
Platform : Jin class nuclear submarines (being developed)
NATO codename : CSS-NX-4
Range : 8000 km
Propellent : Solid
Warhead : Three 90 Kiloton, or one 250 Kiloton warhead
Accuracy : 500 metres
Dong Feng-41 ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile)
Platform : Land-based silos or mobile launchers
NATO codename : ?
Range : 12,000 km
Propellent : Solid
Warhead : 3-6 100 Kiloton, or one 350-400 Kiloton warhead
Accuracy : 700-800 metres