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Images of 145 new silos for China's DF-41 ICBMs points to counter-force strategy

A road mobile version of the DF-41 ICBM seen in the October 2019 military parade. Up to 145 may be placed in new ICBM silos.
FPI / July 7, 2021

By Richard Fisher

American military officials have been providing warnings for many months.

In a February 2021 article for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Commander Adm. Charles Richard wrote, “China’s nuclear weapons stockpile is expected to double (if not triple or quadruple) over the next decade.”

Then at a June 2 forum of the Air Force Association Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, U.S. Air Force Strike Command Commander Gen. Timothy Ray stated regarding China’s strategic modernization: “Over the last six months we started to see changes; it’s not that we saw changes, it’s the number of times that assessments fell short of what they were actually accomplishing.”

One of China’s new nuclear direction was revealed in a July 1 Washington Post article featuring a review of commercial satellite imagery from the Planet Labs imaging company.

This review was done by Dr. Jeffery Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, part of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and Decker Eveleth, a Reed College graduate student.

A previous review of Planet Labs images for a review of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) had spurred Eveleth to review the region near the city of Yumen in China’s Gansu Province, where he found 109 silos under construction for new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

These silos plus some in other areas added up to a total of 145 new silos under construction for new PLARF ICBMs.

These silos appear to be for a new silo-based version of the 14,000 km range solid-fueled DF-41 ICBM.

The 2019 issue of the China Military Power Report of the U.S. Department of Defense stated: “China appears to be considering additional DF-41 launch options, including rail-mobile and silo basing.”

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