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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

PRC Missile and Space Forces

page 2

The PRC first attempted a flight test of the CSS-4 in the 1970s. Following several flight test failures, the PRC continued its development of the CSS-4 through its development of the Long March 2 rocket. Of the next nine Long March 2 launches from 1973 through 1978, five were successful.

The CSS-4 uses nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) as the oxidizer and a lightweight, aluminum-copper alloy airframe. It is equipped with four YF-20 engines in its first stage, and a single YF-20 engine in its second stage. Unlike previous PRC missiles that use jet vanes in the exhaust for steering control, the CSS-4 uses steerable exhaust nozzles for control. It has been reported to the Select Committee that the CSS-4 uses a gimbaled guidance system for control.22

Starting in 1981, the PRC began deploying CSS-4 missiles in silos. Only two operational missiles were deployed in the 1980s, on what the PRC called "trial operational deployments."

During the 1990s, the PRC has deployed a total of approximately 20 CSS-4 ICBMs in silos, most of which are targeted on the United States. The Select Committee judges that despite the 1998 announcement that the PRC and the U.S. would no longer target each other with nuclear weapons, the PRC's missiles remain targeted at the United States.

Today, the CSS-4 has a range in excess of 7,400 miles. The PRC has begun deploying an improved version of the CSS-4, known as the CSS-4 Mod 2.23 The Mod 2 has improved range capabilities over the CSS-4. The additional range may provide the PRC with greater confidence that the missile will reach long distance targets such as Washington, D.C., although this and other U.S. cities are already within the range of the CSS-4 (see table on previous page).

This improved range may also translate into an improved throw-weight that could allow the PRC to deploy multiple warheads on the CSS-4 Mod 2, rather than the single warheads that are currently carried on the CSS-4.

The PLA's Future "East Wind" Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

Missiles in silos are vulnerable to attack because their precise location can be known in advance. Concerns about the survivability of its silo-based CSS-4 ballistic missile forces have led the PLA to begin a modernization program that includes the development of road-mobile, solid-propellant ballistic missiles.

The use of a solid-propellant missile in place of the liquid-fueled CSS-4 will permit the PRC to launch its missiles with shorter notice. That is because the liquid fuel for the current CSS-4 must be stored separately from the missile until launch. Then, prior to launch, the CSS-4 missile must be fueled.

Substitution of a mobile missile for the silo-based CSS-4 will make it possible to hide the missile's location, thus protecting it from attack.

The PLA is currently developing two road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile systems. It also has under development a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The Select Committee judges that within 15 years, this modernization program could result in the deployment of a PLA intercontinental ballistic missile force consisting of up to 100 ICBMs.

The PRC's planned new mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, and its planned new submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles, require smaller warheads than the large, heavy, 1950s-era warheads developed for the PRC's current silo-based missiles. Because U.S. thermonuclear warheads are significantly smaller, they are capable of use on mobile missiles and submarine-launched missiles. The Select Committee judges that the PRC will exploit elements of the stolen U.S. thermonuclear design information on these new ICBMs.

If any of the PRC's planned missiles were to carry multiple warheads, or if the CSS-4 were modified to carry multiple warheads, then a fairing (that is, a covering for the missiles in the nosecone) could be required. See the chapter entitled Satellite Launches in the PRC: Hughes for a discussion of the PRC's acquisition of fairing technology from the United States.

The aggressive development of a MIRV system by the PRC could permit the deployment of upwards of 1,000 thermonuclear warheads on ICBMs by 2015. See the chapter entitled PRC Theft of Nuclear Warhead Design Information for information on the PRC's development of nuclear warheads that may exploit elements of U.S. thermonuclear weapons design information.

The first of the three new intercontinental ballistic missiles that are being developed by the PRC is the DF-31 (or East Wind 31). It is estimated that the DF-31 will be a three-stage, mobile, solid-propellant ballistic missile. It will be deployed on a mobile erector-launcher.

The DF-31's 5,000-mile range will allow it to hit all of Hawaii and Alaska and parts of the state of Washington, but not other parts of the continental United States.24 Due to its limited intercontinental range, the DF-31 is most likely intended as the replacement for the PRC's aging CSS-3 force, rather than for the longer range CSS-4 ICBM.

The DF-31 missile may be tested this year. Given a successful flight program, the DF-31 could be ready for deployment as early as 2002.

The collapse of the Soviet Union has changed the PRC's strategic outlook, prompting the development of extended range missiles. To this end, the PRC is planning an even longer-range, mobile ICBM to add to its already deployed CSS-4 missiles. This new missile is believed to have a range of more than 7,500 miles, allowing the PRC to target almost all of the United States. These missiles can be deployed anywhere within the PRC, making them significantly more survivable.

The JL-2 (Julang 2, or Great Wave 2) is a submarine-launched version of the DF-31. It is believed to have an even longer range, and will be carried on the PLA Navy's Type 094-class submarine. Sixteen JL-2 missiles will be carried on each submarine.25

The JL-2's 7,500 mile range will allow it to be launched from the PRC's territorial waters and to strike targets throughout the United States.26

This range would allow a significant change in the operation and tactics of the PRC's nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. Instead of venturing into the open ocean to attack the United States, the Type 094-class submarines could remain near PRC waters, protected by the PLA Navy and Air Force.

Additionally, if the JL-2 were to employ a shroud to protect its warhead as do the majority of submarine-launched ballistic missiles today, this would be the first use of a shroud or fairing on a PRC missile.

The PRC's Medium- and Short-Range Ballistic Missiles

The PRC is also deploying, or developing for future deployment, a series of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, including both liquid- and solid-propellant technologies. Some are armed with conventional warheads and others with nuclear warheads. These missiles present a threat to U.S. forces deployed in the region, and to U.S. allies and friends in the region.

The PRC's short- and medium-range ballistic missiles include the CSS-6 short-range ballistic missile, the CSS-X-7 short-range ballistic missile, and the CSS-5 medium-range ballistic missile. The PRC is also developing new versions of its short-range ballistic missiles, and may produce these systems in larger quantities than earlier-generation PRC ballistic missiles.

The PLA's CSS-6 (DF-15 or East Wind 15; also known as the M-9) is an advanced, solid-propellant, short-range ballistic missile that uses 1990s technology. It has a range of 375 miles. It is a road-mobile missile, launched from a transporter-erector-launcher. The CSS-6 may be fitted with nuclear warheads or with an enhanced radiation weapon (neutron bomb).

According to published reports, the majority of the PRC's CSS-6 missiles are deployed adjacent to Taiwan.

The PRC may attempt various means to improve the CSS-6's accuracy. The PRC claims to be planning to use the Global Positioning System (GPS) on its "M" missiles, which likely include the CSS-6, CSS-X-7, and other short-range ballistic missiles.

On two recent occasions, the PRC has launched a number of CSS-6 missiles towards Taiwan as a means of political intimidation. In July 1995, the PRC fired CSS-6 missiles to a location north of Taiwan in an attempt to influence Taiwan's parliamentary elections. In March 1996, the PRC again launched CSS-6 missiles to areas north and south of Taiwan's two major ports in an effort to influence its presidential elections.

The PRC is also developing the CSS-X-7 (DF-11 or East Wind 11; also known as the M-11) short-range ballistic missile. The CSS-X-7 is a mobile, 185-mile range solid-propellant ballistic missile that is launched from a transporter-erector-launcher. This missile has been exported to Pakistan. The main advantage of the CSS-X-7 over the CSS-6 is its ability to carry a larger payload.

The CSS-5 (DF-21, or East Wind 21) medium range ballistic missile is now deployed by the PRC. The CSS-5 is a road-mobile, solid-propellant ballistic missile with a range of 1,100 miles. The CSS-5 is assessed to carry a nuclear warhead payload. An improved version, known as the CSS-5 Mod 2, is under development in the PRC. The range of these missiles, if fitted with a conventional warhead, would be sufficient to hit targets in Japan.

The CSS-5 has also been developed in a submarine-launched ballistic missile version. The Western designation of this missile is CSS-NX-3; its PLA designation is JL-1 (Julang 1, or Great Wave 1). This missile is assessed to have a range of 1,200 miles. Missiles of this type will be launched from the PLA Navy Xia-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine.

While the Xia submarines were completed in 1981, the PRC has yet to deploy the CSS-NX-3 missile.27 Due to the missile's 1,000 mile range, the CSS-NX-3 is best suited for theater targets, although it could threaten the U.S. if the PRC chose to deploy it in open-ocean operations.

The PRC has also developed the CSS-8 (8610) short-range ballistic missile. The CSS-8 is derived from the Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile. The PRC has sold the missile to Iran.

Stolen U.S. Technology Used on PRC Ballistic Missiles

The PRC has stolen U.S. missile guidance technology that has direct applicability to the PLA's ballistic missiles and rockets. The stolen guidance technology is used on a variety of U.S. missiles and military aircraft:

  • The 90-mile range U.S. Army Tactical Missile System
  • The U.S. Navy's Stand-off Land Attack Missile-Extended Range (SLAM-ER)
  • The U.S. Navy F-14 fighter jet
  • The U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jet
  • The U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jet
  • The U.S. Air Force F-117 fighter jet

The PRC's Strategic Forces Doctrine

Following the detonation of its first nuclear weapon in 1964, the PRC publicly declared that it would never use nuclear weapons first against the homeland of a nuclear power or a non-nuclear nation. The PRC pointedly does not include Taiwan in this formulation. The PRC's announced strategic doctrine is based on the concept of "limited deterrence," which is defined as the ability to inflict unacceptable damage on an enemy in a retaliatory strike.28

The PRC's currently deployed ICBMs are so-called "city busters": that is, they are useful for targeting entire cities or large military bases, rather than smaller, hardened targets such as U.S. ICBM silos. The intercontinental-range CSS-4s are deployed in their silos without warheads and without propellants during day-to-day operations.29

Strategic doctrine, however, can change, and the PRC's movement towards a nuclear missile force of several kinds of mobile, long-range ballistic missiles will allow it to include a range of options in its nuclear force doctrine. The acknowledged high accuracy of U.S. ballistic missiles, as well as the large number of increasingly accurate Russian missiles, may have left the PRC unsatisfied with the vulnerability of its silo-based forces. The PRC's new mobile missiles will be difficult to locate once they have been dispersed from their garrisons, giving them far better protection from attack. These new, mobile, long-range missiles can also be launched on much shorter notice than the PRC's current force, due to their planned use of solid propellants.

Because they will be much more difficult to locate and destroy than the PRC's current silo-based ICBM force, these new mobile ICBMs will present a more credible threat against the U. S. in the event a crisis develops over a regional conflict in East Asia.

According to the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States:

In a crisis in which the U. S. confronts China's conventional and nuclear forces at the regional level, China's modernized strategic nuclear ballistic missile force would pose a credible threat against the United States.

Deterring the U. S. can be important to China's ability to use force to achieve its goal of being the preeminent power in East Asia.

China demonstrated a willingness to use ballistic missiles in the Taiwan crisis of 1995/96.

The question of a senior Chinese official was the U. S. willing to trade Los Angeles for Taiwan suggests their understanding of the linkage between China's regional and strategic ballistic missile capabilities.30

Back  |  Forward


pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

PRC Acquisition of U.S. Technology
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

PRC Theft of U.S. Nuclear Warhead Design Information
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

High Performance Computers
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

PRC Missile and Space Forces
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Satellite Launches in the PRC: Hughes
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Launch Site Security in the PRC
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 5 | 6

Commercial Space Insurance
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

U.S. Export Policy Toward the PRC
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Manufacturing Processes
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

pages 1 | 2 | 3

pages introduction | A | B | C | D | E | F

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