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

PRC Missile and Space Forces

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The deployment of the PRC's new nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine could also lead to a shift in PRC doctrine, as these submarines will likely be deployed with their nuclear warheads already mated to the missiles. The long range of the JL-2 submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile will allow the PRC to conduct patrols close to its base, and under the protective cover of the PLA Navy and Air Force. This would provide the PLA submarine fleet with a more survivable nuclear force.

The fact that these new nuclear weapons will be far more survivable than the PRC's current silo-based forces could signal a major shift in the PRC's current nuclear strategy and doctrine.

The PRC might allow the first use of nuclear weapons on its own territory, which the PRC views as including Taiwan.

The PRC has tested an enhanced radiation weapon (neutron bomb) that minimizes blast effects, while maximizing human casualties. The PRC probably originally developed the neutron bomb for use on its own territory against invading Soviet forces. Similarly, the neutron bomb would be useful in a conflict with Taiwan, since the PRC undoubtedly would intend to occupy the territory it was attacking. The PRC may have plans to deploy neutron bombs.

These enhancements to the PRC's nuclear forces, together with its expanding economic capabilities, present the PRC with additional options for changes in its strategic doctrine. The PRC's growing economy, for instance, could allow it to produce and deploy more missiles than earlier planned. Additionally, the Select Committee judges that if the PRC made a decision to do so, it could build multiple warheads for its ballistic missiles.

Moreover, the PRC's concerns about the vulnerability of its nuclear weapons could lead the PRC to develop an early warning system in order to support a launch-on-warning posture.

The secretive nature of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Military Commission, as well as the PLA's other decision-making bodies, means that changes in PRC nuclear force doctrine may not be apparent.

Clearly, the PRC views its conventional ballistic missile forces as potential weapons for use during regional conflicts. This strategy was implied by the PRC in the course of its CSS-6 short-range ballistic missile exercises during the March 1996 presidential elections in Taiwan. During the exercise, the PRC launched four CSS-6 ballistic missiles towards points north and south of Taiwan's major ports.

The PRC's Opposition to U.S. Missile Defenses

Statements by PRC Government officials make it clear that the PRC is opposed to the development of either theater or national missile defense systems that could counter Beijing's nuclear forces.

If the PRC were intent upon overwhelming these defenses, there are several options it could take in an attempt to preserve the offensive capability of its missile forces.

One of the PRC's responses could be to expand the size of its ballistic missile force, to increase the chances that some of its nuclear weapons overcome a nation's defenses. This would be an expensive option requiring the PRC to invest in the production of significant additional missiles and infrastructure.

A cheaper response to U.S. missile defenses for the PRC could be the development of penetration aids (PENAIDS) for its ballistic missiles. These PENAIDS could include:

  • Decoys that create multiple radar targets, which must be tracked until discrimination of the actual nuclear warhead can be accomplished. Simple decoys are effective during exoatmospheric flight of the nuclear warhead, but burn up during reentry into the atmosphere.
  • Chaff consisting of aluminum strips that are designed to reflect radar beams, thereby confusing a radar as to the location of the PLA warhead.
  • Jammers used to jam the radar system during the flight of the PLA nuclear warhead.
  • Radar absorbing materials, which can also be used to reduce the radar cross section of the PLA nuclear warhead.
  • The PLA nuclear warhead itself could be reoriented to present the lowest radar cross section.31

The PRC is expected to pursue one or more PENAIDs in connection with its new nuclear missiles.

Given the PRC's aggressive opposition to missile defenses, the Select Committee judges that the PRC is collecting information about U.S. missile defense systems in order to help its development of PENAIDS.

Another option for countering U.S. missile defenses would be the development of a maneuvering reentry vehicle (MARV). The maneuvering capability could be used to complicate hit-to-kill or conventional warhead ballistic missile defense systems.

The PRC could also develop multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) or multiple reentry vehicle (MRV) platforms. This would effectively increase the size of the PLA's nuclear force without the full expense required to deploy additional missiles. The PRC's theft from the United States of design information for the W-88 miniaturized nuclear warhead makes it possible that existing or future PLA missiles, which might have been too small in diameter to carry multiple warheads, could now do so.

Furthermore, existing PLA missiles, including the CSS-4 Mod 2, could be capable of carrying the new, smaller warheads in a MIRV or MRV configuration. Within a short period of time after a decision to proceed, the PRC has the ability to deploy missiles with multiple reentry vehicles (MIRVs or MRVs). The PRC has demonstrated similar concepts and technologies in the Smart Dispenser that it developed to place multiple Iridium satellites into orbit. The Select Committee did not, however, review sufficient evidence to permit a judgment whether the PRC will in the future decide to deploy a MIRV or MRV system.

The Iridium Smart Dispenser Controversy

In May 1998, allegations were made that Motorola had provided the PRC with technology that would allow it to build a multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) missile-dispensing platform. The allegations were that the Smart Dispenser used by the PRC to place two Iridium communications satellites into orbit would provide the PRC with technology that would be directly applicable to MIRV dispensing.32

The Smart Dispenser is an on-orbit maneuvering stage with its own independent guidance system. The Select Committee has determined that Motorola did not provide the PRC with information on how to design the Smart Dispenser; rather, the PRC built the Smart Dispenser indigenously to Motorola's specifications. However, the Select Committee's independent technical expert noted that the PRC has demonstrated all of the techniques that are required for developing a MIRV bus, and that the PRC could develop a MIRV dispensing platform within a short period of time after making a decision to proceed.

The PRC's Acquisition of Foreign Ballistic Missile Technology

The PRC constantly searches for technology for its ballistic missile programs. Any technology or know-how that the PRC can acquire from foreign sources will save the PRC time and money in the development of its future weapons systems.

The prospect of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons cooperation between Russia and the PRC would be especially troubling because of the advanced technical capabilities of the Russian strategic nuclear forces. Thus far, Russia has been the only nation to deploy a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile force. These missiles include the road-mobile solid-propellant SS-25 ICBM and the rail-mobile SS-24 ICBM. Any cooperation in the area of solid-propellant mobile missiles would clearly benefit the PRC's new road-mobile ICBM programs.

Additionally, the Russians have advanced guidance and control capabilities. Assistance in the guidance and control field could help the PRC improve the accuracy of its current and future missile forces.

Furthermore, the Russians have the ability to mass-produce large, solid-propellant missiles. The manufacturing capabilities for these missiles could help the PRC produce large numbers of its next generation ICBMs. Russia's use of advanced solid-propellant materials could benefit the PRC's ICBM and submarine-launched ballistic missile programs, allowing them to build lightweight, longer-range ballistic missiles.

The Russian designer of the SS-X-27 has claimed that the missile's advanced penetration capabilities will allow it to defeat any nation's ballistic missile defenses.33 While the validity of such a statement cannot be judged against a U.S. national missile defense system that is not yet deployed, or even finally designed, Russia's provision of these presumably advanced penetration technologies to the PRC could assist PRC efforts to counter a U.S. national missile defense system.

While the Select Committee has no evidence that the Russians or any other nation of the former Soviet Union have provided the PRC with complete ballistic missiles or missile subsystems, there have been reported instances of the PRC approaching Russia and Ukraine about acquiring SS-18 and SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missiles. Reportedly, the PRC was turned down.34

The PRC's Indigenous Ballistic Missile Design Capabilities

The PRC is judged to have a fairly sophisticated capability to design ballistic missiles and rockets. This assessment is based on the fact that the PRC is able to develop missiles and rockets that are capable of delivering large payloads to their intended destination with reasonable accuracy and reliability. However, these design capabilities are not in all cases as sophisticated as those of Western nations.

The Select Committee's independent technical expert noted that while PRC scientists and engineers may have a textbook understanding of problems, there is a difference between a textbook understanding and the application of this knowledge to specific problems. Interactions with U.S. and foreign scientists and engineers, therefor, could assist the PRC engineers and scientists in overcoming these limitations.

PRC Missile Proliferation

The PRC is one of the world's leading proliferators of complete ballistic missile systems, as well as missile components.

Despite the fact that, in 1991, the PRC agreed to adhere to the April 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines that call for restraint on the sale of missiles capable of delivering a 225-pound payload to 185 miles, the PRC has sold complete ballistic missile systems or missile components to a number of countries, including but not limited to Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.35

In 1993, the MTCR States issued new expanded guidelines that called for a "strong presumption to deny" both sales of complete missile systems and sales of components that could be used in ballistic missile systems. Furthermore, the new guidelines call for restrictions on transfers of missiles that can deliver a weapons of mass destruction payload to 185 miles.36 However, the PRC has accepted neither these revised guidelines, nor the annex on the transfer of components and other commodities such as propellants and test equipment.37

Notwithstanding the PRC's purported adherence to the MTCR Category I restrictions, the PRC has provided, or is providing, assistance to the missile and space programs of Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. The PRC also continues to offer Category II missile components for sale to international customers. In addition, the PRC has provided assistance to the nuclear programs of Iran and Pakistan.


During the 1990s, the PRC sold Iran significant numbers of 90-mile range CSS-8 ballistic missiles, along with associated support equipment. In addition, PRC companies provided Iran with ballistic missile production technology. The PRC also reportedly sold Iran guidance components,38 and more recently telemetry equipment, for ballistic missiles.39 The PRC reportedly is currently providing Iran with solid-propellant missile technology.40 During the 1980s and 1990s, the PRC has transferred C-802 anti-ship cruise missiles to Iran.41 The PRC has also provided assistance to Iran's nuclear weapons programs.42


The PRC has provided Pakistan with a wide range of weapons assistance. The PRC has reportedly supplied Pakistan with CSS-X-7 (or M-11) ballistic missiles, mobile missile launchers, and the facilities necessary to produce M-11 missiles. The PRC has also provided Pakistan with assistance on uranium enrichment, ring magnets, and other technologies useful for Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.43

Saudi Arabia

The PRC provided complete CSS-2 missiles to Saudi Arabia in 1987. The conventionally armed missile has a range of 1,500 to 1,800 miles.44

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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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