While a great deal of attention has been paid to North Korea’s rapidly developing arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles, a solid argument could be made that the real looming threat to America’s long term security is coming from a different nation in the Pacific: China. China’s national military, the People’s Liberation Army, has been undergoing a massive reorganization and expansion effort, with nearly twenty new naval vessels christened within the past year and increasingly aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, one of the globes most heavily trafficked waterways.
Not to be outdone by Kim Jong Un’s new Hwasong-15, the largest and most powerful ICBM North Korea has yet to field, China announced this week that their own new ICBM, the Dongfeng-41, will be ready to be deployed as early as the first half of next year. The missile, which has already undergone a repoted eight successful test launches, is far more advanced than Kim’s fledgling nuke – with a reported top speed of Mach 10, the latest Chinese long range missile makes the threat of Kim’s new hydrogen bombs seem almost inconsequential by comparison.
“It can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads, each of which can target separately,” Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told China Central Television in Beijing. “Once the Dongfeng-41 goes into service, China’s ability to protect its own safety and to prevent wars would greatly increase.”
According to a release in China’s state owned Global Times, the Dongfeng-41 is a solid-fuel three stage ballistic missile platform. The solid fuel source allows for rapid launch capabilities, doing away with the need to spend hours filling the rocket’s second stage with liquid fuel. It’s reported range is approximately just shy of 7,500 miles, placing the vast majority of the globe within President Xi’s scope, and its ability to deploy ten nuclear warheads, each equipped with their own targeting apparatus, means the missile can lay waste to a dramatically larger expanse of territory than single-warhead applications.
Those ten warheads aren’t the only things the missile deploys, however. According to the Chinese government, it also releases a flurry of decoy warheads and chaff, intended to fool enemy missile defense systems and destroy interceptors before they can reach the inbound warheads. This methodology poses a significant threat to U.S. based missile defense systems, which rely on launching an interceptor to destroy the missile before it reaches the U.S. mainland using kinetic energy. Repeated tests have shown that America’s GMD interceptors are so unreliable, a flurry of them would be required to take out a single inbound ICBM.
China isn’t the only one of America’s competitors to field a new ICBM this year. Russia’s Satan-2 is said to carry a full dozen warheads, and was designed with America’s nuclear defense strategy in mind. America, meanwhile, has recently begun awarding contracts for the early stages of developing its own new missile, but once again, finds itself falling behind its near-pear competitors in the technological arms race that was once its bread and butter.
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