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By Peter Huessy, President of Geo-Strategic Analysis, Potomac, Maryland

  • China is building 145 new silos for nuclear armed long range ballistic missiles. This is roughly equivalent to one of our ICBM Minuteman wings in North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. If the US built such a missile wing today –the silos, the infrastructure and NC3 (but no missile)-- the cost would be in the neighborhood of what I estimate to be around tens of billions—based on just silos costs adjusted to reflect today’s dollars would be $17.4 billion. Even for the Chinese that is real money.
  • Now the missile launch points outside the tunnels are exactly the distance a Chinese ICBM can travel to hit USAF bases in Malmstrom, Montana, FE Warren in Wyoming, and Minot, North Dakota—the 3 US Minuteman and ICBM bases, revealing the purpose of these deployed Chinese missiles is to hold at risk US nuclear ICBMs.

China Is Serious About Nuclear Weapons

  • It gets better, or from the US point of view, worse
  • 145 silos with the DF-41 placed in the silos, gives the PRC 1450 warheads as each DF-41 carries ten warheads,. This makes the force a definite first strike weapon.
  • Now ICBMs are 98-99% on alert day to day. That means the Chinese would have on alert 50% more on-alert warheads the US now has on alert on a day-to-day basis---the US has an estimated 400 Minuteman warheads on 400 missiles, plus an estimated 4-6 Ohio-class submarines at sea each with 20 D-5 missiles each with between 4-5 warheads per missile or at most 1000 total on alert ICBM and SLBM warheads. That total is still 450 less warheads on alert than just the new Chinese missile force.
  • Overall, including non-alert warheads, the US has deployed day to day 1490 long range missile warheads, with another 60 bombers carrying anywhere from an estimated 8-12 gravity bombs or cruise missiles.
  • So, China in this one deployment would nearly equal the ENTIRETY of the US nuclear deterrent force of ICBM and SLBM warheads. To say NOTHING of the existing deployed Chinese submarine launched missiles, mobile ICBMs, and long-range strategic bomber weapons.
  • Now to briefly explain why this is serious stuff. It is not-- as some nuclear apologists for China have claimed --simply a reasonable Chinese reaction to the US nuclear modernization now underway and the deployment of our missile defenses.

An Explainer

  • Missile defenses for the US number 44 interceptors completed in 2003-4; they are deployed to deal with rogue state threats such as from North Korea and Iran. And even when the US deploys a planned 66 interceptors, this will only complicate a Chinese first strike against the US but not any retaliatory capability. Apologists for China are thus claiming it took China two decades to figure out US missile defenses required a huge expansion of their nuclear missile force.
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  • What about the charge the US is starting an arms race by modernizing its own nuclear deterrent and the Chinese are simply following suit.
  • The US modernization program was agreed to in December 2010 but no US missile, submarine or bomber will go into the force until 2029. The Chinese have been fully modernizing for the past 20 years and are putting new forces in the field regularly. They will at least double their nuclear warhead levels within the current decade says Admiral Charles Richard, the commander of US Strategic Command.
  • Critics assert an estimated 133 of the new Chinese 145 silos will be filled with missile decoys---so they assert there should be no worry about a PRC build-up.
  • But the PRC would still have to build 150 real missiles for deployment and testing, (30 years of testing 5 missiles a year) plus the significant cost of silo construction, to add just 120 warheads to their current inventory. Which they could do by simply adding more rail cars to their already build mobile ICBM force for 90% less cost.
  • As for Russia, Moscow is building and deploying 22 new types of nuclear missiles, bombers, and submarines since signing the 2010 New START arms control treaty, all of which will be fully deployed no later than 2025, with some number of 6 new “exotic” nuclear systems as they are termed possibly outside the contour limits of the New START agreement. According to Russian leaders, the strategic nuclear forces are now 90% modernized.
  • Over half, or 55% of Russia’s nuclear forces are not constrained by any arms control agreement with the United States while 100% of China’s nuclear forces do not come under any arms agreement.

Today satellite imagery has revealed another strategic surprise.

What will be the US and allied response?


Peter R. HuessyMr. Huessy is the President of Geostrategic Analysis, a Potomac, Maryland-based defense and national security consulting business, and Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute, a Senior Fellow at ICAS, a senior consultant with Ravenna Associates, and previously for 22 years Senior Defense Consultant with the National Defense University Foundation at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.He is and has been a Guest Lecturer at the School of Advanced International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, at the Institute of World Politics, at the University of Maryland, at the Joint Military Intelligence School, at the Naval Academy and at the National War College.