Thursday, 8 May, 2008

Missile Overview

China is continuing to increase both the quantity and capability of its cruise and ballistic missiles. The vast majority of this arsenal consists of short range ballistic missiles (SRBM) deployed in Fujian province across the Taiwan Straits. The Pentagon's 2007 report on China's military power states that the PRC's SRBMs number roughly 900 and are increasing at a rate of approximately 100 per year. Furthermore, the report notes the fact that China has developed several enhanced variants of its DF-15 missile as one example of how Beijing is improving its arsenal in order to secure greater tactical flexibility.

China is actively modernizing its nuclear delivery systems which include ballistic missiles, bombers and new-generation submarines. The 2006 Chinese Defense White Paper outlines the PRC overall nuclear doctrine, saying: "China upholds the principles of counterattack in self-defense and limited development of nuclear weapons, and aims at building a lean and effective nuclear force capable of meeting national security needs. It endeavors to ensure the security and reliability of its nuclear weapons and maintains a credible nuclear deterrent force." Most of China's existing delivery systems were designed in the 1960s and 1970s and have been in service for decades. In this sense, upgrading its missile force can be seen as a natural evolution and modernization of China's existing arsenals.

Beyond the modernization of its missile arsenals, U.S. policymakers have often voiced concern over China's transfers of missile components and related technology to nations of concern, most notably to Iran, Pakistan, and Libya. The U.S. government has placed dozens of sanctions on Chinese entities over the past decade for illicit transfers of these technologies and for violations of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

In response to U.S. sanctions and diplomatic demarches and as a result of its own changing perceptions on national security and assessment of proliferation risks, China over the past few years has introduced and strengthened domestic regulations on missile-related transfers. It has also engaged in consultation with the MTCR and in 2004 applied to join the regime; however Beijing's application has so far been blocked by current members who believe that China's missile-related export controls are still too weak. While transfers of complete missiles to nations of concern seem to be a thing of the past, the sale of key missile or dual-use technologies by entities in China's increasingly privatized economy still raise questions - particularly in the U.S. government - about Beijing's ability to enforce its export control laws.

China's Ballistic Missile Inventory

China has six types of operational land-based ballistic missiles that are nuclear-capable: the DF-3A, DF-4, DF-5/5A, DF-11, DF-15, and the DF-21/21X. Perhaps the most high profile recent Chinese ballistic missile-related incident is the January 2007 anti-satellite (ASAT) test. On 11 January (12 January local time) China successfully tested a direct ascent ASAT weapon launched from its Xichang Space Center in Sichuan Province. The test raised anxieties within the United States and neighboring Asian countries about China's military intentions with regards to space and as recently as 5 November 2007, U.S. Secretary of Defense expressed his concerns over the test in a meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchun. The ASAT is believed to have employed either a modified DF-21 medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) or a KT-1 space launch vehicle (SLV), although this has not been officially confirmed. [Are they developmentally related?] China received much criticism for the massive amount of debris the test generated (an estimated 950 pieces at or larger than 4 inches and thousands of smaller pieces as well) which jeopardizes satellites currently in low earth orbit (LEO).

China flight tested the DF-31 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) in August 1999 and the Pentagon's 2007 report on China's military power states that the DF-31 has reached "initial threat availability," meaning that the system is currently available but may not yet be fully operational. A longer range, road mobile version--the DF-31A--is also in the development stage, with an expected operational capacity by 2007-2009. The DF-41 had been under development but work has reportedly been halted if not completely cancelled, possibly being supplanted by the DF-31A. Although previous reports indicated that the development of the DF-25 MRBM was cancelled during the mid-1990s, there has been recent speculation that the Chinese are continuing work on this missile.

China has only one type of operational submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the Julang-1. Twelve Julang-1s are deployed on China's single Xia-class ballistic missile nuclear submarine (SSBN). The warheads for the Julang-1 are believed to be stored at the Jianggezhuang Submarine Base. China is developing a longer range SLBM known as the JL-2 that is the sea-based version of the DF-31. On 16 June 2005, China test fired a long-range SLBM that is believed to be the JL-2. According to various reports, the missile was fired by a nuclear submarine off the coast from the port city Qingdao, and landed in a Chinese desert several thousand kilometers away. However, the JL-2 is not expected to have operational capacity until between 2008 and 2010. On 3 May 2007 satellite images available on Google Earth showed two Jin-class SSBNs docked at the Bohai shipyard at Huludao. It is believed that the new Jin-class SSBNs have 12 launch tubes each.

The vast majority of China's nuclear-capable missile force is land-based, and much of China's nuclear delivery system modernization has been in this area. The DF-31 and the DF-31A are intended to replace China's aging DF-3, DF-4 and DF-5/5A missiles. Both were designed to be road-mobile, solid-fueled missiles and have shortened launch preparation times. Some reports say China had hoped to make both missiles MRV- (multiple re-entry vehicles) or MIRV (multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles) -capable. In addition, there is speculation that China could use a DF-31-type re-entry vehicle for a MRV payload for the DF-5 sometime in the near future. The DF-31 and JL-2 will also likely employ GPS technology for improved accuracy.

Under development; sea-based version of the DF-31; projected to be operational around 2008; warhead awaits certification; to be deployed on new 094 SSBN which is also currently under development

"DF" stands for "Dong Feng" ("East Wind")
"JL" stands for "Julang" ("Great Wave")
"CSS" stands for "Chinese Surface-to-Surface"
"CSS-N" stands for "Chinese Surface-to-Surface Naval"
"CSST" stands for "Chinese Surface-to-Surface Tactical"
*Under development
**Probably Cancelled

Cruise Missiles

China is currently developing and testing several different models of land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs). However, lack of publicly disclosed information and contradictory reports from various news sources make it difficult to determine whether or not any of these missiles have actually been deployed yet. The Pentagon's 2007 report to Congress on China's military power states that "first and second-generation LACMs may be deployed in the near future." China has also relied on foreign missile technology to assist with its LACM program. For example, according to, there have been recent reports that China received 18 examples of the 3000km Kh-55 (AS-15 Kent) nuclear-capable strategic cruise missiles from Ukraine between 1999 and 2001 and also may have received the design for the shorter range Kh-65SE from Russia as well.

According to a DATE report in Jane's Defence Weekly, China's first LACM was ground launched. The Hong Niao-1 (HN-1) has a range of 600 km and can carry a 300 to 400 kg conventional warhead or a 90 kT nuclear warhead. The HN-1 is believed to use inertial guidance with terrain comparison or GPS updates. An improved version, the HN-2, is believed to have entered into operational status in 1998 with an increased range of 1,500 to 2,000 km and can be ground or ship launched.

The Dong-Hai-10 (DH-10), the Ying Ji-63 (YJ-63) and the Tianjin-1 are three more types of LACMs China is believed to be working on. Jane's Missiles and Rockets magazine reports that DH-10 will be a second-generation LACM with an integrated inertial navigation system which will be supplemented by a terrain contour mapping system and digital scene-matching terminal homing system. The DH-10 will likely have a range of more than 1500km and a circular error probable (CEP) of 10m. The YJ-63 will be a first-generation LACM with a range of 400-500km and will have a CEP of 10-15m, though its accuracy may be limited by weather. The YJ-63 will likely have a combined inertial and GPS-midcourse guidance system and some form of electro-optical terminal guidance. Much less detail about the specifications of the Tianjin-1 has been released thus far. It will have a butterfly v-tail with dorsal air intake and extending wings similar to the U.S. Tomahawk. The Tianjin-1 was displayed at the Chinese International Defense Exhibition (CIDEX) in 2006.

With regards to anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), the 2007 Pentagon report states that "the PLA Navy and Naval Air Force have or are acquiring nearly a dozen varieties of ASCMs, from the 1950s-era CSS-N-2/STYX to the modern Russian-made SS-N-22/SUNBURN and SS-N-27/SIZZLER." The first lot of 24 SS-N-22/Sunburn ASCM was shipped to China on 16 May 2000. In total, China has purchased over 100 SS-N-22 ASCMs from Russia for their Sovremenny-class destroyers. While the delivered missiles are conventionally equipped, Russia does manufacture nuclear-equipped Sunburn missiles. This has led to some speculation that Russia might supply or China might develop technology that would enable these missiles to deliver a Chinese nuclear warhead.

Chinese Missile Exports and the MTCR

While China in the past has transferred missile technology capable of being used by countries of proliferation concern such as Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea, recently Beijing has taken steps to increase its export control legal infrastructure. Nevertheless, as Evan S. Medeiros's 2005 report on China's export control system points out, concerns still remain about Chinese enforcement of these new rules.

In its missile sales, as with its conventional arms sales in general, China has followed three arms export principles:

(1) The weapons exported must be meant for legitimate self-defense;

(2) The weapons must contribute to regional stability; and
(3) The weapons must not be intended for interference in another country's internal affairs.

In the past, China stated that the focus of nonproliferation efforts should be on the restriction of WMD themselves, not on their delivery systems. China has also argued that if one type of delivery system is to be restricted (e.g. ballistic missiles), then other delivery systems, such as combat aircraft, ought to be restricted as well. China previously criticized the MTCR on these grounds.

However, in the 1990's China's views on missile nonproliferation slowly began to change. In response to U.S. pressure, including sanctions imposed in 1991 for alleged agreements to transfer M-11 missiles and technology to Pakistan, as well as M-9 missiles and technology to Syria, China issued a unilateral pledge to abide by MTCR guidelines. This pledge was called into question in 1993, when the United States again imposed MTCR-related sanctions on China for M-11 technology transfers to Pakistan. The United States agreed to lift these sanctions in October 1994, when China reaffirmed and clarified its commitment to MTCR guidelines. However, through the late 1990's reports from the U.S. government continued to allege that China was possibly still involved in certain transfers of missile production technology to countries of proliferation concern.

On 21 November 2000, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a policy statement on missile nonproliferation pledging that new stringent laws would be issued that would include such regulations as license application and review, end-user certifications, and a "catch-all" clause. On the same day, the State Department announced that it was waiving sanctions on Chinese entities for the past sales of missile technologies to entities in Iran and Pakistan and resuming discussions with China on extending the 1995 U.S.-China Agreement on International Trade in Commercial Launch Services. Despite the November 2000 pledge, Beijing and Washington continue to have some disagreements. The U.S. government claimed that a Chinese company--China Metallurgical Equipment Corporation--had shipped missile technology to Pakistan in violation of the bilateral agreement. In September 2001, the U.S. government again imposed economic sanctions on the accused Chinese company, which effectively banned new licenses for U.S. companies to put their satellites on Chinese rockets or transfer satellite technology for two years.

In a major policy development, China promulgated the long-awaited regulations on missile-related transfers in August 2002 entitled Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Export Control of Missiles and Missile-related Items and Technologies, and Missiles and Missile-related Items and Technologies Export Control List. These regulations appeared to demonstrate Beijing's increasing willingness to abide by international norms at controlling missile trade. The 2002 regulations and control list were relatively comprehensive and in some fields are stricter than MTCR guidelines. The regulations also follow the MTCR's "presumption of denial" approach, requiring specific approval and an export license for exports to authorized end-users. In September 2003, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing clearly indicated to the chair of the MTCR that China was ready to positively consider membership in the MTCR. In a statement at the Plenary for the 2004 session of the Conference for Disarmament, Ambassador Hu Xiaodi announced the start of the first round of China-MTCR dialogues in Paris.

However, in October 2004 (and then again in 2005), at the MTCR plenary in Seoul, Korea, the member states announced that all membership issues were to be discussed at a later date, apparently reflecting some member states' concern, most notably from the United States, that China was not ready to join the regime. The United States' hesitation to admit China to the MTCR stems from anxiety about Beijing's unwillingness or inability to fully enforce their domestic laws. Between 2002 and 2007, the U.S. State Department issued sanctions on numerous Chinese companies on over a dozen occasions. Although few details are publicly released as to the nature of the transfer that was the impetus of the punishment, a number of the sanctions were reportedly brought about by alleged transfers of missile-related items to Iran.

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