China Building Over 400 New Ultra-hardened Nuclear Silos

Satellite images taken by Planet and analyzed by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (CNS/MIIS) show that China is significantly expanding the number of silos for its arsenal of intercontinental range-ballistic missiles. 120 silos under construction near Yumen were identified by Decker Eveleth, a former nonproliferation fellow at CNS/MIIS and incoming student. Yuman silos started construction in early 2020.

A second Hami missile silo field was found. It is in a much earlier stage of development than the Yumen site. Construction began at the start of March 2021 in the southeastern corner of the complex and continues at a rapid pace. Since then, dome shelters have been erected over at least 14 silos and soil cleared in preparation for the construction of another 19 silos. The grid-like outline of the entire complex indicates that it may eventually include approximately 110 silos. The Hami site was first spotted by Matt Korda, Research Associate for the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, using commercial satellite imagery. Higher resolution images of the site were subsequently provided by Planet.

Admiral Richard talked about that third new ICBM field. Bill Gertz wrote in The Washington Times that a third ICBM field had been discovered. The three new missile bases will house 350 to 400 new long-range nuclear missiles, U.S. officials said. If 10 warheads are deployed on the DF-41s, China‘s warhead level will increase to more than 4,000 warheads on its DF-41s alone.

The United States has about 3,600 nuclear warheads in its active stockpile, while Russia has about 4,300. New START caps the United States and Russia each at no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and nuclear-capable bombers and no more that 1,550 deployed strategic warheads. Those limits will remain in force until February 2026. Reserve (or non-deployed) strategic nuclear warheads, and non-strategic nuclear warheads—whether deployed or non-deployed—are not limited.

The US Intelligence services last reported in 2020 that China had about 200 nuclear warheads. Russia believes China already had 1500 nuclear warheads. It appears that the US Intelligence service missed China’s nuclear buildup and needed public open source discovery from users of commercial satellites. This is another major intelligence failure. The other big intelligence failures were Pearl Harbor, Bay of Pigs, Tet Offensive, Yom Kippur War, Iranian Revolution, Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, not predicting the fall of the Soviet Union, India getting a nuke, 9-11, Iraq weapons of mass destruction and now the Afghanistan collapse and China’s nuclear buildup.

In February 2021, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General John Hyten stated China was building nuclear weapons “faster than anybody on the planet,” including new ICBMs, cruise missiles, and nuclear-tipped hypersonic missiles.

The Chinese silos are located 3000 meters apart. Each of the three ICBM fields is about 700 square miles.

Old Soviet silos used 15000-20000 PSI compression concrete. There is now 30000 PSI commercial concrete. The stronger concrete means more accuracy is needed to destroy a silos with a nuclear weapon and ultra-high precision is needed for a conventional bunker buster to take it out. An ICBM field will have GPS jamming and short range interceptors. The old cold war doctrine was that ground based ICBM silos were too vulnerable. However, ultra-hardened silos change that calculation.

China is moving beyond this minimum retaliatory posture. There is not much the US can do about this. However, those analysts who are concerned that now the US will be outnumbered in nukes by China and Russia are missing the point. Russia has outnumbered US nukes for over 50 years.

It seems clear that China has or will have about 4000 nuclear weapons. China also has significant numbers of nuclear missile submarines. China has a much larger economy and has built up its conventional forces to near US levels.

Short of actual major war there is nothing the US can do about this buildup. The US can upgrade its land nuclear capability.

The US will have a major hypersonic and air superiority advantage. This is the mach 20 SpaceX Starship which can carry 100 tons of payload in a resuable rocket for 8000 miles.

India will not take this lying down. India has had about 50-80% of the number of estimated China nuclear weapons. Pakistan has equal nuclear weapons to India. China and India have had a border skirmish recently. India will definitely scale up their nuclear weapons. Pakistan will follow India. India has an economy (nearly $3 trillion) larger than Russia ($1.7 trillion). Pakistan has GDP of about $300 billion.

The new arms race is here.

SOURCES -armscontrolwonk, foreign policy

40 thoughts on “China Building Over 400 New Ultra-hardened Nuclear Silos”

  1. The chinese, the corporate donors.
    The buyer differs, the large scale treason committed by the bought politicians is the same.

    Also, corporate donors would never try to propose high treason to politicians until they are sure they will get away with it – due to the previous treasonous behavior of said politicians.

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  2. Most of the world's top computer chip production is in asian countries because USA lost the ability to make them. Which is far worse than merely not having domestic computer chip production. And this already happened.

    Observe Intel, and how it keeps announcing it will open a fab and then fails to make it work.
    Why doesn't it work? The litography machinery is made in Europe, but that's only part of the equation. The other part is simply competence. And USA replaced meritocracy and competence with its diversity religion.

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  3. Do those dots & circles look like just markers added to the photo to indicate where someone *plans* to put something, to anyone else?

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  4. And more peculiar is the fact that this picture is labeled "Wind farm Yumen" ! Brian beware of fake information ! Am I the only one with eyes ?

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  5. China already has functional antisat weapons. Space based kinetic impactors need to be stored way out so they can't be countered or detected. Storing the weapons further away from earth is probably good in several ways. They will be harder to detect and can build up much more kinetic energy without major signatures at a time of conflict. Just a little nudge out in space and a few days later, something very dense and fast will enter the atmosphere. Fixed location targets are always doomed.

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  6. I doubt China expects the threat to scare off intereference in a war of Chinese aggression. But they probably do expect it create a "stop loss" limit – i.e. anyone thinking to invade China if China should lose that war would be deterred.

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  7. Sounds like a mix of minuteman racetrack and dense pack concepts reborn. Dense-ish silo field, but the silos are covered by inflatable shelters to prevent easy detection of missile installation by satellite surveillance, similar to the location guessing problem with the racetrack. Though if I remember correctly, currently the inflatable shelters were not radar opaque allowing the interior to be seen by satellite SAR, which allowed that analyst to evaluate a little bit about what's going on inside (SAR resolution wasn't as high as optical in that analyst's case).

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  8. Tacitly threaten the Philippines, while offering their leaders benefits from allying with China, and there'd be no need to actually invade – if the US doesn't intervene to solidify the Philippines' ability to resist China.

    China's been doing a lot of 'soft' diplomacy, such as providing them the chinese vaccine. President Duete, presumably knowing that China's other hand holds a big club, has gone along with this even though his people generally don't trust China and that risked his own power.

    But there are clues that he really prefers the US get more involved to counter the Chinese. E.g. he threatened to end the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US, but then gave multiple extensions when the US didn't wake up and react.

    Biden and company seem to finally have caught on, and there's apparently a deal to keep the VFA in effect, in return for vaccines to the Philippines.

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  9. I suppose that's possible, but it's far more likely that the pols were bought and paid for by big corporate donors who wanted short term profits from cheap labor and global markets.

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  10. I agree. Orbital supremacy is the only way forward and it is idiotic for us to have ever curtailed ourselves. That is the whole reason we aren't already an interplanetary species because appeasing the Soviets was what killed Project Orion.

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  11. Ground based silos are probably easier to keep control over if your primary concern is actually the political reliability of the people operating them.

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  12. Yeah, that's what the West would do if our leadership weren't already bought and paid for by China. The Chinese didn't gobble up so much of the basis of our industrial infrastructure just by industrial espionage and cheap slave labor.

    They bought our politicians and had them betray us, repeatedly.

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  13. Not that hard to implement a scorched Earth strategy concerning TSMC fabs and other critical infrastructure.

    Just carpet bomb the place as soon as it looks your side will lose it.

    The world's semiconductors will be sent backwards a few years, plus we'll get into a decade of chip supply nightmares, but that's poppycock compared with the fallout (maybe literal) of an open conflict between the West and China.

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  14. I don't fear "the" atom, but when you put a mole or so of fissile ones in the same place, I start to get a bit worried.

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  15. Possibly, if one considers that the best nuclear missiles are on nuclear submarines anyway, somewhere in International waters where they cannot be neutralised. Then ground-based silos are interesting if you are trying to tell your enemy that you have a lot of nuclear capability, perhaps more than you actually have.

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  16. That's great as far as preserving IP is concerned, but the capital equipment isn't quite so portable, and I doubt it could be replaced swiftly. We'd be in for a number of years where we'd have to either do without or make deals with China.

    And I rather doubt that TSMC has actually got demolition charges installed in their factory. That would be hell on your insurance rates.

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  17. Stupid fear mongering – China is only planning on having a few missiles but silos are low maintenance and scare as much as real missiles. This will encourage the US to spend more on weapons that will never be used.

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  18. the primary brain trust of TSMC can be evacuated in two jets. There should be a deadman switch for the main factories. It is unknown if the proper procedures are in place.

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  19. There is something odd about that first photo. Many of those silos are on a desert fan where a gully dumps the eroded material. It looks like one flash flood will take out those missile silos at least temporarily.

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  20. Yup, same reason Russia (i.e. Putin) has been such a pain of late. The issues facing both countries are crushing and will probably cause both to turn their attention internally, so this is their last chance to get it while they can.

    More reasonable countries, realizing they are at peak relative power, would be attempting to make alliances and trade agreements that would help mitigate the effects of what is coming to them.

    Meanwhile, their leadership seem intent on destroying their economy in the belief it will help them prevent some form of regime change. China has a history of that. This latest thing, preventing all children from playing computer games, especially online games, is just another example of the ludicrous actions that can spring from the minds of socialists.

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  21. It’s important to include China in START negotiations as an equal. The old framework with the USSR and Russia was from the era before China’s rise.

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  22. Made in China silos follow all Made in China tech. Unreliable. Unpredictable service life. Poorly controlled, coordinated, and monitored. Poor centralized launch, target, and track. Besides with a new SDI type of network possible on minimal notice and organization, this moves 'theatre control' to orbit — definitely not a China strength. Also, the middle east is a lost cause so they are the new rogue super power that the Eurasia Continent need deal with. Utter fluff. The US and western Europe should be laughing its arse off with this new Cold War 'old, sad, and degraded' sequel.

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  23. Taiwan is actually a less reasonable target than the Philippines, because they have the military to fight back, and the Philippines lack it. China has been gobbling up Philippine territorial waters at an accelerating pace lately, taking away various resources found under and in them.

    While the Chinese government would love to swallow Taiwan, that's a very dangerous meal for them.

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  24. I think the USA should use SpaceX to build a tremendous space force, with orbiting "rods of god" that could bust those bunkers at a moments notice. Think thousands of satellites with kinetic kill weapons..

    These could also be used against an invading fleet from China.. Win-win..

    But to do that, the USA has to start paving the way for SpaceX launches. If and when SpaceX will do thousands if not tens of thousands of launches per year, then a permit to launch cannot take several weeks and be a major hassle.

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  25. Hm… If I were China, I would point some of those missiles to Japan, South Korea and Australia, i.e. all the NATO allies that could potentially intervene with conventional weapons in case China would feel "the need" to invade a neighbor..

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  26. I didn't really see a good "user case" for the silos. Brett had a pretty good answer: they can invade one or more of their neighbors and not fear missile retaliation. Perhaps even deter conventional forces from intervening.

    But I really hope he is wrong..

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  27. Hope not.. I can only see Taiwan as a "reasonable" target, and that would put most of the worlds computer chip production under the direct control of the chinese communist party. Not something I would like to see in my lifetime..

    I really, really, really hope for a peaceful demographic crunch for China, before robots makes manual work force obsolete. I think that point is when China looses a large part of their advantage, so if we can stick it out for another 2-3 decades, things will improve.

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  28. The goal is to scare anybody who might retaliate when China starts attacking its neighbors. That's kina, sorta, 'defensive', but not really.

    China is approaching a peak in it's relative power, due to a baked in demographic collapse. Their leadership, "old men in a hurry", want to maximize their gains before further gains become impossible, and then try to hold onto everything.

    So they're planning on a war of aggression in the near future.

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  29. And my wife thought I was being silly, having a fallout shelter be on my wish list when we were house shopping a few years back.

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  30. I wonder what the point is? Are they going to threaten Taiwan to join China? I mean, it was already impossible to invade China, so there was never not a whole lot of defensive uses of the new missiles. So the question is for what offensive uses do they envision? Is it to scare the world into submission?

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