Latest DF-41 flight test indicates deployment near
China conducted a flight test this month of its newest long-range missile that U.S. intelligence agencies say lofted two independently-targeted simulated nuclear warheads, according to defense officials.
The launch of the DF-41 road-mobile missile Aug. 6 was the fourth time the new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has been test-fired in three years, and indicates that the weapon capable of hitting U.S. cities with nuclear warheads is nearing deployment.
The DF-41, with a range of between 6,835 miles and 7,456 miles, is viewed by the Pentagon as Beijing’s most potent nuclear missile and one of several new long-range missiles in development or being deployed.
The Pentagon has said it expects the new missile to become operational as early as this year.
Deployment of the DF-41 also could coincide with China’s first patrols, slated to begin this year, of submarines armed with nuclear-tipped JL-2 missiles.
The Aug. 6 test is viewed as significant by U.S. intelligence agencies because it confirmed the DF-41’s multiple-warhead capability, said defense officials familiar with analyses of the test.
Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the repeated flight tests indicate the DF-41 is “nearing operational status.”
“The bottom line is that China potentially is beginning a new phase in which its nuclear warhead numbers will be increasing rapidly,” he said.
The Pentagon’s latest annual report on China’s military, published in May, stated that the DF-41 is “possibly capable of carrying MIRVs”—the acronym for multiple, independently-targetable reentry vehicles. The Pentagon calls the DF-41 the CSS-X-20 missile.
MIRVs (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles) are considered state-of-the-art nuclear warhead technology because their use vastly increases the potential killing power of a single missile.
The annual Pentagon report states that China’s missile force, called the Second Artillery Corps, “continues to modernize its nuclear forces by enhancing its silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and adding more survivable, mobile delivery systems.”
Full article: China Tests New Long-Range Missile with Two Guided Warheads (Washington Free Beacon)