DF-41 launch comes amid heightened tensions over S. China Sea
China conducted another flight test of its newest and longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile last week amid growing tensions with the United States over the South China Sea.
Pentagon officials told the Free Beacon the flight test of the new road-mobile DF-41 missile took place Tuesday with two multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, that were monitored in flight by U.S. military satellites and other regional sensors.
The latest flight test followed an earlier, rail-based canister ejection test of a DF-41 on Dec. 5.
U.S. Strategic Command commander Adm. Cecil Haney said Jan. 22 that China’s multiple warhead missiles are part of a significant investment in both nuclear and conventional forces.
“China is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads,” Haney said in a speech.
The flight test came around the same time that a high-ranking Chinese general made an unusual visit to a disputed South China Sea island. Also, the missile test occurred three days before Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the aircraft carrier USS Stennis as it sailed in the South China Sea.
The Pentagon has said China is covertly building military bases on disputed islands in the sea. Beijing has accused Washington of militarizing the sea by deploying warships and bolstering regional alliances.
Disclosure of the DF-41 test follows a newsletter report last month that stated China is nearing deployment of the new ICBM.
Kanwa Asian Defense reported last month that the new ICBM is in the final testing phase, and its expected deployment area will be near Xinyang in Henan province, in central China.
From that location, the missile would be capable of striking the United States in around 30 minutes, either through a polar trajectory or over the Pacific.
The new missile poses a significant strategic threat because it is larger than other road-mobile ICBMs and the new JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile.
The DF-41 is assessed by U.S. intelligence agencies to be powerful enough to deliver between six and 10 warheads up to 7,456 miles—far enough to reach every corner of the United States from launch areas in eastern China.
Rick Fisher, a China military affairs analyst, said the latest launch is the seventh reported flight test of the DF-41, an indication the ICBM will soon be deployed with the newly-renamed PLA Rocket Forces.
China also has begun retrofitting older, single warhead DF-5 ICBMs with MIRVs, according to defense officials, who said the uploading was detected over the past several months.
China is currently engaged in a large-scale buildup of nuclear forces and missile delivery systems that include new missiles and a hypersonic glide vehicle—a weapon that can maneuver to avoid missile defenses in delivering nuclear or conventional warheads.
Full article: China Flight Tests New Multiple-Warhead Missile (Washington Free Beacon)