First flight of JL-3 nuclear missile conducted in November
China carried out a flight test of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile last month that will carry multiple nuclear warheads capable of targeting most of the United States, according to American defense officials.
The launch in late November was the first time the Chinese military flight tested the Julong-3, or JL-3 missile that will be deployed with the next generation of ballistic missile submarines, said officials familiar with the test who said it appeared successful. Julong is Chinese for Big Wave.
The test was closely monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies that detected the launch with missile warning satellites.
No additional details of the flight test could be learned. Pentagon spokesmen declined to comment. “The Pentagon will not comment on the intelligence related to Chinese missile tests,” said Lt. Col. Chris Logan, one of the spokesmen.
China’s missile force announced, without elaborating, that five missile flight tests were conducted between Nov. 20 and 23.
Also, the Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration announced a sea closure zone for “military exercises” in the area surrounding the location near Dalian, China, where the new missile is being developed. The closure took place Nov. 22.
The flight test is a significant milestone for the Chinese strategic nuclear forces buildup—the most lethal component of Beijing’s large-scale military modernization program.
In June, Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited a submarine base and announced that nuclear submarines are the country’s key weapons systems and being upgraded rapidly.
“As a nation’s ultimate instrument, submarines shall see great developments,” Xi said. “Our seaborne nuclear forces need to advance by leaps and bounds. We pin our hopes of development and advancement on your era so that our navy and our submarine forces shall have a rapid rise.”
Disclosure of the flight test followed internet reports last year that China deployed a Type-032 auxiliary submarine that is the likely test bed for JL-3 launches.
Private sector China analysts who examined photos of the Type-032, now located at a port on the Bohai Sea in northeast China, say the submarine’s tower contains missile launch tubes that appear to have been enlarged for JL-3 tests.
The report stated that Chinese military experts believe the solid-fueled JL-3 will use technologies from the new DF-41 land-based intercontinental missile, and that it will be comparable to the Navy’s Trident II D-5 and new Russian Bulava submarine-launched missiles.
“With wide applications of new materials and technologies, the development [of submarine-launched missiles] is accelerating,” the report quoted Chinese military commentator Wang Qiang as saying.
The JL-3 will utilize advanced precision guidance technology with anti-jamming capabilities. Its technologies also will include what Wang described as a “photonic-crystal optic-fiber gyroscope” and other guidance know-how described as “terminal boost, stellar guidance, scene matching guidance.”
Additionally, the JL-3 will be built with missile defense-penetrating features such as a variable trajectory, a radar-evading stealth warhead, and fast burning rocket motors that seek to reduce the heat signature that is used by U.S. warning satellites to track and target missiles.
Another feature will be advanced water-exit technology that will rely on sensors that optimize interference during underwater ejections from launch tubes.
Rick Fisher, a China military analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the JL-3 when fully operation will have a range of between 7,456 miles and 8,700 miles—enough to reach most of the United States from underwater launch areas near Chinese coasts.
“China’s testing of the JL-3 SLBM affirms Department of Defense reports starting in 2016 that state a next-generation nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), usually called the Type-096, will emerge in the early to mid-2020s,” said Fisher.
“It is also expected to carry up to 10 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads,” he said. “But what is not known is the number of missiles to be carried by the Type-096 or how many submarines will be built.”
China’s current sea-based nuclear force includes four Type-094 missile submarines, each outfitted with 16 missiles. Internet reports from China have stated that the future Type-096 will carry up to 24 missiles—similar to numbers at one time carried by Navy Ohio-class missile submarines. Current U.S. missile submarines carry 20 missiles each.
“So it is possible that the Type 096 SSBN could be equipped with hundreds of nuclear warheads,” Fisher said.
By contrast, the next generation U.S. missile submarine, the Columbia-class, will carry 16 missiles.
Full article: China Flight Tests New Submarine-Launched Missile (Washington Free Beacon)