Researchers say China is constructing 300 possible missile silos, which could make its
- Researchers believe China is now constructing 300 missile silos, up from 229 as previously reported.
- They observed an “unprecedented nuclear buildup” in four main sites in the Xinjiang desert.
- The new silos mean China’s nuclear arsenal could soon grow larger than America’s or Russia’s, researchers said.
Satellite images show China is making substantial progress in constructing hundreds of missile silos that could potentially be used to launch nuclear weapons, according to researchers from the Federation of American Scientists, a nonprofit thinktank founded by scientists who worked on the first atom bomb.
It was reported in June and July that China appears to be building two missile silo fields in the Xinjiang desert to host a network of 229 underground silos. Such silos typically house intercontinental ballistic missiles or long-range weapons designed to deliver nuclear payloads.
These silos would raise China’s nuclear capacity to 845 warheads, scientists said at the time.
Now, after analyzing hundreds of satellite images, the FAS researchers have raised the total silo estimate to 300.
With 300 underground silos and around 100 mobile missile launchers, China’s total intercontinental ballistics force could eclipse that of Russia’s or America’s in “the foreseeable future,” they said.
“What’s notable, of course, is the scale and the speed of this that this is so out of sync with what the Chinese have done on missile silos ever before,” Kristensen told CNN.
But in their report, the researchers added that the silos are “many years away from becoming fully operational” and that there isn’t any indication of what China plans to do with the silos or how many of them will be armed eventually.
The researchers analyzed four main areas in the desert for signs of silo construction. They observed semi-circle silo wall structures, silo hatches, and what they suspect to be a missile loading operation.
“Based on the features we can examine on the new satellite images, we are increasingly confident that the facilities are indeed missile silos and support facilities under construction,” wrote Kristensen and Korda.
The researchers spotted dozens of inflated shelters that they said China uses to protect the silos from environmental damage and obscure construction from aerial view. Most of these shelters are slightly smaller than the size of an NFL football field, they noted.
China, which has in place a “no first-use policy” for nuclear weapons, hasn’t officially confirmed or denied the observed facilities as silos, wrote Kristensen and Korda.
Chinese nuclear experts have dismissed reports of nuclear bases being under construction, and one expert, Song Zhongping, a former People’s Liberation Army instructor, said nuclear silos are outdated, according to The South China Morning Post.
Last month, Beijing denied a Financial Times report claiming that it was testing a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile.