Highway construction in China's west (Qinghai province) indicates
preparations are being made for the deployment of the DF31A ICBM. This is
China's first solid fuel ICBM (with a range of about 8,000 kilometers) and
roughly equivalent to the U.S. Minuteman I of the 1960s. The DF-31 weighs about
46 tons and is 60 feet long and 7 feet in diameter. It was designed for use on
submarines, land silos and mobile launchers (which would halt at those "parking
lots in the middle of nowhere" visible in satellite pictures of Qinghai
province). The DF31 has been shown
stored in a TEL (transporter, erector, launcher) vehicle. Driving these
vehicles along all those new highways in Qinghai province would provide more
protection from counterattacks, than using a reinforced silo.
has been in development for nearly twenty years, and only had its first
successful launch nine years ago. It's now believed to have a reliable and
accurate guidance system, as well as a third stage that carries three 50
kiloton warheads. Only about a dozen DF31s are in service.
Chinese get a SSBN (ballistic missile carrying nuclear sub) operational, the submarine
version of the DF31 would be able to cover the entire United States. But the
basic land based models can only hit North American targets west of the Rocky
mountains. A new version of the DF31,
uses the first two stages of the DF31, and a larger third stage. This missile,
referred to as the DF31A, has a range of 10,000 kilometers, and can thus cover
most of the United States. The DF31A is still in development.