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China constructing a second nuclear missile silo field.

Image Credit: Kristensen/Korda FAS 2021

Recent satellite imagery revealed that China has started the construction of a second nuclear missile silo field of around 110 silos located 380 kilometers (240 miles) northwest of the Yumen field close to the prefecture-level city of Hami in Eastern Xinjiang. It is believed that its construction started in March 2021. This comes months after satellite imagery revealed the construction of 120 missile silos close to Yumen in Gansu province.

The rapid pace in building nuclear missile silos is showing China’s willingness to expand its nuclear arsenal. Currently, China operates around 20 silos for the liquid fuel DF-5 ICBMs. With the addition of the 120 missile silos being constructed at Yumen, 110 silos in the Hami field and 12 silos in Jilantai, and more silos to be added, China will have around 250 silos under construction which means it will eventually have ten times more ICBM silos in operation than it has today and in the past. This would also mean that the amount of ICBM silos in operation will surpass that of Russia, but will constitute only half the size of the entire US ICBM silo force. Still, it is definitely a rapid expansion of its nuclear force as it continues expanding its military in general.

The location of Chinese and some Russian ICBM sites and distance to some US locations. Image Credit: Google Earth.

Also, despite the current pace of construction of nuclear silos, it still does not possess as much nuclear warheads as Russia and USA. In fact, they are no where close. According to a report released last year by the Pentagon, China might have around 200 nuclear weapons, and according to STRATCOM commander Admiral Charles Richard, this number will be expected to double or triple over the next decade. In comparison, Russia and USA each possess more than 4,000 nuclear weapons.

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