TEN MIRVs on Chinese missile

China test fired a MIRV-ed missile with ten warheads, attaining the advanced US level of warhead miniaturization. While the Chinese have had trouble with their multiple independently targetable vehicle (MIRV) technology, especially the guidance aspects, it wasn’t expected that they would overcome the technical problems so fast and so well. Essentially, this means the Second Artillery Strategic Forces (SASF) have nuclear/thermonuclear warheads clocking in at around 100 kg weight. This is an astounding achievement.

This’d enable SASF to stay with relatively small numbers of fission/fusion warheaded missiles while multiplying the strike capability many times over, allowing for a  very big potential augmentation as it starts adding to the missile holdings. This development is in sync with the holistic Chinese concept of “credible deterrence” involving parity or superiority  vis a vis the strongest adversary in all security-related areas — conventional, nuclear, space, and cyber/information.

With such miniaturized warheads, there is every likelihood of SASF retrofitting all missiles in its inventory with the MIRV technology, loading each system with as many warheads as the nose cone geometries of the various missiles permit. India will then be looking at multiples of the current lot of short range and medium range ballistic missiles emplaced on the Tibetan plateau which now total between 300 and 500 units. Even a small fraction of such a force will be able to saturate and defeat the multi-layered Indian missile defence, configured around the interlinked Prithvi AD, Ashvini Advanced AD, and S-400  AD systems slaved to the Green Pines/Swordfish long range tracking radar.

If the Indian government has strategic sense, however little, it would at once see the Chinese MIRVs as compounding and complicating a simplistic Indian, already fraught, deterrence posture and, instead of buying useless high-priced hardware, such as the Rafale combat aircraft,  it would invest in concurrent development and induction of the most modern missile in the Indian arsenal, Agni-5, approve immediate test-firing of the ASL, Hyderabad, designed and developed MIRV technology collecting dust — let me remind you for the last decade and more, retrofit the older long range Agni’s with the proven A-5 innovations like the System (or guidance)-on-chip (for terminal accuracy even at extreme range), and prepare to resume testing of high yield hydrogen  warheads to close the gap in the strategic wherewithal with regard to China that is widening at an alarming pace.

Then again, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be inclined to do nothing in the strategic sphere to mar the prospects of an early audience with the US President Donald J Trump in Washington. Even the Pakistani test this past week of  a MIRVed missile (with three warhead capacity — the technology being transferred to it whole by China) being not enough of a goad.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Cyber & Space, Decision-making, Defence Industry, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, nonproliferation, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, society, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Strategic Relations with the US & West, United States, US., Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to TEN MIRVs on Chinese missile

    Beijing has deployed advanced Dongfeng-41 ICBMs in Heilongjiang Province, which borders Russia, according to reports based on images, possibly leaked to coincide with Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president.
    UPDATE: In a statement to RIA Novosti, the Chinese Foreign Ministry called media reports on China’s deployment of ballistic missiles to the Russian border “speculations and crude guesses.”

    “Pictures of China’s Dongfeng-41 ballistic missile were exposed on Chinese mainland websites,” the Global Times said citing reports in “some Hong Kong and Taiwan media.” Russian news agencies identified one of them as the Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based tabloid-style resource.

    “It was revealed that the pictures were taken in Heilongjiang Province. Military analysts believe that this is perhaps the second Dongfeng-41 strategic missile brigade and it should be deployed in northeastern China,” the report in the Chinese daily adds. The Global Times works under the auspices of the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, though the former tends to be more controversial.

    China tests ICBM capable of striking US within half an hour
    The DF-41 is a three-stage solid-propellant missile, which is estimated to have a range of up to 15,000km and be capable of delivering up to 10 MIRVed nuclear warheads. China is yet to show the ICBM to the general public during a military parade or any similar event. Most information of the advanced weapon remains highly classified.

    There is speculation that China plans to deploy at least three brigades of DF-41s throughout the country. The image leak may have been timed with Trump’s inauguration, with the new president expected to take a confrontational stance towards China, according to the Global Times’ report.

    Before taking office he angered Beijing by threatening to end the ‘One China policy’, which acknowledges continental China as the only Chinese nation and rejects Taiwan’s claim to be one. He also said he would pressure Beijing on economic issues like its monetary policy and trade barriers.

    China routinely uses demonstration of its military prowess to send signals to challengers like the US. For instance, it tested a railcar-launched version of the DF-41 in December 2016 just as then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited the aircraft carrier ‘USS John C. Stennis’ deployed in the South China Sea.

    The alleged deployment of the DF-41 near Russia’s border should not be read as a threat to Russia, military analyst Konstantin Sivkov told RIA Novosti.

    “DF-41 missiles placed near Russia’s border are a smaller threat than if they were placed deeper in the Chinese territory. Such missiles usually have a very large ‘dead zone’ [area within minimal range that cannot be attacked by a weapon],” he said, adding that the ICBMs would not be able to target Russia’s Far East and most of Eastern Siberia from the Heilongjiang Province.

    The Kremlin agreed with the assessment, saying that China is Russia’s “strategic partner in political and economic senses.”

    “Certainly, the actions of the Chinese military, if the reports prove correct, the military build-up in China is not perceived as a threat to our country,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov .

  2. S-500 Prometey , 55R6M Triumfator-M,

  3. By 1964 -67 India saw there is no US nuclear umbrella.

  4. andy says:

    Re:”designed and developed MIRV technology collecting dust — let me remind you for the last decade and more, retrofit the older long range Agni’s with the proven A5 innovations”

    Now if this isnt deja vu what is?Not testing the MIRV technology even though the capabilities exist reminds one of the sixties wherein Nehru did not ok the testing of a nuclear device even though the know how existed ,thereby loosing India more than decade before nuclear testing happened in the mid seventies.The consequences of that fateful decision are still being felt half a century later in the present time due to the NSG imbroglio,where China opposes tooth and nail Indias entry in to the cosy club,when in reality India should have been a founder member by virtue of being overtly nuclear capable when the NSG came into existence.Instead we have the spectacle of the honourable PM expending his political capital by going cap in hand to be allowed into the NSG to all and sundry nations like Mexico,Switzerland etc.

    History,as the saying goes,always repeats itself and one can foresee incredulous Indians ,50 years down the line in 2066 ,wondering why the hell MIRV technology was not tested in 2006?and why China was allowed a headstart in this critical sphere when parity could have been restored by early testing?

    Even Pakistan is now ahead of India in this technology having tested a MIRV earlier.In response to this India has now indefinitely postponed the K4 test launch.Talk about strategic nonsense!!!

  5. andy says:

    Just to elaborate on Bharats reccomendation of quick testing and induction of MIRV missiles to enhance Indias deterrance vis a vis Pakistan and China,the question is does India really have the capabilities to launch such missiles?

    The building blocks of such MIRV capable missiles from boosters to radars, seekers and sophisticated mission control centers are currently available in India. DRDO had been able to develop key Radio Frequency seeker technologies for missiles, it has indigenously perfected this technology, and digital processing during the missile’s boost, mid-course and terminal phase is based on DRDO’s own software. The RF and Infra Red seekers are meant for proximity and precision engagement of targets, and both these technologies are required for the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) capability apart from other missiles as well. India is working on a new seeker technology with other countries also. Today, India is able to design and develop RF seekers, reaching near independent status in this key technology. Coming years would see greater Indian investment in micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS), nano-sensors, nano-materials and advanced information technology tools. Such advancements would be essential for creating reliable, robust and highly accurate systems like the MIRV. This technology would enhance India’s nuclear deterrence capabilities.

    Analyzing a ballistic trajectory is a simple physics problem, but there is big difference betweem analysis and implementation. Recording the necessary data, rapidly analyzing it, combined with ever changing variables, to determine the precise moment to release a warhead so that it hits a specific target 8-10 thousand miles away, is not a simple task. Therefore, dispersing nuclear warheads is another major technological challenge.

    China developed a method for deploying multiple satellites under a contract with Motorola. The deployment method utilized a “smart dispenser” to place Iridium class communication satellites into orbit and the know-how was transferred from Lockheed Martin Corporation. Another auxiliary technology required is the availability of expendable perigee/apogee kick motors, these are small booster motors set to lift satellites into higher orbits.

    However, India had developed both these technologies locally much before the Chinese cloned it. The PSLV-C20 launch in February 2013 is very significant because for the first time 7 satellites were inserted into their precise orbits using an embedded System-on-Chip (SOC) method, and the same SOC methodology is used for Agni-5 to assist its accuracy during its guidance and terminal phases. A notable point is that ISRO and DRDO have tested this key MIRV prerequisite by stealth which had clear military implications.

    Miniaturization of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons as has been obtained to fit the nose cone spatial shape of Agni missiles. Weapons design and testing has to be simulated in a virtual environment using Super Computers since actual testing stands frozen after Pokhran-II. We can only assume that BARC scientists have achieved the level of miniaturization deemed adequate and suitable for 20 KT fission warhead.

    All missile launch planning begins with a set of requirements that has to be met to achieve mission objectives. The re-entry phase of a mission is no different. There is a very delicately balance of three, often competing, requirements:
    *Accuracy of landing or impact

    Modern ballistic trajectory nuclear weapon system delivery vehicles typically utilize slender sphere-cone geometries with multiple warheads on a single delivery bus. For a given warhead and associated arming device, the designer selects the re-entry vehicle base diameter and vehicle length, which effectively determines the cone half-angle. The nose bluntness ratio is then selected based on drag and heat transfer considerations. The delivery vehicle has to sustain high high aerodynamic stress (deceleration) and heating, hence it must be made of advance materials. Although the agencies have worked extensively on aero-thermal structure and thermal protection system designs over the past decade for both its space and missile programs, its effective use on MIRV platform is yet to be ascertained.
    Other requirements include:
    *Robust guidance and control computers with adequate computational abilities to conduct complex maths
    *Develop advanced and accurate inertial guidance systems such as gyroscope and accelerometers for precise and decisive targeting.

    It is evident from history that there exists a close concurrence between a space and a missile program as was the case with both Soviet Union and America, China and India have also pursued the same path. The interchangeability of several technologies between the two entities suit there sustained development, but the more pronounced beneficiary is undeniably the missile programs. Though the Indian missile program has matured to world-class levels it is mastering some of the aforementioned technologies that will make MIRV integration as a holistic system achievable by India.Therefore testing is imparative to perfect technologies under development.

      • andy says:

        As someone once said in a different context,”two kinds of people come to me ,the first are true seekers and want to enhance their knowledge besides contributing to the narrative; the second kind are critics or shit pickers who only want to pick holes in the narrative.”

        You Mr.Venkat Ramana belong to the second catagory of people who come here.Kindly keep your smart ass comments to yourself.Your idiotic comments would carry more value if you wanted to enhance the narrative by making them ,rather than criticising just for the sake of criticism alone.Would have appreciated your effort if you had put out something related to the topic instead of criticising others efforts.So there!!!

      • &^%$#@! says:

        Sigh….the rants of a self-important and self-righteous fool when caught with his pants down pretending to be what he isn’t!

      • andy says:

        Tch,Tch cant expect any better from a shit picking pin head who is ashamed of his own name. What say mr.venkat ramana?and where did you get the notion that one has to be a nuclear scientist to comment on nuclear weapons?By that yardstick even Bharat doesnt qualify!

        Sorry to keep you awake last night in your quest to find where the information was from,as I said earlier would have appreciated your efforts if you had added to the topic at hand mr.venkat ramana.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        @Andy: While I am thrilled by your level of frustration and vitriol, all I can say to you is that plagiarism of the type you have committed (the verbatim reproduction of an article without having the ethics to post a link), is one of the ways the values of a forum is diminished. BTW, I would strongly advise you to cease and desist directing abusive language towards me.

      • &^%$#@! says:


        @Andy: While I am thrilled to observe your level of frustration and vitriol, all I wish to state is that plagiarism of the type you have committed (the verbatim reproduction of an article without having the ethics to post a link), is one of the ways the value of a forum is diminished. BTW, I would strongly advise you to cease and desist directing abusive language towards me.

      • andy says:

        The value of a forum is not diminished by putting out relevant information related to the topic at hand for your kind information mr.venkat ramana,it only enhances the narrative, but of course this fact would be beyond comprehension for a nameless non entity who expects a person to be a nuclear scientist as a prerequisite for posting comments on nuclear weapons

        Glad you are thrilled though,one was likewise thrilled on realising that mr.venkat ramana was awake late into the night yesterday,trying to find where the relevant information was from,quite a mirth inducing thought,would have been better if you had stayed awake trying to find additional information related to the post though!

        As for ‘ceasing and desisting’, that will happen when your goodself refrains from unnecessary s..t picking in your comments and puts out something constructive for a change.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        I’m glad to observe that your deformed nether parts are still hurting after the well placed kick administered to you. A “great strategist” like you should have seen it coming. Continuously babbling like a demented knuckle dragging Neanderthal ” Mr. Venkat Ramana….s**t, Mr. Venkat Ramana…s**t……” has no effect on me. You’ve been exposed as a plagiarist and a bogus individual. My suggestion to you is to pipe down, think, start behaving yourself, and start making either genuine or cited contributions to this forum. About my contributions, I do not need certificates from you.

      • andy says:

        If you have your entire genome sequenced I am sure a telltale Neanderthal segment on your chromosome 10 will be found!

        Someone is really taking this hard isnt he mr.venkat ramana?Dispite this bravado that you are putting on its amply obvious how the parts rhyming with malls are hurting due to your goodself being exposed as a serial s..t picker.As for your so called contribution it barely gets a glance from the discerning readers who know that nothing of any value will ever be written by our resident SP(guess you know what that stands for).As for your advise the less said the better.

        Your comments posted below show that at long last you are trying to make a serious contribution to the narrative,if our run in has this salutary effect then it was worthwhile. One doesn’t have the time or patience to indulge any more of your juvenile retorts and Bharat has been very patient, so one doesnt want to abuse his hospitality,suffice it to say that there will be a lot less s..t picking by a certain mr.venkat ramana in future.Adios.

  6. Satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    The 10 MIRVed Chinese missile is the DF-5C. The original DF-5 is the weaponized version of the CZ-2 launch vehicle (which originally had a 2000 kg payload to LEO). Later variants of this LV (with stretched fuel tanks, etc in CZ-2C) have a 3.8-4 ton LEO payload. Assuming that these improvements have been implemented on the DF-5, it is reasonable to expect a throw weight of 5-6 tons for the DF-5C to a 12000-15000 km range. Of this, half would be the dispenser and decoys (going by open source reports) . So, 250-300 kg per warhead (2.5-3 tons for 10 warheads). 100 kg warhead would be needed if the road mobile DF-41 is to carry 10 warheads. Even if this were a preliminary test of such a light payload, it makes no sense to use the huge DF-5C when DF-4 versions are also available for such reentry vehicle tests.

    The only direct Indian equivalent of the DF-5C would be if the higher payload variants of the PSLV (like PSLV-XL) are weaponized and deployed as MIRVed ICBMs in silos. It is physically impossible for any mobile missile (road mobile/SLBM) to have such a payload due to size constraints. The CZ-2C (DF-5 derivative SLV) had a LEO payload comparable to the PSLV-XL.

    BTW, almost all Chinese ICBM tests (all DF-41 tests so far), including this one are to a restricted range, from Taiyuan Satellite Launch center to western china. Going by sources on the net, this test was to a range of 2200-2600 km (with a 200 km radius for MIRV dispersal). The only full range tests of Chinese ICBMs seem to have been a few DF-5 tests in the 1980s.

  7. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    A 100 kg TNW should be doable by India if the yield/kg is drastically impaired – thanks to Vajpayee and his India Shining coterie. Basically it will be smaller bang for all the bucks spent on deploying, launching, militarizing, commandiing and controlling it.

    Couple that smaller dick to the inability to promise a global strike – thanks to Modi and his non-Indians infiltrated Indian strategic mindspace.

    You have a 50 year window for China to establish itself as the pre-imminent power in the world. At which point these very non-Indians will sign another LEMOA like thing with the Chinese.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @~!@#$%^&*()_+ : If by TNW you mean a thermonuclear warhead, I doubt whether any significant yield can be achieved without further testing. The problems with the S-1 physics package should have been addressed then and there. Successive Indian regimes have further diluted the capabilities to a considerable and unimaginable extent. With Indo-Russian relations currently at an all time low, to the extent that it may be safely construed that many strategic projects have started hurting really badly, I do not think obtaining any technical oversight/advise from them is possible in the foreseeable future. IMHO, the Indians have messed up their future for generations, just for a “pat on the head” from the West.

      I don’t expect a regime that is too scared to test the A-5 or the K-4 because it may upset some other country, is remotely likely to seriously qualitatively upgrade the weapons program. WRT the A-5, it is important to test it to its full range (with MIRV’s) to assess the degradation of the accuracy with increased range. IMHO replacing the maraging steel first stage with a composite one would also be necessary

  8. United States (US) – most specifically the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – has been identified as the world’s biggest drone user, but not exactly the world’s biggest drone exporter.

    In recent years, US dominance of drone warfare has been fading. Whereas for over a decade the US filled the skies with its MQ-1C Gray Eagle and MQ-9 Reapers – as its primary unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), along with hundreds of other smaller surveillance and tactical reconnaissance drones in support of US and allied ground forces – increasingly drones churned out by the People’s Republic of China, such as the CH-3, CH-4, and the latest addition to the CH family, the CH-5, now compete with other class-A products by exporting countries vying and bidding for large chunks of the global drone market.

    Today, China occupies one of the top spots as a “deadly drone power,” and shows now signs of abating in its major strides forward in the global drone market. The world has provided no shortage of uses for China’s drones, including countries like Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and other states in the Middle East, the European Union (EU), and possibly the United Nations (UN), which many contend would greatly benefit from a large fleet of surveillance and tactical support drones for its peace and peacekeeping operations.http://www.atimes.com/chinas-drones-going-global-drone-strikes/

  9. Robert Beckhusen

    The U.S. Air Force relies on more than 5,000 aircraft to give it unmatched dominance over every other competitor on earth. The U.S. Navy, for its part, counts on more than 3,700 aircraft and 273 deployable battle force ships, which constitute the largest and most technologically advanced sailing branch in the world.
    This much is true — no country can possibly hope to challenge the United States with military means on a global scale and win. But key to America’s global strength are huge air and naval bases which are vulnerable to being overwhelmed and destroyed by swarms of precision-guided weapons in a limited, regional war.

    The Navy also cannot expect its ships to survive if they come under attack by sufficiently large numbers of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles of the kind now fielded by China. While better protected from missiles than bases, the current breadth of U.S. technology and doctrine cannot compensate for this weakness.

    The result is that the Pentagon must radically rethink its missile defenses, or risk serious losses in the opening hours of a future conflict. But according to a recent report, the solution could be lots of futuristic lasers, guns and electromagnetic weapons that can engage enormous numbers of incoming missiles at relatively short ranges.

    And lots of drones.

    “Since the end of the Cold War, the Pentagon had the luxury of assuming that air and missile attacks on its bases and forces would either not occur or would be within the capacity of the limited defenses it has fielded,” analysts Mark Gunzinger and Bryan Clark wrote for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an influential defense policy think tank.

    “These assumptions are no longer valid.”

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