|China developing new rail-mobile ICBM, say US officials
Date:2016-01-11 Source:Janes By:Globalmil Viewed:
An image of an RT-23 (SS-24) missile train could give some indication of the configuration of China's rail-mobile DF-41. Source: Russian Internet
On 5 December 2015 China was observed conducting a launcher test of a new rail-mobile version of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), according to US officials.
It was not a full test, but just a trial of the 'cold launch' system, in which the DF-41 was ejected from its launch tube with a gas charge but the engine was not ignited. As such it was likely meant to test the tube launch system's compatibility with its new rail car. This followed an apparent full flight test of the DF-41 on 4 December 2015.
Details of both tests were first revealed by US officials to The Washington Free Beacon , which reported on the latest test on 21 December 2015.
This also confirms previous reports of China's interest in rail mobility to increase the survivability of its ICBM force. In a May 2012 journal article the former chief of staff of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, retired Colonel General Victor Esin, noted there would be a rail-mobile version of the DF-41.
In 2013 the Georgetown University Arms Control Project reported that China had obtained ICBM rail car insights from Ukraine, where the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau produced the RT-23 (SS-24 'Scalpel') rail-mobile solid-fuel ICBM used by the Soviet Union and then Russia from 1987 to 2005.
The first version of the 14,000 km-range, 10-warhead-capable DF-41 is carried by an 18-wheel transporter-erector-launcher (TEL).
Little is known about the structure of China's rail-mobile DF-41 units, although they are expected to exploit China's rail tunnels. Taiwanese sources have reported that China has already constructed 1,000 to 2,000 km of special rail to accommodate these heavy ICBMs.
Russia's second-generation rail-based ICBM system, called Barguzin, could enter service in 2020. One train, or a regiment, could carry up to six ICBMs.
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