Recent Trends in China’s Missile and Strategic Strike Forces
In late-2016 China’s missile forces are being influenced by three major trends. First is the formation of the new People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) in late 2015 as a result of sweeping restructuring of PLA focused on increasing jointness, accompanied by an increase in the nuclear forces of the PLA Navy (PLAN) and PLA Air Force (PLAAF). A second and ongoing trend has been the incorporation of new types and variants of missile systems plus new nuclear missile submarines (SSBNs) and bombers. Third, China is moving toward the creation of a national missile defense and anti-satellite (ASAT) system that may require cooperation between the SRF, the new Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) and the PLAAF.
While there is uncertainty regarding the actual current number of PLA strategic missiles, the introduction of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and future submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) indicates warhead numbers could soon be increasing more rapidly. By the mid-2020s, however, the PLA could have a strategic strike capability comprising a larger number of nuclear missiles, new non-nuclear Prompt Global Strike (PGS) systems, intermediate and medium range nuclear and non-nuclear missiles, nuclear and non-nuclear short range ballistic missiles, a variety of strategic cruise missiles that are also carried by bombers and submarines, plus anti-missile and anti-satellite missiles.
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