Media reports from China indicate Tuesday’s military parade, a massive show of force and technological sophistication to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, will include the public debut of the Dongfeng-41, a nuclear-capable missile that could hit U.S. territory within 30 minutes of launch.
Fox News quoted Chinese government spokesmen and foreign analysts who expected the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to put on quite a show for National Day, taking the opportunity to demonstrate their massive advantage in manpower is now matched with near-peer real-world military hardware and world-class cyberwar capabilities. According to Fox News:
Tuesday’s parade will include 15,000 troops, more than 160 aircraft and 580 pieces of military equipment, according to Ministry of Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Cai Zhijun.
Many new weapons “will be shown for the first time,” Cai told reporters last week. Asked whether that would include the Dongfeng 41, Cai said, “Please wait and see.”
The ability to project power has been seen as increasingly urgent for Chinese leaders aiming to control shipping lanes and waters also claimed by Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines and other governments.
“China has developed nuclear, space, cyberspace and other capabilities that can reach potential adversaries across the globe,” the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said in a report this past January.
The Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) is believed to be capable of traveling at 25 times the speed of sound to deliver up to 10 nuclear warheads to targets up to 9,400 miles away. These capabilities would represent a significant upgrade to the widely deployed Dongfeng-31 missile, which is a significant threat to the U.S. mainland in its own right.
A Chinese military exercise in February gave a hint of the DF-41’s specifications, as the PLA simulated a strike at longer range than either the U.S. or Russian mainstay ICBMs could achieve. Chinese state media reports about the exercise suggested the DF-41 has already been deployed to launchers in northeastern China. The same exercise demonstrated the capabilities of the Dongfeng-26, an advanced mobile medium-range missile capable of carrying out non-nuclear strikes against American bases and aircraft carriers across the Pacific.
Chinese media reports in August indicated some DF-41s had been moved to Beijing in preparation for the National Day parade, along with other advanced weapons such as aerial and naval drones, hypersonic weapons, upgraded long-range bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
The PLA is evidently working to double its nuclear-capable ICBM launch capability, judging from satellite surveillance photos. This would provide China with a more credible superpower nuclear deterrent, although it would still lag far behind the United States and Russia in launchers and deliverable nuclear warheads.