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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

PLA Rocket Force
Second Artillery Corps


  • Headquarters DEPT
  • Poltical DEPT
  • Logistics DEPT
  • Armament DEPT

  • Base 51
  • Base 52
  • Base 53
  • Base 54
  • Base 55
  • Base 56
  • Testing Base 22 (Unit 96401)
  • U/I Training Base

  • U/I BDE
  • U/I Engineer Unit (Unit 96501)
  • Survey & Cartography
  • Eng Tech General Unit (Unit 96531)
China’s Second Artillery Corps, responsible for the country’s nuclear weapons, changed its name to the PLA Rocket Force. The military unveiled the Rocket Force’s new uniforms on 30 JUne 2016. China's strategic nuclear force, referred to as the Second Artillery Corps, was established in Beijing on 1 July 1966, and Premier Zhou Enlai personally named it the Second Artillery Corps [SAC]. In the early eighties, China's strategic guided missile force conducted its first large-scale combined battle exercise to examine the force's overall combat capability. The 2d Artillery Corps is under the operational control of the general staff, but is directly controlled by the Central Military Commission, and has been an independent arm of the Chinese armed forces since 1974. It is equipped with hundreds of strategic and tactical missiles of various types.

The Second Artillery Corps is believed to be organized into a headquarters in Qinghe near Beijing, an early warning division, a communication regiment, a security regiment, a technical support regiment, and six ballistic missile Divisions. The Second Artillery headquarters complex consists of headquarters, political, logistics, and equipment technology departments, each headed by a PLA major general.

In addition to these combat formations, the signal unit of the Second Artillery Corps operates communications systems to provide communications support capabilities for launch operations. The headquarters complex maintains contact with subordinate units through its own communications regiment.

The Second Artillery also has one engineering design academy and four research institutes to solve problems associated with operations, transporter erector launchers (TELs), and logistics (First Institute), command automation, targeting, and mapping (Third Institute), and missile and warhead engineering design. The Second Artillery's Command College in Wuhan prepares officers for leadership positions within headquarters elements and launch brigades. The Engineering College in Xian educates technicians.

The Second Artillery, with an estimated 90,000 personnel [some estimates are as high as 120,000], most of which are in engineering and construction units. Actual missile operators and guards are probably less than half of the total strength. According to one estimate the missile troops number some 50,000 persons; the technical-equipped force about 17,000; the construction troops some 20,000; the anti-chemical and communication troops 50,000 for each; the training units: some 10,000 persons, and the logistic support troops some 20,000 persons. This total of some 217,000 is about twice as large as typically reported aggregate troop strengths, and may reflect the assignment of troops from other branches in support of the Second Artillery.

The six Divisions are independently deployed in the main military regions. Each missile Division probably averages around 10,000 troops, with some strength fluctuation based on missile types. The Divisions, comprised of Guided Missile Launched Brigades deployed, are each headed by a major general. Each Division is directly subordinate to the Second Artillery commander in Qinghe, although they do receive support from the military regions. Along with other major formations, a Division is also at times termed a "base" -- which may be somewhat confusing since Division headquarters are not co-located with actual missile bases. A Division headquarters structure mirrors that of the national headquarters in Qinghe with Headquarters, Political, Logistics, and Equipment and Technology Departments. In addition, each Division has training (jiaodaodui) and nuclear warhead (euphemistically referred to special equipment) maintenance units. Each Division has regiment-level special departments (chu) responsible for chemical defense, communications, training, security, and weather, as well as two or three subordinate brigades (lu).

Each Brigade, commanded by a colonel, has up to four launch battalions (fashe ying). Missile brigades are generally structured by type of missiles, with each brigade having only has one type of missile, thus facilitating maintenance and specialization. There were at least 13 Brigades in the Second Artillery in the early 1990s, though by the end of the decade this number had increased to as many as 17 Brigades. This increase in force structure apparently reflected the deployment of additional DF-5 nuclear ICBMs, as well as the deployment of conventional M-9 and M-11 missiles aimed at Taiwan.

The PLA missile forces have grown steadily since China started developing strategic surface-to-surface missiles in 1956:

  • 9 December 1957 -- Some 600 cadres and soldiers from various military units and scientific research institutes were formed into the first surface-to-surface guided missile Training Group.
  • 1958 -- The "Special Artillery Corps" under the Central Military Commission [CMC]'s organizational system of the artillery was established
  • June 1959 -- The CMC decided to dissolve the Training Group and establish two strategic guided missile combat battalions.
  • 18 March 1960 - The first of the two planned battalions was established at an artillery school in a northwest China city.
  • 1963 -- The CMC decided to establish a strategic guided missile operational launch base.
  • August 1963 -- The CMC designated the Special Artillery Corps to conduct launch operations
  • 3 October 1963 -- The Corps carried out its first launch
  • June 1964 -- China successfully test-fired the Dongfeng-1 (DF-1) short-range missile
  • 6 June 1966 -- The "Second Artillery Corps" was formed under the direction of Zhou Enlai, who was in charge of the preparatory work for its establishment, based on the merger of a former headquarters of the Ministry of Public Security and the CMC Special Artillery Corps.
  • 1 July 1966 -- The headquarters of the Second Artillery Corps was officially established in Beijing.
  • 1984 -- The Second Artillery Corps officially assumed alert duty
  • 1 October 1984 -- In a ceremony in Beijing marking the 35th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, the Second Artillery made its first public appearance in Tiananmen, with a display of strategic missiles.
  • 1985 -- Collective command training simulation systems for missile Battalions and Brigades are developed to provide training to reduce missile launch timelines and improve operational readiness.
  • August 1988 -- Chinese reports claim that over the previous five years the Second Artillery Corps' rate of success in live-fire launching of various types of missiles reached 96 percent.

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Page last modified: 18-10-2021 15:46:55 ZULU