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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

China's Nuclear Stockpile - Composition

There is condiderable uncertainly in published estimates of the composition of the Chinese nuclear weapons stockpile. The Federation of American Scientists assessed China to have at least six different types of "nuclear payload assemblies": a 15-40 kiloton (kt) fission bomb; a 20 kt missile warhead; a 3 megaton (mt) thermonuclear missile warhead; a 3 mt thermonuclear gravity bomb; a 4-5 mt missile warhead; and a 200-300 kt missile warhead. Between 1965 and 1976, Hong (H)-5, H-6, and Qian (Q)-5 aircraft dropped 11 bombs at the Lop Nur test site. These detonated with yields in four distinct ranges: 8 kilotons, 15-35 kilotons, 250 kilotons, and 3,000-4,000 kilotons.

Tom Reed relates that in the spring of 1966, China detonated a boosted-fission air-dropped device that used lithium-6, a primary source of tritium when bombarded with neutrons. That test, their third, achieved a yield of 200300 kilotons. By the end of 1966, they tested a large two-stage device with a yield of only 122 kilotons, but the principle of radiation implosion had been tested. The Chinese then on 17 June 1967 tested a 3.3-megaton aircraft-delivered weapon that again used 6Li and displayed multiple isotopes from an enriched uranium primary. There was no plutonium in that device, since the nuclear reactor at Jiuquan was only then coming on line. On 27 December 1968, the Chinese tested an improved, aird-ropped 3-megaton thermonuclear device that for the first time used plutonium in the primary.

In 2006 the Kristensen et al FAS/NRDC team assumed China will deploy 250 kiloton (kt) single-warheads on DF-31, DF-31A, JL-2, and three 250 kt multiple-warheads (MRV) on DF-5A ICBMs.

It is generally believed that China is not developing new nuclear warheads for new ballistic missiles. It is believed that the warheads for the new nuclear delivery systems including the DF-31, DF-41 and JL-2 were tested during the 1990s, before China signed the CTBT in August 1996.

The Federation of American Scientists assessed China to have at least six different types of nuclear payload assemblies:

  1. a 15-40 kiloton (kt) fission bomb;
  2. a 20 kt missile warhead;
  3. a 200-300 kt missile warhead;
  4. a 3 mt thermonuclear gravity bomb; and
  5. a 3 megaton (mt) thermonuclear missile warhead;
  6. a 4-5 mt missile warhead.

Another way of reverse engineering the deployment and testing history would suggest:

  1. a 20 kiloton (kt) fission device, first demonstrated in the CHIC 4 test on 27 October 1966, launched on a DF-2 with a 12 kt yield. This may have been demonstrated a second time in CHIC 9 on 22 September 1969 with a yield of 20 kt and at third time in the CHIC 13 airdrop on 07 January 1971 with a yield of 8-20 kt.
  2. a 20 kiloton (kt) fission device of more sophisticated design
    • CHIC 20 test of 17 October 1976 [10-20 kt]
    • CHIC 22 test of 17 September 1977 [over 20 kt]
    • CHIC 23 test of 15 March 1978 [over 20 kt]
    • CHIC 24 test of 14 October 1978 [5-50 kt]
    • CHIC 25 test of 14 December 1978 [over 20 kt]
    • CHIC 28 test of 05 October 1982 [3-15 kt]
    • CHIC 32 test of 19 December 1984 [5-50 kt]
    • CHIC 34 test of 05 September 1988 [1-20 kt]
  3. a 100 kt missile warhead; A series of six consecutive tests [CHIC 39 through CHIC 44] from 1993 to 1996 appear to be the same weapon, with a yield of about 100 kt. A previous series three tests [CHIC 29 through CHIC 31] in 1983 and 1984, with a yield ranging from 15 kt to 100 kt, may have been related.
  4. a 250 kt missile warhead; The CHIC 33 test of 05 June 1987 [250-400 kt] may have been a test the device, as well as the CHIC 36 test of 16 August 1990 [50-200 kt].
  5. a 1 megaton [MT] missile warhead [and gravity bomb?]; The CHIC 27 test of 16 October 1980 may have been the first test, and the CHIC 37 test of 21 May 1992 the second. This device may be associated with the H639-23 bomb shape.
  6. a 3 MT thermonuclear gravity bomb is suggested by the CHIC 6 airdrop of 3.3 MT of 17 June 1967. There were four more airdrops with yields in this range [CHIC 8, CHIC 10, CHIC 11, and CIC 15, the last coming on 14 October 1967. A 3 (MT) thermonuclear missile warhead is almost certainly the same physics package as the 524-23 gravity bomb of the same yield.
  7. a 4 MT missile warhead is suggested by the CHIC 21 detonation, a 4 MT test conducted 17 November 1976.

There has been a tendency on the part of Western analysts to discount Chinese air delivered weapons. This deprecation is not shared by Chinese museum curators, who by 2018 displayed eight discrete bomb shapes. The counterpart American and Soviet bomb museums generally display "real" bombs, and tend to display the more important designs. Whether a bomb musesum "with Chinese characteristics" follows divergent curating philosophies is unknown.

There is no information to suggest the development of anti-submarine nuclear weapons.

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Page last modified: 04-02-2018 17:30:57 ZULU