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CHINESE Nuclear Triad

The Chinese military is moving toward fielding a nuclear triad, the Pentagon warns in a new report on Chinese Military Power. The Department of Defense report outlines that China appears to be close to completing its triad, which implies that it will have the ability to launch nukes from land, sea and air. The newly developed air-launched ballistic missile could act as the missing piece in completing the triangle. It is to be noted that a true triad requires more than just platforms; it also needs the proper training, doctrine, and other process, such as command and control (C2).

The land capabilities are retained by intercontinental missiles capable of striking the continental US and China has approximately 90 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in its nuclear arsenal.

These assets which are under the control of the PLA Rocket Force include the silo-based DF-5s, the road-mobile DF-31s, and roll-out-to-launch DF-4s. China is also developing the DF-41, a powerful new road-mobile ICBM with MIRV capabilities.

China also has a number of nuclear-capable medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, such as the DF-21 and DF-26. While the ICBMs with their greater range could be used to target points in the US, these weapons could be used against US targets across the Pacific.

For deterrence and second-strike capabilities from the sea, under the control of the PLAN, China has four operational Type 094 Jin-class submarines, with another two being reportedly being outfitted at Huludao Shipyard. These boats are armed with JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, what the Pentagon calls China's "first viable sea-based nuclear deterrent." China has already started testing new, longer-range JL-3 SLBMs that will arm the next-generation Type 096 submarines.

Lastly, the ALBMs, which are under the PLAAF control, implies that the People's Liberation Army Air Force had been re-assigned a nuclear mission.

The PLAAF is upgrading its aircrafts with two new air-launched ballistic missiles, one of which may include a nuclear payload. It’s deployment and integration would, for the first time, provide China with a viable nuclear 'triad' of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea, and air forces.

This new ALBM is a two-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile with a range of 3,000 km designated by US intelligence as CH-AS-X-13. The weapon has been tested aboard a modified H-6K bomber identified as H6X1/H-6N.

[Jane’s Defence, The Diplomat]