A 15-year saga
On August 12, 2021, the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Admiral Charles Richard stated, “We are witnessing a strategic breakout by China….The explosive growth in their nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I described as breathtaking.” He added that “…frankly, that word ‘breathtaking’ may not be enough.” Admiral Richard characterized China as a “peer” nuclear competitor and noted that we now face two nuclear “peer” competitors, Russia and China, compared to one during the Cold War.
Admiral Richard was talking about the massive Chinese silo construction program for the large, multiple warhead DF-41 ICBM, generally reported to be able to carry 10 nuclear warheads. He confirmed the earlier reports of two new ICBM fields and that each had about 120 silos for the large Chinese DF-41 ICBM. On August 12, 2021, Bill Gertz wrote in The Washington Times that a third ICBM field had been discovered and that, “Together, the three new missile bases will house 350 to 400 new long-range nuclear missiles, U.S. officials said. If 10 warheads are deployed on the DF-41s, China‘s warhead level will increase to more than 4,000 warheads on its DF-41s alone.”
We’re still trying to figure out how (or even if) we’re going to replace 400 Minuteman III missiles that date back to the early ’70s.
Complicating things, each Minuteman is limited by treaty with Russia to a single warhead. China is under no such restriction.