A U.S.-based civilian researcher has uncovered a massive new Chinese missile base using commercial satellite images available over the Internet.
The missile base is located in Delingha in central China. Analysis of the GoogleEarth images show that the Chinese army Second Artillery Corps 812 Brigade has deployed nuclear tipped DF-4 and DF-21 missiles at the base.
“The region has long been rumored to house nuclear missiles and some details have emerged in recent years, but the new analysis reveals a significantly larger deployment area than previously known to the public, different types of launch pads, command and control facilities, and missile deployment equipment at a large facility in downtown Delingha,” stated Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists.
The missiles and the widely scattered 58 launch sites indicate that the main target of the nuclear force at Delingha is either Russia or China. The DF-4 and DF-21 missiles deployed at the base do not have the range to attack American targets in the pacific, Japan, or Taiwan.
The Chinese have set up missile launching sites along a 200 mile stretch of highway. The launching sites are to be used by the mobile DF-21 missiles. The DF-21 is a solid fuel, two stage missile based on the Chinese navy JL-1. The DF-21 has a range of 1,200 miles and carries a one megaton nuclear warhead.
Much like the SCUD missiles of the former Iraq, the DF-21 is a mobile system that is hard to track. The 15-ton, 35-foot-long DF-21s are delivered to each launch site on wheeled carriers called TELs — transporter-erector-launcher.
U.S. officials are concerned that the new launch sites could also be used by China to shoot down American satellites. China demonstrated its capability to shoot down satellites in 2007, destroying a former weather satellite using modified DF-21 missiles.
Indian officials expressed concern but noted that they have been monitoring the construction at the missile base for a number of years.
News of the new missile base comes only days after the discovery of a second Chinese underground sub base near Sanya, on Hainan Island off its southern coast. In December 2007 the Chinese navy moved its first Type 094 second-generation nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) to Sanya.
The new underground submarine base and the positioning of China’s most advanced sub at Sanya shows that China intends to control the South China Sea and the strategically vital straits in the area. Most of the oil for Taiwan, Japan and South Korea pass through the waters near the new base.
The Chinese military has also added a new capability to its missile forces, this time thanks to the U.S. government. A U.S. supercomputer like those used at research facilities such as Los Alamos National Laboratory will be used by the Chinese to operate a new generation of weather satellites.
There are military implications, however, for China’s use of this powerful Silicon Graphics Inc. computing capability. The advanced weather satellite system will be used heavily by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In particular, the Chinese missile force run by the Second Artillery will use the weather information to assist in firing their nuclear tipped weapons.
The new Chinese supercomputer is powered by 1,280 Intel Itanium 2 processor cores with 4 terabytes of shared memory. The U.S. made supercomputer ranks as the largest shared-memory computer in China and the fourth fastest in the country. The computing complex is based at the Chinese National Satellite Meteorological Center (NSMC) in Beijing.
The supercomputer, combined with the latest Chinese weather satellite, the Fengyun-3, will provide the Chinese military with accurate data to launch missiles. The lack of accurate weather data, in particular, predictions of high-altitude winds, has plagued the Chinese military missile forces for decades, forcing delays and in some cases, major failures due to wind sheers encountered by missile tests.
“China continues a systematic effort to obtain . . . through legal transactions dual-use and military technologies,” states the Pentagon’s 2008 report on China’s military power.
“Many dual-use technologies such as software, integrated circuits, computers, electronics and [security-related] information systems are vital for the PLA’s transformation into an information-based network-centric force,” noted the Pentagon report.
“The inherent dual-use nature of space technologies means that China’s improving space capabilities could be used against the U.S. military,” noted another 2008 report filed by the U.S. Army on Chinese space technology.