Stratcom’s wakeup call to Congress: China now has more ICBM launchers than U.S.

FPI / February 21, 2023


China now has more land-based intercontinental-range missile launchers than the United States, the new commander of U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom), Air Force Gen. Anthony J. Cotton, told the Senate and House Armed Services Committees in a Jan. 26 letter. Stratcom oversees U.S. nuclear forces.

A military officer salutes during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China on Oct. 1, 2019.

“The head of U.S. Strategic Command has informed us that China has surpassed the U.S. in the number of ICBM launchers — this should serve as a wake-up call for the United States,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers of Alabama and Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, chairman of that panel’s strategic forces subcommittee.

Cotton stated in his letter to the congressmen that, as of October 2022, “the number of land-based fixed and mobile ICBM launchers in China exceeds the number of ICBM launchers in the United States.”

China’s large number of ICBM launchers is believed to be the result of deployment of new DF-31 and DF-41 multi-warhead missile launchers.

U.S. intelligence agencies recently discovered three large missile fields under construction in western China that Stratcom has said will hold up to 320 land-based ICBMs.

In addition to the new missile silos, China also has large numbers of both road-mobile and rail-mobile ICBM launchers that likely are factored into Cotton’s notification.

The U.S. military has no mobile missiles, and efforts to develop them were thwarted in the past by anti-nuclear weapons activists in Congress.

The current land-based U.S. missile force consists of 400 single-warhead Minuteman III ICBMs deployed at three bases in the western United States.

The recent Chinese surveillance balloon that transited the United States before being shot down over the Atlantic passed over Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, where 150 Minuteman III ICBMs are deployed.

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