Thursday, December 16, 2010

China DF-41 Ballistic Missile System Capacity Nuclear Weapons

The DF-41 is a three-stage, solid fuel missile that will potentially be able to reach targets anywhere in the continental United States. As with the DF-31, this missile will most likely eventually be armed with as many as
three MRV or MIRVed warheads with yields of perhaps 50–90 kilotons each. The DF-41 will probably be hidden in caves like many other of China’s nuclear weapons, but will be road-, rail- or river-mobile. It is presumably intended to replace the aging DF-5 force, which Beijing will begin replacing around 2010.

In the absence of flight testing, the final operational configuration of this solid fueled missile remains uncertain, particularly with respect to the length of the third stage. However, this derivative of the DF-31 would be unlikely to have a throwweight in excess of 1000 kgs, and most estimates are in the range of 800 kg. Some estimates anticipate that, as with previous Chinese ICBMs, the DF-41 will carry only a single warhead [with a 0.35 - 1.0 MT yield]. In any event, depending on the weapon's yield, it seems unlikely that China would be able to mount more than a few lower-yield [50-100 KT ?] RVs on this ICBM. The American Minuteman III has 3 RVs and a throwweight of 1100 kgs at 12,900 kms, while the MX Peacekeeper carries 10 RVs and has a throwweight of 3950 kgs at 11,000 kms. Both American missiles carry warheads with yields of a few hundred kilotons.

The DF-41 missile program was officially initiated in July 1986, but has never undergone flight-testing. This has led some to believe that the DF-41 program has been either suspended or cancelled.


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