Chinese nuclear forces, 2019

By Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda | June 30, 2019

A Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile at a 2015 military parade in Beijing. China may be a source for other governments wishing to buy missiles. (Photo credit: Voice of America via Wikimedia Commons.) A Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile at a 2015 military parade in Beijing. China may be a source for other governments wishing to buy missiles. (Photo credit: Voice of America via Wikimedia Commons.)

Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear weapons does China have?

China is continuing the nuclear weapons modernization program that it initiated in the 1980s, fielding more types and greater numbers of nuclear weapons than ever before. Since our previous Chinese Nuclear Notebook in June 2018, China has continued fielding a new version of an existing nuclear medium-range mobile ballistic missile, a new dual-capable intermediate-range mobile ballistic missile, and an improved road-mobile launcher for an existing intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It has also continued development of a road-mobile multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV)-capable ICBM and an air-launched dual-capable ballistic missile.

We estimate that China has a stockpile of approximately 290 nuclear warheads for delivery by 180 to 190 land-based ballistic missiles, 48 sea-based ballistic missiles, and bombers (see Table 1). This estimate was more or less confirmed by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) director in May 2019: “We estimate … the number of warheads the Chinese have is in the low couple of hundreds” (Hudson Institute 2019)…

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The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists, and Matt Korda, a research associate with the project. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.


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