Eastern part of Hami urban district prior to construction. The label shows the position of the future positioning area
In early July, it became known that China was building in Gansu province a new positioning area for strategic missile forces with 119 silo launchers. Recently, the Federation of American Scientists announced the second such construction - another area with a hundred mines will appear in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region near Hami.
The second major construction site for the missile forces was announced on July 26 by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). Its specialists studied fresh satellite images from the commercial operator Planet Labs Inc., dated June this year, and noticed previously absent activity, as well as found construction sites and signs of imminent launch of new construction projects. Based on such observations, forecasts of future work and project volumes are made.
A new positioning area is being built in the eastern part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR), near the southwestern borders of the Hami urban district. The city of Hami itself is located 80-85 km north-east of the construction site. The coordinates of the region are 42 ° 19'39.0 "N 92 ° 29'32.3" E. A fairly large flat desert area, remote from populated areas and state borders, was chosen for the construction. Approx. 350-380 km in a straight line, it is located to the southeast.
It is assumed that construction began in March this year and is proceeding at a fairly high rate. Several dozen silos are already under construction or are being prepared for construction. The approximate boundaries of the positional area have also been determined. According to FAS calculations, up to 800 launchers can be placed on an area with a total area of 110 square kilometers.
General view of construction, June 2021
Thus, in terms of the size and number of silos deployed, the positional area near Hami is slightly inferior to the previously discovered positions of the missile forces in the prov. Gansu. At the same time, with its help, the PLA will be able to significantly increase the number of deployed missiles of different classes and types, increasing the combat capabilities of the nuclear forces.
Until recently, there was no activity in the found area. The only sign of civilization was the highway east of the future construction sites. The previous state of the area can be seen in the Google Maps service - there are still relatively old satellite photos taken before the start of construction.
Fresh imagery from Planet Labs and FAS show that in the past few months a network of dirt roads has emerged in the area, supporting major construction. In the northern part of the district, next to the main roads, sites have been cleared for the construction of some ground objects. However, other objects are of main interest.
In the southern and eastern parts of the future area, several sites were noticed, the characteristic appearance of which indicates the construction of mine installations. They use pre-fabricated domed shelters with a size of approx. 50x70 m, allowing to protect the construction site from observation and natural phenomena. It is believed that they are removed after the completion of all construction and installation work.
Separate construction sites - light cover visible
Preparation of new sites for the next construction is also underway. The identified silo positions are placed on a neat grid at a distance of approx. 3 km from each other - like in Gansu.
FAS counted 14 domed shelters, and each of them can be excavated or concrete structures. Another 19 sites are just getting ready for future underground construction. Work on other areas of the future region has not yet been carried out, but they are expected to begin soon.
Taking into account the geographic features of the selected area, the configuration of the roads and the location of the facilities under construction, FAS drew up a possible map of the location of the launchers. On the existing territory, according to the selected grid, it is possible to arrange about 110 mines - and more than 30 are already at various stages of construction. However, the real plans of the PLA may look different.
In its article on new facilities, FAS recalls that until recently, the Chinese missile forces had only 20 silos of old types of complexes. In 2019, it became known about the construction of 12 silos for missiles of new models at the test site in Inner Mongolia. Foreign experts assumed that these were educational or test facilities.
Proposed construction map. Areas with domed shelters are marked in red, and upcoming sites are marked in blue. Round white marks - FAS forecast for future construction
There are two major construction projects underway right now. 119 new silos should appear in prov. Gansu and about 110 more installations are deployed in Hami district - in total approx. 230 units Apparently, this time we are talking about full-fledged modern missile systems designed for combat duty.
According to The Military Balamce 2021, the PLA currently has at least 10 missile brigades equipped with intercontinental-class nuclear-armed systems. On duty is approx. 100 ICBMs of various types, and the basis of this group is still mobile ground complexes. Judging by the ongoing construction, the organizational structure and the numerical indicators of the missile forces will soon change upward.
Currently, the PLA missile forces receive and master the latest ICBMs "Dongfeng-41" with a firing range of 12-14 thousand km, designed for use by mobile and stationary complexes. It is very likely that two new positional areas with silos are being built just for this weapon... However, one cannot exclude the possibility of the parallel deployment of ICBMs and MRBMs for greater flexibility of the missile forces in solving various strategic tasks.
It is easy to calculate that the emergence of two new positioning areas will allow the PLA to increase the number of deployed ICBMs by 230%. At the same time, the structure of their fleet will change: PGRKs will fade into the background, and modern missiles in mines will become the basis of strategic weapons.
Comparison of construction sites in Hami, Gansu and Inner Mongolia (left to right)
It should be noted that the production of a sufficient number of ICBMs to fill 230 silos and create a warehouse stock will take a lot of time. Accordingly, for an indefinite time, some of the installations will remain empty. However, in this case, too, they will take part in strategic nuclear deterrence. Without knowing the real number of deployed missiles, their equipment and the mines involved, the likely adversary will not be able to accurately plan a disarming strike, and the PLA will retain the possibility of a full-scale response.
In recent years, China has regularly demonstrated certain achievements in the field of building its armed forces. In addition, the most interesting news of this kind are regularly received from foreign sources. In particular, it is well known what efforts have been made recently to develop strategic nuclear forces. And in recent weeks, there have been two unexpected news from this area.
For the needs of the missile forces, two positional areas are being built at once with a large number of stationary launchers. It is quite possible that the PLA plans include other similar construction projects, but abroad they do not yet know about them. If this is the case, then at any time new satellite images may appear with the next objects of an understandable purpose.
What other surprises and how much China is preparing is unknown. In the current situation, it is only clear that Beijing plans to continue building powerful and advanced nuclear forces, right up to full parity with the leading powers. This means that today's news will not be the last of its kind. And in the future it will be necessary to reconsider the assessments of the state and prospects of the PLA's strategic nuclear forces - towards quantitative and qualitative growth.