China’s military last week conducted flight tests of two intercontinental ballistic missiles, including one of its newest road-mobile DF-31As that can reach the United States with a nuclear warhead, according to U.S. officials.
The test firings of both a DF-31A and a silo-based CSS-4 ICBM were monitored by U.S. intelligence satellites and other intelligence sensors in Asia, said officials familiar with reports of the tests.
The Chinese ICBM flight tests, as in earlier tests, were carried out in secret and took place days after what the Chinese government said was the July 23 flight test of a missile defense interceptor.
Recent military activities by the Chinese military have resulted in massive commercial flight delays in several parts of the country. Other Chinese military exercises are ongoing.
The DF-31A is the front-line strategic missile of the People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Corps, as China’s nuclear and conventional missile forces are called.
“China has the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” said a report published recently by the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC).
“It is developing and testing offensive missiles, forming additional missile units, qualitatively upgrading missile systems and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses,” the report said, noting that Chinese missile forces are “expanding in both size and types of missiles.”
On the DF-31A, the report said the missile is being deployed and “future ICBMs could utilize multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs).”
The number of China’s nuclear-armed missiles capable of hitting the United States is expected to expand to well over 100 within the next 15 years, the report said.
According to NASIC, the DF-31A has a range of more than 6,800 miles. The CSS-4 has a range of more than 7,500 miles. Both carry a single nuclear warhead.
The DF-31A test was the fourth known flight test of the missile and came about a year after the last DF-31A flight test on July 24, 2013. Earlier DF-31A flight tests took place on Nov. 30, 2012 and Aug. 30, 2012.
Analysts said the latest flight tests indicate the Chinese are continuing a major strategic nuclear forces buildup.
The location of the flight test could not be learned. In the past, China’s DF-31A tests occurred at the Wuzhai missile test center and flew to a remote impact range in western China.
China also is conducting naval exercises this week near the port of Dalian, where JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles have been tested in the past.
Pentagon spokeswoman Army Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson said of the test: “The Department of Defense continues to monitor China’s military modernization, including its missile launches.”