In the Chinese military strategy, missiles launched from submarines are considered the first counter-striking tool against a US attack. China tested JL-3 missiles having a range of up to 10.000 km from a submarine. Although it has been tested three times so far, China has not officially made any statement.
The JL-3, the country’s most advanced submarine-launched long-range missile, is projected to be fully integrated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s next generation of submarines in 2025. Still, China has not officially confirmed that it is even under development. Nevertheless, it is still a threat and one of several missiles that could put the PLA within striking distance of the continental United States, according to an American military report. Observers say that threat will give China a credible nuclear deterrence effect and second strike power against rivals.
When the JL-3 is up and running on Chinese submarines, it should be able to deliver multiple warheads – including nuclear – and have a range of more than 10,000km (6,200 miles). That is the conclusion of the US Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Centre (Nasic) in its Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat report, released this month. In the report, the center said China was developing and testing offensive missiles and upgrading others.
The conclusion is primarily supported by the Federation of American Scientists, which came out with its report on January 19, saying the JL-3 was a significant advance on the JL-2 missile still in service.
“The biggest news in the China section of the Nasic report is that the new JL-3 … will be capable of delivering multiple warheads and have a range of more than 10,000km. That is a significant increase in capability compared with the JL-2,” the FAS report said. The JL-2 has a range of about 7,200km.
Timothy Heath, a security specialist from the US think tank Rand Corporation, said the JL-3 was a fearsome weapon. Along with the DF-41, it gave China an “effective means of targeting the continental US from extremely long distances, which increases the survivability of the Chinese missiles.” Heath said this would help deter the US from interventions close to China.” Together, the PLA’s conventional and nuclear capability raises the risk and cost of any US fight with China,” he said. “The goal is to convince the US that such a fight is not worth the risk, allowing China to ‘win’ its confrontations with neighbors like Taiwan ‘without fighting’ the US.”