The expanse of land in the Gobi Desert near Hami town in Xinjiang province has 14 completed silos and the land is cleared to build 19 more, said researchers from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS ).
There could be as many as 110 underground silos built on it, judging by the “grid outline of the entire complex,” said the global nonprofit think tank that pledges to use “science. for a safer and more informed world ”.
The field spans about 300 square miles – the size of New York City’s landmass – and is similar in size to a silo site discovered last month in Yumen, in neighboring Xinjiang province of Gansu. .
The two sites are similar in “construction and organization” to another site in the Jilantai training area in Inner Mongolia, which has around 12 silos.
Scientists said construction at the site near Hami – which they discovered using satellite imagery – likely started around March, according to an FAS blog post published on Monday.
Underground silos are typically used to house Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs).
Researchers fear the new silos are proof that China is planning to rapidly increase its stocks amid the global nuclear arms race.
The FAS said it was unsure how the silos would be used – whether they would serve as empty decoys or to store warheads – but added that China’s current number of around 350 warheads is expected to more than double as of today. over the next decade.
China is the third nuclear power after Russia and the United States. Russia has around 6,225 warheads while the United States has around 5,550. France has around 300. The United Kingdom is the fifth nuclear power with around 225 warheads, of which up to 120 are operationally available for one. deployment.
The FAS said, “The Chinese government has insisted for decades that it has minimal deterrence and is not part of any nuclear arms race.
“While it is not known how many silos will actually be filled with missiles, China’s massive silo construction and other nuclear modernization programs are on a scale that appears to contradict these policies: accumulation is anything but ‘minimum’ And appears to be part of a race for more nuclear weapons to better compete with China’s opponents.
FAS researchers Matt Korda and Hans M. Kristensen said: “The construction of silos at Yumen and Hami is the largest expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal ever.
A Chinese nuclear expert has rejected reports of the discovery of the nuclear base under construction.
Song Zhongping, a former Hong Kong-based People’s Liberation Army instructor, said nuclear silos were obsolete, according to the South China Morning Post.
He said, “China has already used mobile launchers and thrown away these fixed silos, which are time consuming, labor intensive, expensive and vulnerable to attack and destroy. “