China's DF-41 has been described as "the world’s longest-range missile," capable of striking the US from anywhere in China, and it could be ready as early as this year, the South China Morning Post reports.
“Given the number of real reported tests, it is reasonable to speculate the DF-41 will be deployed to PLA Strategic Rocket Force bases in 2016,” Richard Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington told the Financial Times.
Once fielded, the DF-41 will absolutely change the game for the People's Liberation Army's Rocket Force. Previous sil0-based Chinese missile systems were immobile, but the DF-41 can be launched from mobile platforms.
Analysts also say the missile could fly over the North Pole and hit the US within 30 minutes, or fly over the Pacific ocean in a few minutes more with a payload of ten individually targetable nuclear warheads.
The estimates of the DF-41's speed place it comfortably in the range of hypersonic missiles, or well above Mach 5.
Though China closely guards the particulars of its nuclear program, experts believe they have a stockpile of about 260 nuclear warheads, and could quickly make more.
But the US' defensive assets in the Pacific mean that any ICBM fired from China to the US would likely be knocked out of the sky within moments.
“No one questions the longest range of the DF-41 is near 15,000km. But within just a few minutes of being launched, it might be blocked by the US’ defence system at its Guam naval base,” Professor He Qisong, a defence policy specialist at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, told the South China Morning Post.
As Kanwa Asian Defence notes, Chinese made BeiDou navigation satellites may increase the capabilities of the DF-41 by 2020, but the US is likely to have countered that technology by that time.
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