The Second Artillery Corps (SAC) (simplified Chinese: 第二炮兵部队; traditional Chinese: 第二砲兵部隊; pinyin: Dì èr pàobīng bùduì) is the strategic missile forces of the People's Republic of China. The SAC is the component of the People's Liberation Army that controls China's nuclear ballistic and conventional missiles. China's total nuclear arsenal size is estimated to be between 100 and 400 nuclear weapons in total, with about 180 of them actively deployed. The SAC comprises approximately 90,000-120,000 personnel and six ballistic missile brigades. The six brigades are independently deployed in different military regions throughout the country.
The Second Artillery Corps was established on 1 July 1966 and made its first public appearance on 1 October 1984. The headquarters for operations is located at Qinghe. Second Artillery Corps is under the direct command of the Chinese Central Military Commission.
In the late 1980s, China was the world's third-largest nuclear power, possessing a small but credible nuclear deterrent force of approximately 100 to 400 nuclear weapons. Beginning in the late 1970s, China deployed a full range of nuclear weapons and acquired a nuclear second-strike capability. The nuclear forces were operated by the 100,000-person Strategic Missile Force, which was controlled directly by the General Staff Department.
China began developing nuclear weapons in the late 1950s with substantial Soviet assistance. When Sino-Soviet relations cooled in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Soviet Union withheld plans and data for an atomic bomb, abrogated the agreement on transferring defense and nuclear technology, and began the withdrawal of Soviet advisers in 1960. Despite the termination of Soviet assistance, China committed itself to continue nuclear weapons development to break "the superpowers' monopoly on nuclear weapons," to ensure Chinese security against the Soviet and United States threats, and to increase Chinese prestige and power internationally.
China made fast progress in the 1960s in developing nuclear weapons. In a 32 month period, China successfully tested its first atomic bomb on October 16, 1964 at Lop Nor, launched its first nuclear missile on October 25, 1966 and detonated its first hydrogen bomb on June 14, 1967. Deployment of the Dongfeng-1 conventionally armed short-range ballistic missile and the Dongfeng-2 (CSS-1) medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) occurred in the 1960s. The Dongfeng-3 (CCS-2) intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) was successfully tested in 1969. Although the Cultural Revolution disrupted the strategic weapons program less than other scientific and educational sectors in China, there was a slowdown in succeeding years.
In the 1970s the nuclear weapons program saw the development of MRBM, IRBM and ICBMs and marked the beginning of a deterrent force. China continued MRBM deployment, began deploying the Dongfeng-3 IRBM and successfully tested and commenced deployment of the Dongfeng-4 (CSS-4) limited-range ICBM.
By 1980 China had overcome the slowdown in nuclear development caused by the Cultural Revolution and had successes in its strategic weapons program. In 1980 China successfully test launched its full-range ICBM, the Dongfeng-5 (CCS-4); the missile flew from central China to the Western Pacific, where it was recovered by a naval task force. The Dongfeng-5 possessed the capability to hit targets in the western Soviet Union and the United States. In 1981 China launched three satellites into space orbit from a single booster, indicating that China might possess the technology to develop multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). China also launched the Xia-class SSBN in 1981, and the next year it conducted its first successful test launch of the CSS-NX-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile. In addition to the development of a sea-based nuclear force, China began considering the development of tactical nuclear weapons. PLA exercises featured the simulated use of tactical nuclear weapons in offensive and defensive situations beginning in 1982. Reports of Chinese possession of tactical nuclear weapons had remained unconfirmed in 1987.
In 1986 China possessed a credible deterrent force with land, sea and air elements. Land-based forces included ICBMs, IRBMs, and MRBMs. The sea-based strategic force consisted of SSBNs. The Air Force's bombers were capable of delivering nuclear bombs but would be unlikely to penetrate the sophisticated air defenses of modern military powers such as the Soviet Union.
China's nuclear forces, in combination with the PLA's conventional forces, served to deter both nuclear and conventional attacks on the Chinese lands. Chinese leaders pledged to not use nuclear weapons first (no first use), but pledged to absolutely counter-attack with nuclear weapons if nuclear weapons are used against China. China envisioned retaliation against strategic and tactical attacks and would probably strike countervalue rather than counterforce targets. The combination of China's few nuclear weapons and technological factors such as range, accuracy, and response time limited the effectiveness of nuclear strikes against counterforce targets. China has been seeking to increase the credibility of its nuclear retaliatory capability by dispersing and concealing its nuclear forces in difficult terrain, improving their mobility, and hardening its missile silos.
The CJ-10 long-range cruise missile made its first public appearance during the military parade on the 60th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China; the CJ-10 represents the next generation in rocket weapons technology in the PLA.
In late 2009, it was reported that the Corps was constructing a 5000 km-long underground launch and storage facility for nuclear missiles in the Hebei province. 47 News reported that the facility was likely located in the Taihang Mountains.
- DF-1 - Retired
- DF-2 - Retired
- DF-3A - 15~30
- DF-4 - 20
- DF-21 - 60~80
- DF-21 Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile - ?
- DF-25 - Unknown
National strategic missile forces:
- Norris, Robert S. and Hans M. Kristensen. Chinese nuclear forces, 2006 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2006,pp. 60-63
- Lewis, Jeffery. The Ambiguous Arsenal Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2005, pp. 52-59
- 47 News, "China Builds Enormous Missile Base/ 5000 KM Long Underground?", February 4, 2010.
- Federation of American Scientists et al. (2006): Chinese Nuclear Forces and U.S. Nuclear War Planning
- China Nuclear Forces Guide Federation of American Scientists
- Enrico Fels (February 2008): Will the Eagle strangle the Dragon? An Assessment of the U.S. Challenges towards China's Nuclear Deterrence, Trends East Asia Analysis No. 20.
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