NIE 13-8-69-COMMUNIST CHINA'S STRATEGIC WEAPONS PROGRAM

Created: 2/27/1969

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NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

Communist China's

Weapons Program

Submitted by

DIRECTOR Of CENTRA! INTELLIGENCE

y ih* UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD

A> indicated overleaf

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NT

419

The* following intelligence organizations participated in fho preparation ot

this estimate:

The Central Intelligence Agency and the Intelligence organizations ot theof State and Defense, the AEC, and ihe NSA.

Concurrmcj:

Dr. P. J. Smith, for ihe Deputy Director, Central Intelligence Mr. George C. Denney,or the Director of Intelligence ond Research,of State

Vice Adm. Vernon L. Lowrance, for the Director. Defense Intelligence Agency

It. Gen. Marshall S. Carter, tho Dirocior, National Security Agency.

Mr. Howard C. Brown,he Assistant General Manager, Atomic Energy

Abstaining:

cX

Mr. William O. Cregar. for the Assistant Director. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the subject being outside of his jurisdiction.

CONTENTS

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t:1

PROBLEM CONCLUSIONS DISCUSSIONENERAL CONSIDERATIONS II. TBNDS AND PROSPECTS

Nuclear Pror^am

Materials Production

C Delivery Systems

II CBM Protjram

E. Space Progruin

I 1

3

3

5

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contents

Pogc

THE PROBLEM

CONCLUSIONS

I. GENERAL

II. TRENDS AND

Nuclear Program 5

Materials Production 7

Systems . 8

ICBM 11

12

COMMUNIST CHINA'S STRATEGIC WEAPONS PROGRAM

THE PROBLEM

Tu iwscss China's strategic weapons program and to estimate the nature, size, and progress uf tlicse programs through the.

CONCLUSIONS

development of strategic weapons systemsnhigh priority in China. Despite economic and political crises overdecade, work has continued and the Chinese already have inof the research and development and productionto support important ongoing strategic weapons programs.

a result of these efforts. Communist China already hasnuclear strike capability in the sense that it could nowfew thermonuclear weapons for delivery by its twojet Iwmbers. China could also have some fission weapons

limited capability will undergo modest augmentationnext few years as tlie Chinese produce medium jet boubmahead with the development of strategic missiles andwarheads. Medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM)could Iwgin this year or more probablyeachingof0 launchers in the.

for intercontinental ballistic missiles, if the Chineseearliest possible initial operational capability (IOC) of Latenumber of operational launchers might fall somewhereandn the more likely event that IOC isorce of this size would slip accordingly.

many uncertainties remain which leave in doubt ihesize, and scope of the Chinese program. In general, thetaking more time in the development and production ofsystems than we judged likely several years ago. Chinabroad base in technical and economic resources essential toin the complex field of modem weapons. This situationaggravated, and will to some degree be prolonged, by theconfusion, and uncertainties of the domestic political situation.

have no evidence on how Chinese leaders will adjustpriorities between advanced weapons production andand the investment requirements for healthy growth inand the general industrial sectors.inimum, however,Chinese planners will come to recognize, if they do notChina cannot begin to match die nuclear strike capability ofThis may lead them to forego large-scale deploymentsmissile systems, hoping to gain an important deterrent effectpolilical influence from the possessionelatively fewmissiles and aircraft

long as ihe Chinese strategic force remainsondition which is likely to persist beyond thethis estimate, the Chinese will almost certainly recognize thatuse of their nuclear weapons againsl neighbors or thewould involve substantial risksevastatingChina.

II. We believe that for reasons of national prestige the Chinese will attempt toatellite as soon as possible. An attempt this year would probably involve the useodified MRBMaunch vehicle.

TS

DISCUSSION

i. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

hinese efforts to develop modem weapons go back to at. The original program that took shape wilh Soviet technological and material assistance appeared to be extremelyt thai time Chinese expectations for rapid progress in the nuclear field andange of tactical and strategic missiles appeared to he high. Bul the sudden withdrawal of Soviet technicians0 and tbe economic confusion and depression of theesulting from the Grcai Leapevere impact on the advanced weapons program. Nevertheless, despite economic and political crises Peking persisted in giving high priority to development of advanced weapons and gradually progress was made.

A more rational program concentrating on research and development) in nuclear weapons, surface-to-air, and medium-range ballistic missileseemed to emerge.e[>orUng began to suggestChinese interest in an intercontinental ballistic missilev the end6 the Chinese had demonstrated their understanding of the basicof thermonuclear design.he MRBM program was judged likely lo have reached the stage where deployment tould soon begin and Ihe ICBM program was considered likely to haw reached the stage where missile testing could start.

Subsequent events, however, showed tliat the Chinese program had probably not advanced as far as we had believed, and, in general, tho programs have not moved forward as last as we once thought likely. Wc have received noof activity related to the ronstiuction ol operational sites for MRBMs, and there have been no indications that ICBM flight testing has occurred. The record of the last two years thus raises some perplexing and complicatedabout the pace and direction of the Chinese elicit and what factors control it.

A principal problem is that there is no adequate historical background lor judging Chinas technical and industrial capabilities for producing andweapons systems embodying advanced technologies. It could be argued, for example, that most of the progress in modem weapons recorded thus far has been, and that China, possessingmall pool of skilled and highly trained technicians and few sophisticated industrial plants, will face many delays and setliacks in moving on lo series production and deployment of intricate weapon systems. On the other hand. It could be argued tliat die advantages to China of following the pioneering work of others and the benefits of being able tu obtain much useful data, materials, and equipment from abroad will help lo

4

scene

ihc time required to accomplish programs. On balance, ihe record seems increasingly tu indicate that Ihe Chinese arc in fact taking more time in tbe development and production of modern weapons systems thau wc judged likely on the basis of their progress several years ago.

Moreover, the chances for any marked improvement are reduced by the unhealthy political situation in China. Although it is not possibleinpoint where damage lias beenlient is good evidence that the disruptions of the Cultural Revolution have intruded into the organizations responsible for military science and technology and tbe governmental ministries in charge nf nuclear and missile development.7 andndustrial production in general declined as did imports frumnf specializedandood portion ol which is ot the type Ihat in Ihe past has been used in Chinese advanced weapons programs.

The present trend oi events in China seems, however, to be toward regaining order. But at the same time there arc indications that Peking is persisting with policies that are likely to erode efficiency and managerial control still further. These, policies reflect Mao Tse-tung's determination to 'reform" intellectuals, whom he deeply distrusts, and his belief that somehow through exhortation and "revolutionary" practices the creativity and productivity of the masses can be released. Perhaps the most lasting arid damaging impact of Maoist policies will he on education which lias already suffered three years of severe disruption. The shortening of school terms, die politically .nil ideologically laden curricula, and the criteria for selecting and promoting students now being inflicted ou Chinese education could, if long continued, severely hamper China's technological progress five orears hence.

The Chinese already have in place many ofnd production facilities necessary lo support an important ongoing advanced weaponsBut the intrusion of political disorder has been disruptive; its ultimate cost will depend, of course, on the time it takes to re-establish political and administrative order.

S. Evenestoration of order, the overall capacity of tbe Chinese economy will remain limited for many years. Il will be able toarge-scale produciion and deployment program for strategic weapons only by scrimping or neglextmg the investment requirements for healthy growth in agriculture and in the general industrial sector. We believe the hard facts of their Overall economic situation will weigh heavily iu considering the size and pace of weapon system deployment

here is little evidence un Chinese thiukiug with respect to the role advanced weapons could play in their overall strategy. Chinese leadersbelieve that possession of strategic weapons will greatly enhance China's prestige and strengthen its claims to leadership in Asia aud its stilusroat power. Ihc Chinese probably hope that possessiontrategic capa-

bilify will also have more tangible benefits including greater security ii.rrsvlunoriary struggles, particularly in Asia,e-stened danger of nuclear urikes on China. Finally, they would also hope any confrontation would be brafted to tbe level of coovcntkmal arms where the Chinese would cipret lo be able to fight more nearly oo their own terms- Moreover, as their relations with Moscow have deteriorated and as the Soviets haveilitaiy buildup on the Siuo-Suviet border, lbc Chinese piobably have thought of their strategic weapons devTloyjmciit also in terms of deterring the Soviets.

evertheless. Chinese military planners roust recofrruie that in thefuture China cannot begin to match the nuclear striking capability of the superpowers- They probably also realize that the deterrent credibility of their first-generation missile systems will be limited because these systems wouldoor chance of surviving an offensive strike against China. These circuinst antes raise several possibilities for the future of Chinese strategic weapons deploytneiit. Peking might opt for only token deployment* ol firs! generation systems in order to concentrate resources jimI energy on unprmc-raetifs and refinements that would lead to better weapons that would appearhreat andeterrent On the other hand, the Chinese might concludearger Initial deployment of weapons,of the technical capabilities, would still enhance tlieir political position, especially in Asia, andonsiderable psychological impact on the US.

IL Another strategic choice eonfrceiling the Chinese is the balance inlimited resourni between uiteicnntinental and regional strategic forces and between weapons systems within the regionalather thanall resources on, say, an ICBM program, tbr Chinese may believe that they could more quickly enhance tlieir overall military posture bysome nf their limited meansone which uould threaten much of Asia. Within the regional force concept, for example, the idea of producing moreew TL'-IO bombers as weapons tamers might become more attractive to Ihe Chinese if Ihey encountered serious difficulties with their MRBM

n sum, tbe future of Chinas advanced weapons development depends not only on political and strategic questions but on technical and wonornlc capabilities as well. Tbes to how all these factors might Infloence various weapons programs suggest caution in estimating the probable rate of progress over the next few years, particularly with respect to the production and deployment of complex and costly missile systems.

II. TRENDS AND PROSPECTS

A. The Nuclear Program

eapon Testing and Development. Peking's most notable achievements base probably been in tlie field of nuclear weapons design. The Chinese fuse concentrated their effort nn thermonuclear weapons and have rapidly suc-

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nigh-yield device deliverable by medium brenbers. Five of China's lim eight tests have been related diiontly to thcmHmiJClear development.)

IS. In focusing un iheinKMiuclear cWveJoprortrt. the Olunrse have nottype of testing that would be eipeetedight fission weapon, eitherissile or bomber, were their objective. But the Chinese may havea few fission bnmb* based on the results uf the first (wo tests as ancapability, and the wonV done for the first two tests would also have been useful in developing the Astcion device used in the fourth test, which the Chirnssii rUimed was deliveredissile/

JUwI-

ity that the Chinese have intended all along to deploy their firfl MRBMi with thermonuclear rallrrr than fission warheads. Or they may haw beenthe avaikljurty ot* plutonium before developing an improved fission war head for MRBM* Work onarhead may begin soon/ '

a year or so alter testing began the warhead mighT lie icuuy rtir rxgaxlynant! Tliis wouldonf.Ttrtratcd effort, however, and tho tlhuieso may not have sufficient scientific* talent and facilities to push ahead rapidly on theof both thermonuclear and fission weapon*.

TADLE I

CHINESE NUCl-EAK TESTS

HIC S

CHIC 3

CHIC 4

HIC 6

. t

CHIC S

Airdrop

Airdrop

Airdrop

B. Nucleor Materials Production

onsidering the prolwble initial operational capability (IOC) dates and deployment levels of Cliioesc delivery systems, stringencies in the supply of fissionable material' are not likely to be an immediate major problem. This is not to say that the Chinese have not hud problems In this area. Earlierof plutonium, for example, would have been helpful in weapons develop, ment. But with the accumulated output, and with plutoniumavailable, Bssiouable materials production will probably be able lo keep pace with modest initial deployment programs.

IS. We are still uncertain as to tin- exact process being used forat the Lanchou uranium isotope separation facility'. |

| The availability ol plutonium ana

roduction, however, will help considerably to relieve any such constraint.

here is good evidence that thereuclear energy complex near Yumen. We believe this complexarge plutonium reactor and chemical scpara-tion facilities. J

JLUIU.

c believe thai for the next several years, ar leasl, tbe supply of Chinese fissionable materials will be limited lo the output from the Yumen reactor andlant at Lanchou. While this will probably be sufficient fur their needs during this period, in the longer term tht- Chinese probably will seek to expand capacity, especiallyroduction.

C Delivery Systems

hr SI RUM Program. In7ared that MRBM deployment might be Imminent. Though detailed information was lacking, it was known thai th* Chinese had been working on an MBBM type missile for several years.ur information indkated thai activity at the Shuang-chrtig-tAiluvkened. In Octobertbe Chuu-te claimed thai they haduclear device deliveredissile. Byt seemedevsorsabfy paced developnieni program would have progressed to the point at which troop training might be about to take place preliminary to deployment.

TS

Since then we have received no information indicating that operational lauucli site construction Las begun. It is possible that MRBM site preparation is underway, but we are inclined to believe that same indication of this type of construction would become available not long after it bad begun.

It is not possible to explain the apparent delay with much confidence. Technical problems with the missile itself could account for it, but ourdoes not enable us toirm judgment.

It is alto possible, that the Cultural Revolution may have slowed progress in some way. As noted earlier, it could be that priorities assigned to the nuclear developnu sit program are influencing tbe deployment schedule. BVSJB thethat tbe Chinese have never intended to deploy theirile MRBM cannot he completely ruled out. It could be that tbe principal purpose of the MltHM jwogram was to develop torlinology for an ICBM and that tbe Chinese have elected to await devekipincntissile moretoone usine solidate deploying MRBMs.

This seems unlikely, however, as there is evidence that the Chi near are continuingropelled MRBM frrings. and we believe that theyeventually to deploy this system. We tsOmate that tbe missile probably has radio-inertial guidance and uses storablc propcllants The system probably is road traiisportablr. but il is likely that missiles would he deployed at fixed sites involving permanent support facilities. Tbe generally poor road network in Chirm and the likely level of Chinese missile development suggest that initial deployment would be at soft sites near rail linos.

t is possible Ihat thi'! system Is now ready to deploy. If so, and the earliest possible operational capability was their goal, the Chinese could soon deploy the missile in rudimentary field launch positions. This approach would downgrade the idi.ihilily and accuracy of the system. Moreover, if MRBMwere In begin soon, it would almost certainly have toitb warheads based on tbe fourth test, which would mean that thr Oiinesc liad tied up fusionablr material in the production of an meflicsrirt warhead

uch more likely prospect is that the Chinese will take the time to prepare permanent sites with adequate support racilif i'i It would probably' take tbeear or more to prepare their first permanent launchThus, if site preparation should begin soon, it would still be sometime0 before the Chinese bad an operational MRBM capability.

2b. We have no good basis for estimating the size of the MRBM force that might be deployed. It continues to seem probable that tho Chinese objective might be to provide coverage of important mlbtary bases and population centers In the arc stretching from Japan through the Philippines, Southeast Alia, and northern India, hoping iu this way to hold Asian countrln* hostage against any

Surenarine technology, but. even ifsm already started sroei on designing such athey wouhl probably not he able to develop it before thet the carhest.

D. The ICBM Program

M. There is evidence thut umstnictionarge launch facility was begun at ihe SCTMTK in the late suirtmcrut there are no indications that the facility has evesused for firings. It is not yet passible to make firm rodgmeiits about the imputations of this delay. We believe st is probable, how-evei. that the Chinese ICBM program as originally envisioned has undeegone Important change.

wo continue to believe that Ihe ICBM and MltBMbeen closely related ami Uiat the most logical approach for the:use remains one which utill/cs the clustering ol MRBM engines tothmst level required lor an ICBM engine We also continue tn Wlicvcmissile will psobablywo-stag* vehicleeet in length | ^

zd

The question of when the Chinese might begin test firingsifficult one. particularly in viewossible program change. But wc assume that lliglu testing could begin sometime this year. It should be pointed out. however, that there frequently hnve been long lapses between various phases In Chuicse jirograms, and tbere is lonsidcrafalc reason to doubt tliat China's ICBMwill proceed smoothly from one phase tu another.

From whatever time the Chinese beginis likely to require at least three years to achieve an IOC Thus, if tight testing were to begin later this year, tbe earhest possible IOC would probably beowever, this allows tbe Chineseit more time than required by tbe Soviets or tho US with Brst-generalion ICBMs and assumes fairly .smooth progress. In tlie light of China's inexperience and limited technical and scientific base, and considering general political and economic conditions in China, more time will probably be required. Thus. IOC is mure likely to be latererhaps by as much a> two or three years.

c have no basis al this time for estimating how far tlie Chinese will carry deployment af thesr first generitioi) ICBM. In view of the requirements of other military programs and tbe pressure on resources, however, we believe deployment will proceedoderate pace and well below any possibleBy moderate we mean that if the Chinese achieved the earliest possible

IOC ofhe number of operational ICBM launchers5 might fall somewhere betweenn the more likely event that IOC is later, the achievementorce of this size would slip accordingly.

I Problems of this sort could lead the Chinese to limit deployment oi im5 Mil generation systemery small force.

In this connection, we noteolid propellant facility at Ilu-ho-hao-tc reportedly has engine test laeillties which suggest that rocket engines up to ICBM size cnuld be produced there.ajor attempt toecond generation system would almost certainly retard deployment of their Erst system, it is possible that the Chinese are looking aheadolid-fueled ICBM which cnuld be deployed fairly readily in hardened sites. The Chinese probably would nut be able toolid propellant ICBM5 at the earliesl-

is no evidential basis for estimating the accuracy andChina's first ICBM, bulbelieve Ihat it will fall considerablyhe Chinese could probably develop relativelyalloons, by the time of first deployment. Thean effective chaff system and of sophisticated, endoatmosphcric decoyscould not be accomplishedultiple reentry vehicles areto bo available by Ibis time. Though Ihe first generation warheadsome inherent hardness, we have no basis for making quantitativethe hardness of dus or future warheads.

E. Space Program

We believe that lor reasons of national prestige tho Chinese will attempt toatellite as soon as possible. Tbe Chinese probably9articularly auspicious year for such an event, combining as it doesh aimiversary of the Chinese People's Republic and the planned 9th Party Congress.

It is possible Ihat the Chinese might have an ICBM booster ready this yearpace shot. But. in view of tbe lad that the Chinese would almost certainly first want lo Wight tesl Iheir ICBM booster, this seems unlikely. Thus wc believe that if the Chinese attempt toatellite this year ihey willmodify their MRBM lor usepace booster.

TS

* -

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