The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, in the desert of China’s Gansu province, outside a small city called Yumen, a large number of structures that were identical to the one’s housing missile silos at Jilantai. Although Jilantai has only 16 designs, Yumen has nearly 120 by some accounts. Some say these silos are probably for China’s newest nuclear-armed missile, the DF-41.
Given that China has a force of only about 100 ICBMs seeing another 100 or so silos under construction was jaw-dropping.
The site itself is enormous—more than 700 square miles. There are the silos. There are also underground bunkers built that may function as launch centers, with trenches carrying cables to 10 different silo launchers. In addition, there are roads and a small military base. The scale of construction is startling, and China broke ground on the site only a few months ago, in February.
It is essential to say that 120 silos do not necessarily mean 120 new missiles. Silos are a strange choice because they are easy to find and can be targeted by modern missiles that are very accurate. One solution to that vulnerability is to build more silos than missiles. This is what the United States planned to do with the MX missile in the 1970s—to make 23 silos for every one MX missile, shuttling the missiles among them to force the Soviets to target them all. The plan later changed to horizontal storage, but silos were considered. This scheme was called, charmingly, the “shell game.”
We know China considered adopting a similar plan of its own for its first silo-based missiles in the 1980s before choosing to build a small number of decoy silos. And the layout of the Chinese site strongly resembles the design that the United States planned for the shell game, although construction is far from finished. Source: foreignpolicy.com