China Surpasses U.S. in Land-Based, Mobile ICBM Launchers

China now has more land-based and mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers than the United States, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Gen. Anthony J. Cotton, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, sent a letter to House and Senate Armed Services Committees on January 26 notifying them that China now has more “land-based fixed and mobile ICBM” launchers than the United States has, per the Journal.

This revelation comes just days after the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon that had originally been spotted hovering over Montana.

Since 2022, the National Defense Authorization Act has required the Pentagon to notify Congress if it determines that China has gained a numerical advantage over the U.S. in any of three areas related to nuclear capabilities: ICBMs, ICBM launchers, and warheads.

The Journal clarified that a Chinese advantage in one capability does not imply the Beijing regime has surpassed the U.S. across the board:

Many of China’s land-based launchers still consist of empty silos, according to U.S. officials and experts outside government. The Strategic Command also notified Congress that the U.S. has more intercontinental-range, land-based missiles, and more nuclear warheads mounted on those missiles, than China.

Officials say the U.S. maintains an upper hand in submarine and long-range bomber-based capabilities, per the Journal.

Still, some American lawmakers are concerned about American competitiveness with the communist power.

“China is rapidly approaching parity with the United States,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said. “We cannot allow that to happen. The time for us to adjust our force posture and increase capabilities to meet this threat is now.”

Rogers, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) released a joint statement Tuesday, reading:

The head of U.S. Strategic Command has informed us that China has surpassed the U.S. in the number of ICBM launchers — this should serve as a wake-up call for the United States. It is not an understatement to say that the Chinese nuclear modernization program is advancing faster than most believed possible. We have no time to waste in adjusting our nuclear force posture to deter both Russia and China. This will have to mean higher numbers and new capabilities.

A December letter signed by then-Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), along with Lamborn, Fischer, and Rogers — the then-ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee — sent to then-Strategic Command Commander Adm. Charles Richard indicated that the notification requirement had been triggered then, but it was not made clear in which capability China had surpassed the United States.

In 2022, the Department of Defense’s Nuclear Posture Review explained that the urgency policymakers feel to maintain the U.S. nuclear lead is rooted in geopolitical stark realities.

“By the 2030s the United States will, for the first time in its history, face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries,” the review stated in part in reference to Russia and China.


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