The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy has test-fired its new JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from a Type 094 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) late last month, SCMP reported citing unnamed sources.
Even though China conducted multiple test firings of the new missile, this is the first time it was launched from a Type 094 (NATO reporting name: Jin-class) submarine. The previous three tests were conducted from a Type 032 (NATO reporting name: Qing-class) conventional submarine, according to the SCMP report.
The test was reportedly conducted from the Bohai Bay in the Yellow Sea with the warhead landing in the northwest Gobi Desert in Xinjiang.
The new missile will be deployed on the PLA Navy’s next generation of SSBNs, designated Type 096 (NATO reporting name: Tang class). The first Type 096 submarine to be equipped with the JL-3 is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s.
According to the SCMP report, the development of the missile has been separated from that of the Type 096 submarine in order to accelerate its development, as the construction work on the SSBN is not finished.
The JL-3 (JL stands for Julang meaning Giant Wave) is a Chinese third-generation intercontinental-range SLBM in development.
The solid-fueled JL-3 is believed to incorporate technologies from the new DF-41 (Dongfeng-41, “East Wind”) land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and will be comparable to the U.S. Navy’s UGM-133A Trident II (D5) and Russia’s new RSM-56 Bulava SLBMs.
The JL-3 missiles will reportedly have an operational range of 7,500-8,700 miles (12,000–14,000 km) and will be equipped with various missile defense-penetrating features such as a variable trajectory, a radar-evading stealth warhead, and fast-burning rocket motors.
Each Type 096 submarine will reportedly be able to carry 24 JL-3 SLBMs with each JL-3 carrying multiple MIRV (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle) nuclear warheads.
China’s current sea-based nuclear force includes four Type-094 (NATO reporting name: Jin class) SSBNs, each outfitted with 16 JL-2 ballistic missiles, with an estimated range of 4,600 miles (7,400 km). The JL-2 missiles reportedly can carry 3 to 4 MIRV nuclear warheads.