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China’s plan for bullet train nuclear missile launcher to put ‘1,000 nukes’ in strike range of Western cities

CHINA’S plans to use its high speed trains to carry nuclear missiles could put a thousand warheads in reach of US and European cities, an expert has said.

Under plans being developed, the ‘Doomsday’ trains would use the country’s 23,000 miles of high speed track to whizz nukes around the country at 220mph to be deployed in the event of war.

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China has reportedly test fired a DF-41 nuclear missile from a train
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China has reportedly test fired a DF-41 nuclear missile from a trainCredit: AFP
The country has a vast high speed rail network,
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The country has a vast high speed rail network,Credit: Getty

Developing ways to conceal missiles – both nuclear and conventional - has long been an ambition of China.

Using high speed nuke trains fits into strategy that includes using missiles hidden in containers and it opens the door to nuclear missiles being similarly disguised as passenger trains.

Plans for using high speed trains surfaced from Chinese government funded research.

According Rick Fisher, an expert on the Chinese military, this would pose a significant threat to the West.

“It's not inconceivable that China's rail system could support 1,000 additional warheads capable of reaching European and American targets," he told The Sun Online.

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“Building and deploying 100 new rail launched ICBMs would not strain China's military budgets."

Leading the Chinese research team is Yin Zihong, associate professor of civil engineering at the Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu.

The team’s eye-opening findings were recently published in the university’s peer reviewed scientific journal.

High-speed trains could perform even better than conventional ones, which were once considered better for the role, they concluded.

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“Compared with heavy-haul railways, high-speed railways operate faster and more smoothly,” said the researchers.

“This means that on high-speed rails, the mobility, safety and concealment of military vehicles would be greater.”

China has been working on perfecting a train launched nuke
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China has been working on perfecting a train launched nukeCredit: Twitter
Various designs have been showcased down the years
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Various designs have been showcased down the yearsCredit: Twitter
North Korea staged a launch of a system from a train
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North Korea staged a launch of a system from a trainCredit: Reuters
The Russians developed a system back in the 1980s
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The Russians developed a system back in the 1980sCredit: National Interest

The team is building on the extensive work that has already been carried out into using trains as a launch pad for nuclear weapons.

The Soviet Union developed the RT-23 missile that was launched from a train and deployed from 1987 to 2005.

And North Korea staged a spectacular test of a train launched missile in 2021.

China’s interest in the concept began in the early 1990s when it acquired solid rocket motor technology developed by the Soviet Union for use in submarine launched missiles.

Based on researched carried out by the Russians, a submarine launched missile was the best design to be used on a train.

Back in 2005, researchers from the Beijing Institute of Space Launch Technology put forward the idea of launching a submarine missile from a train.

China's development of high speed rail launched ICBMs would add a new layer to its already accelerating nuclear threat against America and Europe

Rick Fisher

In the following years, more research from Chinese scientists on rail launched nuclear missiles regularly began appearing.

Interest using the country's by then very large high speed rail system for ICBM launching appeared on Chinese military issue web pages starting in 2015.  

China reportedly tested a rail launched DF-41 missile in 2016 the following year.

The DF-41 missile is an 80-ton ICBM carrying multiple nuclear warheads with a range up 9,300 miles.

It is about 65ft long and 6.5ft wide which can easily into the carriage of a typical Chinese high-speed train is about 88 metres long and around 10ft in diameter.

The launch was detected the Potomac Foundation using commercial satellite photos.

Phillip A. Karber, a defence expert who heads the Potomac Foundation, said a number of factors make train launched missiles a formidable system.

He said "the combination of high-speed mobility, launch cars disguised as civilian passenger trains, tunnel protection and secure reloading of missiles" with multiple warheads makes them "extremely hard to detect".

Then in 2019, a model of a Chinese rail car for launching ICBMs was revealed on a Chinese military web page.

But despite the optimism of the researchers, challenges remain

Most notably, China's low high speed rail systems are largely electric powered so the problem is to find areas not covered by such cables so the ICBMs can be launched.  

But nevertheless Fisher, senior fellow in Asian military affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, says the West needs to pay attention to China’s ambitions for rail launched nukes.

“China's development of conventional or high speed rail launched ICBMs would add a new layer to its already accelerating nuclear threat against America and Europe,” he said.

“Historically, the CCP has demonstrated a preference for starting surprise wars with enemies that are relatively weaker.”

He said it the United States must respond to China's nuclear expansion including potential new rail launched ICBMs.

“Otherwise China may conclude it can coerce the U.S. from assisting Taiwan, or from helping allies like Japan or South Korea should they also be attacked by China or North Korea,” he said.

“So the West has little choice but to assume the worst and plan for the worst if it wants to deter a Chinese nuclear attack.”

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