China has turned a nuclear missile brigade into two, boosting its capacity to strike targets as far afield as the U.S. mainland.
Quoting a press release from the Project 2049 Institute, a defense think tank in Washington, China's state-run Xinhua news agency on Wednesday said China has put the 805th Brigade in Shaoyang, Hunan Province in charge of DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missiles.
This adds to the 812th Brigade in Tienshui in the western province of Gansu, which already handles the missiles. The two brigades are under the Second Artillery Corps, a strategic nuclear missile unit.
The DF-31A is an improved version of the DF-31 intercontinental ballistic missile and has a much longer range of 11,200 to 12,000 km, with which it can strike any target in the U.S. It was first showcased during a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China in October 2009 and was reportedly deployed warfare-ready in 2007.
The Project 2049 Institute speculates that the DF-31A missiles are deployed with the 805th Brigade based on analysis of a video an amateur Chinese photographer posted on a website in August capturing a missile convoy through downtown Shaoyang.
The brigade previously operated DF-4 medium-range ballistic missiles with a range of 5,500 km but began dismantling them in 2007 and had since prepared for deployment of new missiles, the institute said. It also completed construction of a new headquarters compound in western suburbs of Shaoyang last October, it added.
According to the institute, China has approximately 10-15 DF-31A missiles in its active inventory. It is also reportedly developing the DF-41 missile with a range of 13,000 km.