Jeffrey LewisISODARCO Wrap Up

Sorry for the long lapse in posts—the Chinese internet browser was not letting me use blogger. ISODARCO is off-the-record, but you’ll probably see little bits and pieces pop up over the next few weeks.

Something I can say is that General Habiger repeated a comment he recently made at the Carnegie Endowment that Chinese ICBMs “don’t sit the same kind of alert [as those in Russia and the United States]. In other words, there’s several tens of hours of preparation to get a missile ready for launch as compared to the Russian and the U.S. model.”

I hadn’t noticed his comment at the time, but that is the first time I’ve seen that estimate made public (though one might have inferred such an estimate from the challenges associated with fueling liquid-fuel ballistic missiles). Still, nice to have on the record.

General Habiger’s public comments were hugely helpful during my dissertation. He was often the only person, on record, translating some oddly worded IC assessment into English.

Here are some of his greatest hits concerning the Chinese ICBM force:

  • “I would caveat that by saying we are talkingabout relatively small numbers of systems, about 18, that can hit the United States, very large warheads, relatively inaccurate systems.They would be city busters, as compared to having any kindof military value.” S. Hrg. 106–339 (1999) 165. [The IC usually settles for the more vague “about twenty,” although the 2000 edition of Chinese Military Power was willing to admit that “China reportedly has built 18 CSS-4 silos.”]
  • “Let me tell you that the the CSS-4 ICBM that the Chinese have deployed today has been deployed since 1981. And there have been some modifications, but nothing significant.” DoD News Briefing (1998). [The IC merely notes the existence of a modified CSS-4]
  • “The Chinese deployed a sea-launched ballistic missile submarine in the mid-eighties. It went on one cruise and has been essentially in dry dock ever since.” S. Hrg. 106–339 (1999) 165-166. [The IC seldom notes the submarine is not operational and never mentions the dry dock comment, instead emphasizing an “overhaul” starting in 1995 that implies the submarine is operational.]

General Habiger’s talk at the Arms Control Association is also worth a read.

He goes into some detail about the process of drafting the SIOP. Its good to know that someone like General Habiger, in retrospect, was sitting next to the proverbial button and, going forward, will be arguing for a little sanity in our nuclear policy.