Jeffrey LewisMass and Yield of Chinese Nuclear Warheads

Today is (yet another) dissertation day, which means more puzzling inconsistencies in the work of eminent political scientist John Wilson Lewis.

In “China/’s Ballistic Missile Programs” (International Security 17:2, Autumn 1992, 30), he claims the original design plans for China/’s solid-propellant ballistic missiles (DF-21/JL-1, DF-31/JL-2) called for a 500 kg warhead with a 200-300 kt yield.

In China/’s Strategic Seapower (Stanford University Press, 1994, 177) the same plans call for a 600 kg warhead with a 400+ kt yield.

No footnotes, of course. (Oh, and I am so glad some grad student is not going through MY footnotes).

In China/’s Strategic Seapower, JWL adds “in nuclear tests conducted in the 1990s, the Chinese sought to develop a new warhead with a much higher yield to weight ratio and with a capability of further miniaturization.” That warhead, according to a National Air Intelligence Center document that appeared in the press, is estimated at 470 kg. No yield was given, though looking at the yield estimates for Chinese nuclear tests between 1987-1996, it is clearly in the “hundreds of kt” range.

As for the presumptive DF-21/JL-1 warhead, there are tests in both yield ranges. I really have no idea.