The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) most likely tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), in the early hours of June 2nd.
— Defence blog (@Defence_blog) June 2, 2019
The entire story began with Chinese citizens from the provinces of Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei, Henan, Liaoning posted pictures of a mysterious white object soaring through the sky leaving white trails behind it.
To play into the “UFO” meme, the People Liberation Army’s Rocket Force posted an image on its official Weibo page of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launcher with the caption “Do you believe UFOs exist in this world?”
Just a minute later, the PLAN posted another image showing a missile being launched from underwater and a similar caption reading “Do you, too, believe in UFOs?”
According to several reports, the “UFO” was China testing its new SLBM, in its northeastern waters around the time Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe was attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Daily reported the launches took place on June 2nd, in Bohai Bay, near China’s Shandong Province. Before the launches took place, China’s People’s Liberation Army restricted public access to the waters, starting 2:30 a.m. local time.
Defence blog reported that the missile might have been the new JL-3 SLBM. It is a third-generation solid fuel missile, which is ought to be equipped on the next-generation Chinese nuclear missile submarines. It has a intercontinental range of between 12,000 to 14,000 km and can carry up to ten independent warheads.
Earlier, in January 2019, Jane’s reported that the PLAN had carried out its first successful test of the JL-3 on November 24th, 2018. It was once again launched from Bohai Bay from a sole Type 032 Qing-class auxiliary submarine.
But according to the outlet, the JL-3 is to arm the next-generation Type 096 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) class, the first of which is expected to enter service in the late 2020s.
The JL-3 is China’s latest SLBM under development that is expected to be able to reach targets farther away with higher accuracy and capable of carrying more warheads than China’s current SLBMs, Xu Guangyu, a senior consultant at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times.
“China needed to conduct test launches for the JL-3 to finish its development and join military service,” Xu said.
In the same Global Times article, Li Jie, a local Beijing-based naval expert offered a different possibility: it was likely that an intermediate-range missile could have been tested and not the JL-3.
Regardless, despite the teasers from the PLA Rocket Force and the PLAN, no official confirmation of what missile exactly was tested.
The test comes amid Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe’s attendance at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, as abovementioned.
Wei criticized the United States and claimed Washington was trying to “destabilize” the Pacific.
The Chinese Lt. Gen. Shao Yuanming, deputy chief of Beijing’s Joint Staff Department, said the United States was using Taiwan to promote “instability.”
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