The Chinese military, the People's Liberation Army, is reportedly developing a new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile designed to strike targets anywhere on Earth.
The so-called DF-5B would have one of the farthest ranges of any of the PLA's Dongfeng ("East Wind") family of ICBMs, as per this news report from China Times, Taiwan's fourth-largest newspaper:
"Compared to the DF-5A, the DF-5B will have an improved engine and superior precision and warheads. Reports indicate that the range will also be boosted to 13,000 km and 15,000 km, enabling the missile to cover the entire planet, while the load capacity will be upgraded to carry from four to six warheads."With Russia also reportedly working on a new liquid-fueled ICBM based on the SS-18 -- itself a doomsday weapon that can carry 10 nuclear warheads with a combined explosive yield of about 7,500 kilo tons (roughly 500 times that of the Hiroshima bomb) -- it's no surprise the U.S. wants an interceptor that can hit multiple targets.
Lockheed Martin Corp. last week said it will design a multi-object kill vehicle for the Pentagon’s ground-based missile defense system under a $10 million contract from the Missile Defense Agency.
"We will devise and explore the most effective solutions for destroying more than one warhead with a single interceptor, an important step in changing the cost curve for missile defense engagement," Doug Graham, vice president of missile systems and advanced programs at the company's Space Systems unit, said in a press release.
Such a "multi-tasking" system could thwart an attack involving a single missile that releases a group of objects that includes the warhead plus decoys that are warhead lookalikes, the release states.
The Lockheed announcement came a few months after then-Navy Adm. James Winnefeld, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked about the need to advance the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System so interceptors are capable of striking multiple incoming targets.
"It boils down to how many missiles we can knock down versus how many the threat can launch," Winnefeld said during a May 19 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
"If, for example, because of system improvements, we only have to shoot half the number of interceptors per incoming warhead that we see, then we can handle twice the number of inbound warheads," he said. "That’s why we’re taking a lot of time and effort to improve the capability and reliability of our entire system."