The Chinese navy has successfully tested a new submarine-launched nuclear-capable ballistic missile that can reach all of the United States, a capability that it did not previously have, according to reports.

The missile, dubbed the Julong-3 (JL-3), is set to be deployed with China’s next generation of ballistic missile submarines which are currently under development but are soon to be deployed.

Chinese officials have denied that the test of the Julong-3 took place, but a U.S. military source has confirmed to The Diplomat that the launch took place in November.

The missile is likely to be deployed aboard Type 096 ballistic missile submarines which are currently under construction. The Chinese navy will begin sea trials with the new subs within three years.

The test, which was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, occurred in the Bohai Sea aboard a modified conventional submarine, the sources said.

The Diplomat noted further:

The test on November 24 did not see the JL-3 fly to its full range. The first flight test likely verified the system’s proper cold ejection from the submarine-based launch tube. The missile’s full range is likely to be in excess of 9,000 kilometers, according to U.S. intelligence estimates.

The JL-3, along with the Type 096, will mark the modernization of China’s sea-based nuclear deterrent, which became operational only recently. Currently, Beijing is known to operate at least four, but possibly as many as six, Type 094 SSBNs armed with the JL-2 SLBM—an SLBM based off the land-based DF-31 solid-fuel intercontinental-range ballistic missile.

The JL-3 is expected to have significantly more range than the JL-2 it is meant to replace. The latter has been estimated to have a range of about 7,000 km ( about 4,350 miles) by U.S. intelligence officials. Subs equipped with the JL-2 operating near Chinese shores would be out of range to strike U.S.-based targets.

However, the JL-3’s increased range would put all of the United States within range by subs operating closer to China. That will also increase the subs’ survivability because they won’t have to operate in contested waters in the Western Pacific Ocean.

“China’s four operational JIN-class SSBNs represent China’s first credible, sea-based nuclear deterrent,” the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2018 report on Chinese military power noted.

“China’s next-generation Type 096 SSBN, reportedly to be armed with the follow-on JL-3 SLBM, will likely begin construction in the early-2020s,” it added.

U.S. Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, meanwhile, carry missiles that have the range and destructive power to reach all of China. Also, their stealth capabilities make them nearly undetectable.

China has been working to bolster its submarine forces as a means of creating its own triad of land, air, and sea-based nuclear capabilities.

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