China Conducts Dual Anti-Ballistic Missile Test in Response to U.S. Minuteman III Launch

On the evening of September 13, 2023, an unusual cloud pattern observed in the northwestern skies of China fueled speculation. Analysts have revealed that the event was China’s successful execution of a dual anti-ballistic missile (ABM) interception test.

According to media records, this marks China’s 8th successful land-based mid-course ABM test since last April.

Footage uploaded by netizens showed that, under the cover of northwestern China’s night sky, two ABM interceptor missiles were launched almost simultaneously. Possibly in response to incoming missiles with terminal maneuvering capabilities, these interceptor missiles performed complex aerial maneuvers and successfully intercepted their targets.

China stands as the third nation capable of performing land-based mid-course ABM interceptions. Yet, few nations can boast a record as impeccable as China’s. The country’s previous ABM tests occurred on January 11, 2010; January 27, 2013; July 23, 2014; February 6, 2018; February 4, 2021; June 19, 2022; and April 14, 2023. China’s consistent success not only positions it on par with the U.S. but has also left American analysts astounded. This suggests China possesses the capability to effectively counter major threats like the U.S. Minuteman III and Trident II D5 missiles.

Notably, China’s prior seven ABM tests involved single interceptors. Though they were successful, their efficiency in real combat scenarios remained uncertain.

In what seems to be a bid to maximize interception efficiency, China opted for a dual interceptor launch in this latest test. Some international media outlets believe the missile used by China for mid-course interception tasks could be the HQ-26. This missile’s kinetic kill vehicle (KKV) weighs around 200 kilograms and can achieve altitudes exceeding 1,000 kilometers, surpassing the apogees of most ICBMs, thus rendering it capable of intercepting any existing ICBM. Currently, only China and the U.S. seem to have mastered the kinetic KKV technology.

China’s sudden dual ABM test appears to be a strategic response to the U.S.’s recent Minuteman III ICBM launch. The U.S.’s missile test, believed to deter Russia and dissuade Chinese aggression against U.S. ships navigating the Taiwan Strait, was met with a swift Chinese counter. This move by China serves as a clear warning: no matter the missile the U.S. launches, China has the means to counteract.

Most significantly, the advancement in China’s land-based mid-course ABM capabilities holds profound strategic implications. It not only bolsters China’s strategic deterrence and defense capabilities but will also play a pivotal role in safeguarding China’s national unity and security.

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