Fact Sheet

China Missile Facilities

China Missile Facilities

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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) began pursuing ballistic missile capability in the 1950s, and has devoted many resources to the effort, making it one of the “pockets of excellence” within the defense industry. [1] Today, China continues to advance its missile capabilities, and has a fully established infrastructure for ballistic missile research and development, production, testing, export, and deployment. Central leadership controls the overall direction of the programs through a hierarchical structure, but many relevant institutions have also developed commercial conglomerates, including with industries unrelated to missile development.

Relevant Individuals and Institutions

The Central Military Commission (CMC) is the highest military organ within both the state and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). [2] The CMC retains ultimate control of the country’s military strategy and doctrine, including nuclear posture. Its chairman is traditionally also the PRC President and CCP General Secretary.

Under the “direct command and control of the CMC,” the Second Artillery Force (SAF), an independent arm of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), operates China’s nuclear and conventional ballistic missile forces. [3] At the operational level, the SAF missile forces are organized hierarchically into a national headquarters, missile bases, missile brigades, and launch battalions. [4] The PLA also manages the military and civilian manned space programs, while the China National Space Administration (CNSA) directs “unmanned scientific projects and international collaboration.” [5]

Since a round of governmental reforms in 1998, the General Armaments Department (GAD) of the PLA has been responsible for “managing the life cycle of the PLA’s weapon systems (from R&D to retirement) and running China’s testing, evaluation, and training bases.” [6] The GAD decides the PLA’s equipment acquisition priorities and controls funding for procurement, but the military is not directly in charge of the individual production units. Instead, the civilian-defense industrial complex, regulated by the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), allocates procurement on a competitive basis. [7]

Two large state-owned enterprises carry out the development of ballistic missiles and related equipment: the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC). The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) also develops tactical missiles and missile engines. In the past, other groups such as China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) and New Era (Xinshidai) Corporation have proliferated missiles and relevant technologies, but it appears these corporations have transitioned into larger conglomerates focused on conventional armaments and civilian industries.


The funding of China’s missile programs is difficult to discern from open source information. For the 2009 fiscal year, China reported a total defense expenditure of 495.11 billion RMB, or roughly 78 billion USD. [8] Around one-third of this cost was spent on equipment, including “research and development, procurement, maintenance, transportation and storage of weaponry and equipment,” totaling 159 billion RMB, or 25 billion USD. [9] However, the U.S. Department of Defense, citing lack of transparency, estimates total Chinese military expenditures for the same period to be over 150 billion USD. [10]

As part of the military-to-civilian shift in China’s defense industrial complex organization in the 1980s and 1990s, the missile industry lost its “early status as a top government resource priority,” and instead turned to missile sales and commercial space lift transactions to generate revenue. [11] Estimates of China’s overall spending on space programs, including dual-use technologies, range from 1.4-2.2 billion USD. [12] The large state-owned enterprises in charge of China’s missile and civilian space industry can also serve as indicators of the resources devoted to these projects. CASC has revenue of 70 billion RMB and assets of over 150 billion RMB, while CASIC has assets totaling 100 billion RMB. [13]

Past, Present and Planned Facilities

China’s initial development of missile technology and capabilities was driven by military needs and organized accordingly. Priorities were dictated from the top in a hierarchical structure, but deployment and production were spread to bases and facilities around the country. Each of China’s six regional missile bases is in command of a number of brigades, each of which is in charge of deploying a certain type of missile depending on the brigade’s location and potential target. [14]

The research and development, testing and production facilities have undergone numerous name changes and bureaucratic restructurings over the history of China’s missile program. Some facilities have existed since the very start of the missile program in the 1950s; others were constructed in the late 1960s as “third-line” facilities in more remote inland locations in order to protect them from attack; still others were created more recently to adapt to new requirements such as civilian space technology.

This restructuring has led to a large number of aliases for various academies and corporations. Currently, under CASC and CASIC there are many academies whose names include both a numbered unit, indicating their historical title or organizational position within the umbrella corporation, and a title pertaining to their function or research. For example, the CASC First Academy, established in 1957, is primarily responsible for China’s liquid-fueled ballistic ICBMS and solid-fueled DF-15, DF-31, and DF-31A missiles. Its current name is the China Academy of Launch Technology (CALT), and it also plays a strong role in the manned space program. [15] Under this academy and its counterparts are numerous design departments, research institutes, and factories focus on specific components or systems.

[1] James Mulvenon and Rebecca Samm Tyroler-Cooper, “China’s Defense Industry on the Path of Reform,” US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, October 2009, www.uscc.gov.
[2] The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China, “The Central Military Commission,” www.gov.cn; “Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party,” ChinaToday, www.chinatoday.com.
[3] Ministry of National Defense, the People’s Republic of China, “The Second Artillery Force of the PLA,” http://eng.mod.gov.cn; also referred to as 第二炮兵, Second Artillery Corps, Second Artillery, and Strategic Rocket Forces.
[4] Ministry of National Defense, the People’s Republic of China, “The Second Artillery Force of the PLA,” http://eng.mod.gov.cn.
[5] Jeffrey Logan, “China’s Space Program: Options for U.S.-China Cooperation,” CRS Report RS22777, 21 May 2008, via: www.au.af.mil.
[6] Evan S. Medeiros et al., A New Direction for China’s Defense Industry (Santa Monica: RAND, 2005), www.rand.org, p. 35.
[7] The COSTIND was previously a semi-military agency, but was fully placed under civilian administration in the 1998 reorganization; it was renamed the SASTIND and put under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in 2008. See Evan S. Medeiros et al., A New Direction for China’s Defense Industry (Santa Monica: RAND, 2005), www.rand.org; and “State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defence,” SinoDefence, 6 September 2011, www.sinodefence.com.
[8] Information Office, State Council of the People’s Republic of China, “China’s National Defense in 2010,” Editor Wang Guanqun, March 2011, via: www.xinhuanet.com.
[9] United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs,“China,” Instrument for Standardized Reporting of Military Expenditures (United Nations Report on Military Expenditures), 30 August 2010, http://unhq-appspub-01.un.org.
[10] U.S. Department of Defense, “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” 2010, www.defense.gov.
[11] James Mulvenon and Rebecca Samm Tyroler-Cooper, “China’s Defense Industry on the Path of Reform,” US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, October 2009, www.uscc.gov.
[12] Jeffrey Logan, “China’s Space Program: Options for U.S.-China Cooperation,” CRS Report RS22777, 21 May 2008, via: https://opencrs.com.
[13] “Company Profile,” China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), www.spacechina.com; “集团简介 [Group Overview],” China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp., 2008, www.casic.com.cn.
[14] Bates Gill, James Mulvenon, and Mark Stokes, “The Chinese Second Artillery Corps: Transition to Credible Deterrence,” The People’s Liberation Army as Organization, ed. James C. Mulvenon and Andrew N.D. Yang (Santa Monica: RAND, 2002), www.rand.org; Sean O’Connor, “PLA Second Artillery Corps,” Air Power Australia, 2009, www.ausairpower.net.
[15] Mark Stokes, “China’s Evolving Conventional Strategic Strike Capability,” Project 2049 Institute, 14 September 2009, http://project2049.net; “Outline of CALT,” China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, www.calt.com.

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Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.


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