A few days ago, a report come claiming that China is researching building a high-speed railway capable of launching nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and can survive the first nuclear strike in case of nuclear war.
According to the SCMP news report, high-speed rail is being considered a launch platform for nuclear strikes after a new study by Chinese researchers suggested it was more suitable than previously thought.
Remember China has the world’s most developed and extensive high-speed railway with most of them running at a speed of up 350km/hr. These trains are slim, with up 16 carriages each weighing about 60 tonnes.
According to the report, an intercontinental ballistic missile(ICBM) can fit in such a carriage but when blasting off, its weight generates a thrust two to four times the train’s maximum carrying capacity said Yin Zhong, associate professor of civil engineering at South West Jiaotong University in Chengdu Sichuan province China. Yin is a lead scientist in a national research project funded by the central government.
While a modified train can withstand the launch, most of the stress caused would be distributed down to rails and its foundation, potentially damaging the infrastructure and rendering it unsafe and unusable.
Using data from previous test launches conducted by the Chinese military and computer modeling, Yin and his friends simulated the operation of a high-speed rail line launch system.
Their findings published in the peer-reviewed journal of southwest Jiaotong University on Thursday suggested that in some circumstances, a high-speed railway could perform better than a heavy-duty industrial railway line which was highly considered more suitable for the Job.
Compared with a heavy-haul railway, a high-speed railway operate faster and more smoothly which means that on high-speed rails, mobility, safety, and concealment of military vehicles would be great.
A normal rail uses ballast such as small racks and graves to absorb shocks but a heavy railway built to transport ore and coal requires more ballasts.
A powerful shock wave produced by an ICBM launch could go as deep as 8m which is far beyond the thickness of most railway line base structures. Even a heavy-duty rail would need a better fortified underlying structure to survive a launch according to Yin’s study in 2020.
But their latest study said it wouldn’t be necessary to provide extra strength for the high-speed railway which has rails laid and fixed in concrete with no need for ballasts as a buffer zone.
According to the results of the research simulation, most of the disturbance caused by firing off a missile would be limited to shallow areas of rail structure, where damage was more easily detected and repaired.
A Beijing-based researcher studying rail engineering said the conclusion was not entirely a surprise. The extremely high-speed operation required the rail line to have found much stronger than ordinary rails.
The supporting structure of the high-speed railway foundation in China is as deep as 60m according to the openly available information.
Yin’s team found other advantages of launching a missile from a high-speed railway compared with a heavy-duty railway, including shorter shocks but they cautioned that some extremely low-frequency vibration produced by the launcher could pose a risk to surface components such as rail and concrete slabs.
It’s not clear when or when the Chinese military would deploy a nuclear launch platform based on high-speed rail.
A train-based ICBM launch platform would be more likely to survive the first waves of nuclear attack than other land-based systems such as silos and tracks according to military experts and the train could Carry as many missiles as a nuclear submarine.
From the outside, a doomsday train looks like any other normal train besides carrying nuclear missiles and it also provides living quarters for military personnel and technicians.
the advantages of a doomsday train are that even if the enemy’s spy satellites were able to identify it, it would be very difficult to track and destroy especially in China with a massive railway system like China going through mountains and tunnels.
China reportedly tested using a rial to launch its DF-41 in 2016. The missile was ejected into the air by pressurized gas without igniting its rocket engine.
DF-41 ICBM is China’s longest ICBM with a range of up to 15000km(9300miles) weighing 80 tonnes and capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads.