China’s military has begun retrofitting single-warhead DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missiles with multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicles, according to U.S. defense officials. The upgrading of the DF-5 missiles with multiple warheads, known as MIRVs, was detected by U.S. intelligence agencies within the past several months.

The addition of three warheads on the long-range missiles marks a significant shift for China’s nuclear arsenal that is increasing in both warheads and missile systems under a major buildup.

Analysts say the warhead upgrades could affect U.S. strategic nuclear deterrence strategy by requiring a boost in U.S. warheads in the future.

Strategic Command spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell declined to comment on the impact of the MIRVed Chinese missiles.

Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the Strategic Command, confirmed last month that China is making “significant investments” to both nuclear and conventional forces, including the addition of MIRVed missiles.

“China is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads,” Adm. Haney said Jan. 22 in a speech.

Additionally, China recently showed off a new DF-26 intermediate-range missile that Beijing said can be armed with either nuclear or conventional warheads. The Chinese also conducted six successful tests of a hypersonic glide vehicle

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