by Mukundane Yosam
Few days ago, report come claiming that China is researching about building a high speed rail way capable of launching nuclear capable ballistic missiles and can survive the first nuclear strike incase of nuclear war.
According to SCMP news report, high speed rail is being considered as 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 rail way 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, intercontinental ballistic missile(ICBM) can fit in such carriage but when blasting off, its weight generates a thrust two to four times the train’s maximum carrying capacity said Yin Zihong, associate professor of civil engineering at South West Jiaotong University in Chengdu Sichuan province China. Yin is a lead scientists of national research project funded by 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 modelling, Yin and his friends simulated the operation of high speed rail line launch system.
Their findings published in the peer-reviewed journal of southwest Jiaotong University on Thursday suggested that in same circumstances, a high speed rail way 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, high speed rail way 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 ICBM launch could go as deep as 8m which is far beyond the thickness of most railway lines base structure. Even aheavy duty rail would need a better fortified underlying structure to survive a launch according to Yin’s study in 2020.
But their lastest study said it wouldn’t be necessary to provide extra strength for high speed rail way which has rails laid and fixed in aconcrete with no need for ballasts as a buffer zone.
According to the results of 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 siad the conclusion was not entirely a surprise. The extremely high speed operational required the rail line to have foundation much stronger than ordinary rails.
The supporting structure of high speed rail way foundation in China is as deep as 60m according to openly available information.
Yin’s team found other advantages of launching a missile from high speed railway compared with 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.
Its not clear when or if 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 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 is that even if enemy’s spy satellites were able to identify it, it would be very difficult to track and destroy especially in a 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 air by pressurised 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.