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CBRN Assessment

China conducts probable test launch of JL-3 SLBM

03 June 2019
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An image published on Chinese social media showing what may be the country’s next-generation SLBM, the JL-3, in flight following a test-firing on 2 June. Source: Via Weibo

Photographs posted on Chinese social media sites appear to show that China conducted a missile launch on 2 June, which online sources suggest was a test firing of the country’s next-generation submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the JL-3.

The event took place during the time an area in the Bohai Sea was closed for a “military mission” as notified by the Liaoning office of the Maritime Safety Administration (MSA). The MSA had issued two closure notices – from 07:00-1300 h (local time) on 1 June and from 02:30-12:00 h on 2 June – for naval activities in the Bohai Strait, southwest of the naval bases around Lushun and Dalian, at the entrance to the largely enclosed Bohai Sea.

State-owned Global Times newspaper reported that on 2 June at about 04:00 h “residents across multiple provinces in China” had seen “an unidentified flying object (UFO) with a glowing fiery tail streak across the sky”, photographs and video clips of which were posted on many Chinese social media sites.

The event was observed in Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei, and Henan provinces, which would be consistent with a missile fired from the Bohai Sea following a flight path into the desert areas of western China where ballistic missile test firings usually impact.

A previous JL-3 test launch took place in late November 2018, according to an article by Bill Gertz in the Washington Free Beacon , quoting US defence officials. A similar sea closure area south west of Dalian was established by the Liaoning MSA on 22 November, but there was no observed missile flight. This probably indicated that the November launch was to demonstrate satisfactory underwater ejection of the missile from the launch tube.

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