Commercial Airline Pilot Reportedly Captures Chinese SLBM Launch In South China Sea

Commercial Airline Pilot Reportedly Captures Chinese SLBM Launch In South China Sea

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A Cathay Pacific pilot captured this video while flying over an undisclosed location in the South China Sea yesterday. According to social media users who posted the video, the aircraft was instructed to “turn 90 degrees left immediately!”, upon launch of the missile, indicating that the Peoples Liberation Army Navy did not alert Air Traffic Control of the launch.

Chinese social media users reposted the footage on San Weibo and speculated over what they called a JL-3 test launch off of a Type 094 Class Ballistic Missile Submarine of the Peoples Liberation Army Navy. While there is no way to confirm the type of submarine or missile from the footage, the lack of declared airspace in preparation of a missile launch may indicate a desire to hide this test. JL-2 missile launches have been well documented and announced by PLAN NOTAMS.

The JL-3 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile is a Chinese third-generation intercontinental-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in development. It will likely deploy on the Type 096, a predicted future class of Chinese ballistic missile submarine. It has a projected max range of 12,000km and is estimated to already have been tested at sea by the fleet of Type 94s in preparation to be fielded with the Type 96, currently under production. The co-development of the JL-3 and the Type 96 was reportedly abandoned due to production issues last year when the Type 96 program ran into unexpected hurdles. If true, this video would most likely show JL-3 being tested off of a Type 94, several of which are based out of Yulin Naval Base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

The Type 96 is the PLANs newest generation of ballistic missile submarines, which reportedly began production in 2020, the Type 96 has most likely not been put to sea as of writing this post. It is supposed to replace the aging fleet of Type 94 of which 6 hulls are in active service. Production of the Type 94 began in 2006.

The Type 96 is reportedly to be able to carry at least 24 JL-3 SLBMs, double the 12 JL-2s carried by the Type 94.