China has surpassed the U.S. in its number of land-based fixed and mobile launchers for intercontinental continental ballistic missiles, a group of Republican lawmakers said on Tuesday.

Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee and HASC’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee, respectively, and Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Deb Fisher (R-Neb.), the top Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee and SASC’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee, respectively, called the update a “wake-up call” on the progress of China’s ongoing nuclear modernization push.

People’s Liberation Army’s Bayi Building in Beijing, China. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“The head of U.S. Strategic Command has informed us that China has surpassed the U.S. in the number of ICBM launchers – this should serve as a wake-up call for the United States. It is not an understatement to say that the Chinese nuclear modernization program is advancing faster than most believed possible. We have no time to waste in adjusting our nuclear force posture to deter both Russia and China. This will have to mean higher numbers and new capabilities,” Rogers, Lamborn, Wicker and Fischer said in a joint statement.

The update on China’s nuclear modernization effort is the result of a provision in the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act provision requiring U.S. Strategic Command to notify Congress whenever Beijing surpasses the U.S.’ number of ICBMs, nuclear missile warheads or launchers.

Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of USSTRATCOM, sent a letter on Jan. 26 confirming China now has a larger inventory of land-based fixed and mobile ICBM launchers than the U.S.

His letter confirms China has more launchers now, but does not have more ICBMs or nuke warheads than U.S.

The latest version of the Pentagon’s annual “China Military Power” report estimates Beijing may have a stockpile of 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035 (Defense Daily, Nov. 29 2022). 

The House recently established a new Select Committee on Competition with China, led by Rep. Mike Galagher (R-Wis.), which includes several lawmakers who have focused on national security issues related to emerging technology and seapower-related priorities in recent years (Defense Daily, Jan. 24).