China is said to be considering high-speed “doomsday trains” capable of zipping throughout the country while carrying high-powered missiles. The plan is to transport intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) through a high-speed train, keeping them continually moving to prevent enemy detection. The so-called “doomsday trains” may even be utilized as a launch platform, with heavily reinforced railway lines and foundations absorbing the blast’s profound impact. These ICBMs might theoretically be armed with nuclear weapons.
According to the South China Morning Post, the grand plan is still in the blueprint stage, but it is the topic of a nationwide research project supported by the central Chinese government and supervised by Yin Zihong, associate professor of civil engineering at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu (SCMP). They’ve now published a new peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of Southwest Jiaotong University that looks into the advantages and disadvantages of this proposal.
“High-speed trains operate faster and more smoothly than heavy-haul railways.” This means that military vehicles’ mobility, safety, and secrecy would be enhanced on high-speed tracks, according to the SCMP. During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union had identical schemes in the works to use trains to transport or deploy nuclear bombs. The idea of launching an ICBM from a railcar hasn’t had much traction in recent years, but it appears to be making a comeback. In 2015, China conducted a “cold launch” of an ICBM using a railway, while North Korea displayed train-launched ballistic missiles in 2021.
Along with the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea, China is one of nine countries confirmed to have nuclear weapons. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, China has maintained an arsenal of 350 nuclear warheads since successfully testing nuclear bombs in the 1960s. This nuclear arsenal is small in comparison to the United States and Russia, which each have roughly 5,500 and 6,300 nuclear weapons.
China was the first country to propose and commit to a “no first use” nuclear strategy, in which most nuclear warheads are kept apart from their missiles during times of peace. In contrast, most nuclear-armed powers, including the United States and Russia, have policies that allow for their first use in a conflict. China is virtually undoubtedly a world leader in the field of high-speed rail, despite its nuclear stockpiles being “small” in comparison to other geopolitical heavyweights.
With a total length of 40,000 kilometers (24,854.8 miles) of track capable of whizzing trains at speeds of 200 to 350 kilometers per hour, the country has the world’s largest high-speed railway network (120 to 220 miles per hour). With a little more research, this well-oiled system of high-tech rails might also be capable of hurling ICBMs across the country at incredible speeds.