This Day in History: The PRC Develops the H-Bomb

By Ned Kelly, June 17, 2018

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On June 17, 1967, the People’s Republic of China announced a successful hydrogen bomb test, becoming the world’s fourth thermonuclear power after the US, Soviet Union and UK - but ahead of France. Dropped at 7am from a Hong-6 jet bomber over the Lop Nur Test Base in southeastern Xinjiang, the H-bomb was parachute-retarded for an airburst at 2,960 meters (see video below), and had an explosive power 150 times that of the atomic bomb used by the US on Hiroshima at the end of WWII.

China had made fast progress in developing nuclear weapons in the 1960s, committed as they were to breaking the superpowers' monopoly on nuclear weapons, and to ensure Chinese security against the Soviet and US threats. In a 32 month period from testing its first atomic bomb on October 16, 1964 at Lop Nor - an area of seasonal salt lake sand marshes - it launched its first nuclear missile on October 25, 1966, before the detonation of the H-bomb in 1967.

In comparison, the time between the US's fission-to-fusion - its first atomic test to first hydrogen bomb test - was 86 months, for the USSR it was 75 months, for the UK 66 months and for France - later on - 105 months. While China had received extensive technical help from the Soviet Union to jump-start their nuclear program, by as early as 1960 the rift between the the two commmunist superstates had become so great that the Soviet Union ceased all assistance to China.

China's total nuclear arsenal size today is estimated to range anywhere between 240 nuclear weapons to as many as 3,000 warheads, all hidden within an extensive tunnel system referred to as the 'Underground Great Wall.'

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