Saudi Arabia’s Best Ballistic Missiles: DF-3, DF-2, AGM-84L Harpoon, And Storm Shadow

This article offers a comprehensive overview, highlighting the technical specifics of each missile, including China’s DF-3 and DF-21, the U.S. AGM-84L Harpoon, and France’s Storm Shadow.

Situated on the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia strategically bolsters its defense capabilities through a diverse array of missiles acquired from global powers like China, the United States, and France. This article offers a comprehensive overview, highlighting the technical specifics of each missile, including China’s DF-3 and DF-21, the U.S. AGM-84L Harpoon, and France’s Storm Shadow. Reflecting Saudi Arabia’s commitment to a robust defense strategy, these missiles contribute uniquely to the nation’s security, showcasing its vigilance in a dynamic global landscape.

Saudi Arabia’s Ballistic Missile Arsenal

The DF-3, referred to as DF-3A or CSS-2 by NATO, is a medium-range ballistic missile that was created in China. Saudi Arabia purchased this missile, which uses a single-stage system and liquid fuel. The DF-3, first introduced in 1971 and measures 24 meters in length, possesses a potentially nuclear warhead with a yield of up to 700-3,000 kilotons. The missile’s range spans 4,000 to 5,000 kilometers, with a Circular Error Probable (CEP) of 0.6 to 2.4 miles (1000-4000 meters). The missile’s import enhances Saudi Arabia’s missile capabilities when it comes to delivering medium-range nuclear payloads. One of the last technologies at the time of its development, the DF-3’s liquid fuel propulsion and single-stage design are indicative of the missile’s technological capabilities.

The DF-21, also referred to as Dong Feng-21 or CSS-5, is a road-mobile ballistic missile of medium range. Originally developed by the China Changfeng Mechanics and Electronics Technology Academy, this missile has been imported by Saudi Arabia. It is characterized by its two-stage, solid-fuel rocket design. The Dong Feng series includes a single-warhead medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). With a weight of approximately 14,700 kilograms (32,400 lb), a length of 10.7 meters (35 ft), and a diameter of 1.4 meters (4.6 ft), the DF-21 offers significant capabilities. The warhead options include a conventional variant weighing 600kg:1, an improved variant with a range of 5-6, or a nuclear variant with a range of 200-300-500 kt nuclear. The operational range of the DF-21/DF-21A variant is 1,770 km (1,100 mi), while the DF-21C variant has a range of 1,700 km (1,100 mi). With its solid-fuel propulsion and road-mobile capabilities, the DF-21 provides strategic flexibility and serves as a valuable addition to Saudi Arabia’s missile arsenal. This import from China highlights Saudi Arabia’s commitment to strengthening its strategic capabilities.

The AGM-84L Harpoon, produced by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing Defence, Space & Security), is an anti-ship missile that can be used in any weather and over long distances. Saudi Arabia has imported this missile from the United States, and it weighs around 1,523 lb (691 kg) with its booster. The missile is 12.6 ft (3.8 m) long when air-launched and 15 ft (4.6 m) long when surface- and submarine-launched. Its warhead weighs 488 pounds (221 kg), and it has an operational range of 75 nautical miles (139 km) for the ship-launched Harpoon Block I & Block IC variant. The import of this missile has significantly improved Saudi Arabia’s defense capabilities, especially in naval warfare scenarios. The Harpoon’s ability to function in all weather conditions and its over-the-horizon range make it a valuable addition to Saudi Arabia’s military arsenal.

The Storm Shadow, an integral component of Saudi Arabia’s military arsenal, is a stand-off attack missile with long-range capabilities. Manufactured by MBDA Systems, a company based in France, this missile is designed to be launched from aircraft. It is armed with a conventional warhead weighing 450 kilograms (990 lb). Propelled by a Microturbo TRI 60-30 turbojet engine, the Storm Shadow can achieve speeds of Mach 0.8. With an operational range of around 560 km (300 mi; 350 mi), it significantly enhances Saudi Arabia’s defense capabilities.