The People’s Republic of China is actively engaged in crafting a sophisticated and secretive missile arsenal, characterized by intentional ambiguity and a reluctance to engage in arms control or transparency agreements. This strategic maneuvering aligns with Beijing’s commitment to anti-access/area denial doctrines, utilizing a mix of ballistic and cruise missiles deployed from air, land, and sea to target U.S. and allied military assets in the Asia-Pacific theater.
Top Missiles of China
DF-11: Pioneer in Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM)
Leading the charge is the DF-11 (Dong Feng-11 / M-11 / CSS-7), marking China’s inaugural conventionally-armed short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) with an operational reach of up to 600 km. Its export iteration, the M-11, has reportedly influenced the design of various missiles, including Pakistan’s Ghaznavi.
DF-17: Medium-Range Precision with Hypersonic Glide Vehicle
Stepping into the future, the DF-17 (Dong Feng-17) introduces a paradigm shift, incorporating a medium-range missile system equipped with a hypersonic glide vehicle. U.S. officials confirmed the existence of DF-17 prototypes (DF-ZF/Wu-14) in 2014.
DF-41: Unveiling China’s Longest-Range ICBM
At the forefront is the DF-41 (Dong Feng-41, CSS-20), standing tall as China’s longest-range missile. This road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) boasts an operational range of up to 15,000 km and is rumored to possess the capability of carrying multiple independently-targeted warheads (MIRV).
JL-2: Submarine-Launched Ballistic Might
Diving into naval capabilities, China’s JL-2 (Ju Lang-2, CSS-NX-14) is an intercontinental-range submarine-launched ballistic missile. Aligned with the DF-31 land-based ICBM, it has found a home on four Jin-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines, each armed with 12 Ju Lang-2 SLBMs.
Hong Niao Series: The Cruise Missile Ambition
The Hong Niao series (HN-1/-2/-3) emerged in the late 1970s, focusing on short- and intermediate-range cruise missiles. Versatile in application, these missiles, rooted in the X-600 design, are intended for ground-, ship-, submarine-, and air-launch, aiming to establish a nuclear-capable cruise missile with a 3,000 km range.
DF-4: Lingering Strength in a Two-Stage IRBM/ICBM
Since its induction in 1980, the DF-4 (Dong Feng-4, CSS-3) stands as a two-stage, transportable, liquid-fueled intermediate to intercontinental ballistic missile (IRBM/ICBM). Though slated for decommissioning by 2005, a resilient brigade of DF-4 missiles remains operational near Lingbao, Henan province, showcasing the lasting impact of China’s missile advancements.
In the intricate landscape of global military capabilities, China’s steadfast pursuit of a cutting-edge missile arsenal is both strategic and enigmatic. The intentional opacity surrounding their missile development, coupled with a strategic reluctance to partake in arms control agreements, underlines Beijing’s commitment to maintaining a formidable and discreet defense posture.
From the pioneering DF-11, China’s first conventionally-armed short-range ballistic missile, to the groundbreaking DF-17 with its hypersonic glide vehicle, and the DF-41, heralded as China’s longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the nation’s missile capabilities are on an ascending trajectory. The maritime domain sees the formidable JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile, seamlessly integrated with land-based ICBMs, demonstrating China’s prowess beneath the waves.
The versatile Hong Niao series, spanning ground, ship, submarine, and air-launched cruise missiles, attests to China’s multifaceted approachton missile development. Additionally, the enduring presence of the DF-4, a two-stage intermediate to intercontinental ballistic missile (IRBM/ICBM), showcases the nation’s strategic foresight and sustained strength.
As China treads the path of military modernization, its missile advancements signify not only a deterrent force but also a formidable component of the evolving global strategic landscape. The resilience, versatility, and technological innovation embodied in these missiles underscore China’s prowess in shaping the future of military capabilities, leaving the world to navigate an era defined by the strategic prowess of the People’s Republic.