China hints at unveiling of new DF-41 ICBM
China will display five new missiles in its National Day Parade on Oct. 1, although the much-anticipated third generation Dongfeng 41 is not named directly.
Some Chinese media are quoting an unnamed military "leading missile expert" saying that the missiles will be second generation and already in use by the military. Other media are saying that the unveiling of the DF-41 is a possibility because it is not excluded by name.
"Military aficionados have been expecting to see the Dongfeng 41, known as the DF-41 or the CSS-X-10," but they will be disappointed, said the missile expert speaking to the Chinese-based news Web site Global Times. "The third generation is still under development and is unlikely to be displayed this time," said the source from the "Second Artillery Force."
According to Chinese media reports, the force is at the core of the country's counterattack nuclear deterrence, as noted in a Beijing government white paper titled China's National Defense in 2008, issued earlier this year by the Information Office of the State Council.
The first of the Dongfeng missiles, the DF-1, was a copy of the Soviet SS-2 Sibling missile and produced under license in China in the 1960s. It had a single RD-101 rocket engine running on a mixture of liquid oxygen and alcohol. Maximum range of the DF-1, long retired, was around 350 miles with a 1,000-pound payload.
The DF-41 is believed to have a range between 7,000 and more than 8,500 miles and have a flexible warhead capacity. It can carry one, three, six or 10 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle warheads.
The latest Dongfeng, the DF-41, is an improvement on the DF-31 and its longer-range sister the DF-31A, which are road-mobile, solid-fuel ICBMs developed by the 4th Aerospace Academy, now Academy of Rocket Motor Technology.
The DF-31 has a range of more than 5,000 miles with a single 1,000 kt warhead, or up to three 20-150 kt MIRV warheads. The upgraded DF-31A has a range of around 7,000 miles. Only around 12 are believed to be in service.
The Global Times report hinted that more might be on view during the parade, including a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Julang 2, also known as JL-2 or CSS-NX-4. The JL-2 is a sea-based variant of the DF-31 with a similar range and designed for current and next-generation nuclear-powered submarines.
The JL-2 is comparable in size and performance to the American Trident C-4 long-range multiple-warhead three-stage solid-fuel missile.
The Global Times said that another source, naval expert Li Jie, "didn't exclude the possibility of Julang-2's appearance" on Oct. 1. The navy would showcase some types of ship-to-ship missile, ship-to-air missile and multiple rocket launchers at the parade. "Maybe two to three of them will be unveiled for the first time," Jie said.
Western analysts and military bloggers have said that the National Day Parade could be the time to unveil the DF-41 and other hardware because of the significance of this year's event, which is put on only once every 10 years. The 2009 parade celebrates the birth of communist-run China 60 years ago.
First rehearsals for the parade in Tiananmen Square featured a mass pageant involving nearly 200,000 people and 60 simulated floats, media reported at the end of August. The rehearsal was held at night "to avoid affecting the public," a spokesperson for the celebration preparation committee said.
Li Daguang, a senior military expert at the PLA University of National Defense, said that the parade is not for saber-rattling but to promote national pride, confidence and awareness of national defense. "Some countries, observing China's parade with colored glasses, show off their weapons around the world on the battlefield instead," he said.