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DF-21 / CSS-5

The DF-21/21A (CSS-5) solid-fueled missile was originally developed as the two-stage JL-1. It was designed for deployment aboard China's SSBN, and it was decided to also develop it as a land-based missile, which was designated as the DF-21. Development of the DF-21 began in 1967 and had its first successful test in May 1985. Shortly thereafter, the DF-21 was deployed into an experimental regiment. Its range was later improved to 1800 kms (DF-21A) carrying a 600 kg warhead with a nuclear capability believed to be 200-300 kt. This mobile system is launched from a transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicle.

It is believed that over 100 DF-21/JL-1 missiles have been built, and as of 1995 some 15 to 20 DF-21 missiles had been deployed, with deployments increasing to some 36 by 1997. Some DF-21s have been reconfigured with conventional warheads for use along China's southern and northwestern borders. From these locations, the DF-21 can hit targets throughout Northern India, the Republics of Central Asia, and most of Vietnam and Southeast Asia. As of late 1997 China had about 40 DF-3 refire-capable launchers at six field garrisons and launch complexes. Many of those launchers are being converted to handle new, solid-fuel DF-21 [CSS-5 Mod 1] launchers and missiles. The number of CSS-2 sites will likely be reduced, since the United States no longer operates bases in the Philippines, and DF-15 [M-9] short-range missiles deployed along the eastern coast can be used to cover targets in Taiwan. The DF-21 deployments have been limited to areas closer to China's borders to ensure adequate target coverage of areas previously covered by the DF-3. In areas deeper inside China, where longer range is necessary for target coverage, DF-3 activities are relatively high, indicating the missile could remain in service in these regions until new missiles such as the DF-21 [CSS-5 Mod 2] are deployed. Once the DF-21 deployments are adequately under way, the CSS-2 will likely be removed completely from service, perhaps by 2002. The July 2000 Japan white paper on defense stated that China had 70 guided missiles capable of reaching Japan and other Asian countries. The white papernoted that China has been gradually replacing the old DF-3 missiles with the newer, more accurate DF-21 missiles.

Work is believed to be ongoing to provide this missile with a sophisticated terminal guidance system. According to some reports the Mod 2 version of the CSS-5 will be comparable to the US Pershing II IRBM, employ advanced radar guidance to achieve extremely high accuracy.


ContractorAcademy of Rocket Motors Technology - ARMT
OperatorSecond Artillery Corps
  • Chuxiong
  • Jianshui
  • Lianxiwang
  • Tonghua
  • ConfigurationTwo Stage
    Length [meters]10.7
    Diameter [meters]1.4
    Mass [kilograms]14,700
    First FlightMay 1985
    Range (km)1,800
    Re-entry Vehicle Mass (kg)600
    Warhead Yield200-300 KT
    CEP (meters)300-400
    Launch Preparation Time10-15 minutes

    Sources and Resources

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    Updated Friday, July 07, 2000 12:52:42 PM