The People's Liberation Army Rocket Force has improved its strategic deterrence capability, thanks to the service of a new missile.
The DF-31AG, an enhanced version of the DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missile, is a new type of solid-fuel, road-mobile missile that can be launched from an eight-axle vehicle that also transports the missiles, according to an article published on Thursday by an online outlet run by PLA Daily, the military's flagship newspaper.
Compared with its predecessors, the DF-31 and DF-31A, the new missile features better mobility and survivability, the article said, without giving further details.
Before the arrival of the DF-31AG, the DF-31A was the PLA's newest intercontinental ballistic missile known to the public.
The DF-31AG was first viewed by the public at a field parade on Sunday morning at the PLA's Zhurihe Training Base in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
The parade was held to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the PLA, which was on Tuesday. The PLA used the occasion to display many new weapons, such as the J-20 stealth fighter jet and HQ-22 air defense missile.
The military said the new ballistic missile and the older DF-31A, which also appeared in Sunday's parade, represent China's status as a world power and the country's defense prowess. It called them "trump cards" in strategic deterrence.
Footage of the DF-31AG in the parade shows it is carried by an integrated missile vehicle known as a transporter-erector-launcher, and the bottom of the launch tube has been equipped with a buffer device. By comparison, the DF-31A is still mounted on an older, two-part vehicle and has no buffer attached to its launch tube.
The upgrades indicate that the DF-31AG is capable of making off-road launch in most kinds of terrain, with a very short preparation time, said Yang Chengjun, a military observer close to China's missile programs.
Du Wenlong, a senior researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science, said that judging by the DF-31AG's extrinsic features and earlier information about it, the new model is likely to have a longer range, stronger penetration capability and larger destructive capacity than the DF-31A.
"It is possible that the missile has a global coverage and is able to deliver multiple maneuverable re-entry vehicles," he said. "Its service will extensively strengthen the Rocket Force's strategic strike capability."
According to Western weapons analysts, research and development for the DF-31, the first in the series, began in the mid-1980s. In August 1999, the first launch of the missile was conducted, and two months later, it was displayed to the public at the National Day parade.
The PLA Rocket Force now operates at least three types of intercontinental ballistic missiles for its nuclear deterrence system — the DF-31A, DF-31AG and DF-5B. The DF-5B, which made its debut at a parade in September 2015, is a liquid-propelled model capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads, according to information from the Chinese military.
In addition to the DF-31AG, another ground-to-ground missile that emerged for the first time was the DF-16G medium-range ballistic missile. Compared with the DF-16, the upgraded variant has higher accuracy and an improved maneuverable terminal stage that can better infiltrate missile defense systems, said the PLA Daily article.