By Qiu Yue
According to foreign media report, an official in the U.S. Department of Defense recently said that they noticed China's test shooting of DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on May 27, which launched multiple warheads and hit the targets in a shooting range in western China.
Military expert Shao Yongling said in an interview that if the report were true, it would mean that DF-41 was up to the service standard and ready for commissioning. It is not only the most advanced ICBM in China, but also among the most sophisticated ones in the world.
At present, China mainly has the DF-5 and DF-31 ICBM series in service. Public information shows that DF-5 is a silo-based liquid-propellant ICBM and its latest DF-5 Yi already carries Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs), while DF-31 is a vehicle-launched solid-propellant single-warhead ICBM.
According to Shao Yongling, DF-5 Yi boasts advantages such as large load and power, but the liquid fuel limits its reaction speed, while the DF-31's way of mobile launch largely enhances its surviving ability and reaction speed, although its striking power is inferior to DF-5 Yi due to the limited load capacity. DF-41 integrates all the advantages of DF-5 and DF-31, including large load, fast reaction and carrying of MIRVs, so it can hit the targets more effectively.
Yang Chengjun, Chinese expert on missile technology and nuclear strategy and chief scientist of quantum defense, said in an interview with Science and Technology Daily that DF-41 has technologically solved the difficulty in carrying multiple warheads and can carry different number of nuclear warheads as required. Lan Shunzheng, a research fellow specialized in defense affairs at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, also said the MIRV technology is no longer a difficulty.
Shao Yongling added the MIRV can increase the missile's ability of destruction and defense penetration. It is able to hit multiple targets simultaneously, thus solving the problem of few missiles but many targets, and it gives the missile a stronger defense penetration capability, so that the opposite side's anti-missile measures either don't have enough time to react or are unable to react. As a result, the "missed" multiple warheads can complete the attack mission.
Military expert Song Zhongping told Global Times that if, as foreign media reported, DF-41 had ten test flights it would be close to commissioning.
According to Shao Yongling, ten successful tests of a missile are enough to prove that it is up to the service standard and ready for commissioning. In some countries, the missile is commissioned after only three or four test flights, and only those countries that have high requirements on stability and security would test the missile more times in order to ensure its performance.
As a new ICBM developed by China in the 21st century, DF-41 integrates IT and many new technologies. It's not only the most advanced ICBM in China, but also one of the most sophisticated ones in the world.
Disclaimer: The author is Qiu Yue, reporter with the People’s Daily. The article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author from the People’s Daily and do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn. Chinamil.com.cn does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. If the article carries photographs or images, we do not vouch for their authenticity.