Asia Defense

For Third Time Ever, China Shows Off Its DF-16 Medium-Range Ballistic Missile

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Asia Defense

For Third Time Ever, China Shows Off Its DF-16 Medium-Range Ballistic Missile

The DF-16 was first seen publicly in a September 2015 military parade.

For Third Time Ever, China Shows Off Its DF-16 Medium-Range Ballistic Missile
Credit: Video screengrab

China’s Dongfeng 16 (DF-16) medium-range ballistic missile has been seen once again in a video posted by the Chinese Ministry of Defense.  The video marks the third public appearance of the missile.

In the video, the missile can be seen on a 10-wheeled transporter erector launcher (TEL) during an exercise conducted during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday. The exercise appears to have taken place in an unspecified forest setting.

The DF-16 is deployed with China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF), which was elevated in December 2015 to the same service level as China’s Army, Air Force, and Navy.

The DF-16, along with the YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missile,  was revealed publicly for the first time in China’s September 2015 parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japanese defeat in the Second World War.

In that parade, China showed off the DF-16 on TELs, with the missiles clearly identified in white paint on the sides. The DF-16 is thought to be among China’s most accurate ballistic missiles and is thought to be the eventual successor to China’s older DF-11 and DF-15.

In its 2016 report on the Chinese military, the U.S. Department of Defense noted that the “China is increasing the lethality of its conventional missile force by fielding the CSS-11 (DF-16) ballistic missile with a range of 800-1,000 km.”

The Pentagon added that the DF-16 “coupled with the already deployed conventional land-attack and anti-ship variants of the CSS-5 (DF-21C/D) medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), will improve China’s ability to strike not only Taiwan, but other regional targets. ”

The DF-16’s primary strategic use in China’s arsenal would be in a Taiwan Strait contingency, but the missile was also thought by certain U.S. analysts to have been developed as a counter to the United States’ AirSea Battle concept (now known as the Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons, or JAM-GC).

The DF-16’s range leaves it capable of striking targets along the first island chain — a reference to the physical island features that sit between the Chinese coast and the Western Pacific, including main islands of Japan, the Ryukyu chain, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

Important U.S. military bases and facilities, including at Okinawa and Yokosuka, fall within the range of the DF-16. The missile is additionally capable of cover strategic chokepoints including the Miyako Strait, the Bashi Channel, and the Tsushima Strait.