New Chinese Missile Upgrade Likely Designed With Taiwan In Its Crosshairs

February 16, 2017


North Korea’s missile tests may still garner headlines, but China is also upgrading its own strategic weapons arsenal — most recently with a new variant of its short-range, mobile Dongfeng (DF-16) ballistic missile. Earlier this month, the state-run English-language newspaper “China Daily” reported on the most recent public displays of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) DF-16, designed, in large part, as a potential offensive weapon against the island nation of Taiwan.

Lying less than 90 miles from the Chinese mainland, The Republic of China (Taiwan) remains the main strategic driver for the PRC’s use of the land-based DF-16, Mark Stokes, executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based Project 2049, told me. Likely optimized for conventional rather than nuclear missions, he says, such use would inherently be offensive in nature. Stokes estimates that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces may already have at least a dozen such DF-16s.

“From permanent garrison locations in China’s northern Guangdong province, the DF-16 system appears to be most applicable in the event of use of force against Taiwan,” said Stokes. “[That] includes strikes against air defenses, runways, and unhardened command and control facilities.”

But Stokes says if deployed to sites in Liaoning or Jilin provinces, along China’s northeastern coast, the DF-16 could stretch its range to target the whole of the Korean peninsula. And if deployed to launch sites in Fujian or Zhejiang provinces, he says, the system could also be used against U.S. and Japanese military facilities on the island of Okinawa.

With the right kind of guidance systems, Stokes says, the DF-16 could theoretically reach accuracies of 50 meters or less. China Daily writes that a new DF-16 variant features a maneuverable warhead capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload as well as extra vertical fins, all of which the newspaper says would aid in the missile’s ability to outmaneuver enemy defenses…

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